One of the curses of being a writer is when people say “I've had a fascinating life. You should write about me.”
I've had a fascinating life myself. I caused a small riot in a train station in Hanover, Germany, and another riot in a marketplace in Haiti. International misunderstandings can happen when you're 23 and clueless. Seventeen years working in law enforcement gave me plenty of plots.
According to a New York Times survey, 81% of Americans feel they have a book in them and that they should write it. Those of us who worked in law enforcement have material to spare.
My friend talks about writing a novel. Her excuses: “I have no time, I'll get to it when my life settles down, I don't know how to get started.” Nothing is on paper. Every day is one more day lost. In a business that takes time to break into and requires energy and $$$ to promote and travel, age is a factor. Writers get younger while my friend waits for her moment of opportunity.
There will never be time to write. Real writers squeeze time between a spouse, children and a job that pays the bills. Real writers wake up an extra hour earlier, go to bed an hour later, give up TV, find excuses to stay home on weekends and carry notebooks everywhere they go in case an idea pops into their head. They give up things. I gave up housework. We all make sacrifices.
When author Jean Kerr wrote “Please Don't Eat the Daisies” in 1957, she locked herself and a typewriter in her station wagon and let her four young sons beat on the windows while she finished the book. Think what she could have accomplished in an SUV!
Still want to write a book? Here's my advice:
1.Put the first word on paper. Any first word. It won't stay there, and it won't be your last. Just as a journey starts with the first step, writing starts with the first word.
2.Don't look back. Fill pages up with words. Don't ask yourself if they're the right words. Do that later. Just keep going forward.
3.Nothing is written that can't be rewritten. This is why computers come with a delete key.
4.Don't let family members read your work unless they have a novel under their belt. Find a critique group or people who have published. Those are the people worth listening to.
5.Don't talk your plot out. You will verbally write your story and be instantly satisfied. Soon you won't feel like you have to write it at all.
6.Don't announce to the world that you are working on a book. You might even want to keep your writing a secret. Friends will be afraid you'll fail. Enemies hope for failure.
7.Never worry about disappointing people. Never disappoint yourself.
8.Read up on writing, but don't spend all your time reading. Ditto for research. While fun and informative, it's not writing.
9.Don't start another novel. Commit to one project all the way to The End.
10.If you write 300 words a day (half the length of this column) by the end of a year you will have a 100,000 words, which is a hefty manuscript. That's all it takes. What are you waiting for?