When nearly eighty percent of people in America say they plan to write a book someday, there’s an urban legend that writing a book is a right of passage and something everyone can do. If everyone can do it, then it must be easy. Simple. A snap.
Let me tell you, the myth of ease behind this urban legend is false.
Starting a book might be simple. I’ve done it so many times I’ve lost track of the actual count. I’ll wager that ninety-nine percent of the people who plan to write a book might have started a book too.
But finishing is the real win. (According to the same article where I get my eighty percent figure, fewer than 0.1 percent of people have actually written and published a book.)
Truthfully, writing the end on the first draft is not the end of the book writing process. In fact, it’s where the real work begins for me.
But I don’t react when people say things like, “I’m going to write a book someday” or “People think I have an interesting story and should write a book.”
Once upon a time, it might have irked me a
little bit lot. I might have thought they were belittling the enormity of being among the less than one-tenth of one percent who have published a book.
Now, I realize they’re making conversation.
What about you? Do you think writing a book is easy?
If you’re reading this blog you’re either:
1) related to me
2) a reader of my books or
3) a writer.
If you’re a writer, I want you to know that writing a book is not a simple thing. Oh, churning out thousands of words that ramble and don’t make sense is perfectly doable. Maybe that’s what your first draft looks like.
Writing a book that other people will want to read is another matter altogether. That’s why the world of publishing was so restrictive and exclusive for so many years. That’s why gatekeepers at the publishing houses had form letters for rejection and asked for self-addressed stamped envelopes along with every submission.
Because they knew they would be checking hundreds of boxes and sealing hundreds of envelopes every week from the mountains of manuscripts hopeful writers mailed to them.
These days, it’s a bit too simple for anyone to click publish on Amazon and put a poorly constructed so-called book on the market. I’ve read a few of them. Well, I should say I’ve read a few pages in dozens of poorly written books.
I’m sad for those people because they bought into the misconception that anyone could write a book. And the quote from Jurassic Park rings through my head, “They were so busy finding out if they could they never stopped to think if they should.”
Please, write your book, but then do the work it takes to make it readable. In my mind, this is what it will take:
- An understanding of what makes a good story
- The ability to form clear sentences
- Multiple self-editing passes to perfect the story and prose
- At least one edit (although I recommend two for first timers)
- A thorough proofread (by someone who is not your English teacher or Aunt Betty)
- And if you want to self-publish, a cover from a designer rather than something you mock up using free software
What other advice do you have for people who think writing a book is simple?