When I was busy doing publicity for my books, I met so many people at book signings, on television and radio shows – and believe it not, on the street or in a supermarket who told me the same thing.
“As soon as I have time – or when I retire, I am going to write a book. I have an idea that I think is very interesting.” I always had the same answer for them. “Nobody has time. If you want to be a writer I have a one word for you. Write.” They always looked at me a little doubtfully and it occurred to me that people just don’t know where to start.
Starting is the hardest part. But, you have already started if you have an idea. Books are never written overnight. They develop as they go along. You could almost liken it to taking a whole steak and trying to swallow it. You have to cut it piece by piece to eat it. By the time you are finished, you have had dinner.
The other objection is that the starting has to be perfect. Every word, every punctuation mark. Most authors will tell you that you should not edit a book until it is finished. You are not going to be ready to show your new baby to the world until you give birth so the beginning is to write it for yourself.
Most books, except for novels have an introduction. So, the first step is to go to your computer and write what your book is about. Or, if you write like I do, I start with a yellow pad of paper.
The next part is why you are writing it. Who is it directed to? How will it benefit the reader? What will they find in the pages? Here is an example from the introduction of my last book, Reflections from a Woman Alone. This is about women. Single women who are also perhaps mothers, friends, credit card jugglers, car-poolers, entrepreneurs, lovers, workers, gardeners, even grandmothers. In short—a person trying to be everything to everybody and still have a life. I know there are some serenely, happily coupled women out there who do all the same things, and if you are one of them, I don’t want to exclude you. You never know when you might need a reference guide to what it’s really like out there as a single woman. And – male readers? Sure. Come along. It wouldn’t hurt for you to learn something about how women really think.
If you will notice it says right away what the book is about. And in general, who it is directed towards. Use this as a guide when you write your introduction. You may discard your first copy of your introduction later but this is not your final draft. This is to refine your purpose in writing your book. This is for you to get your head around what you will be writing. Remember, do not edit this. You do that later.
In general, if you are not writing an epic like War and Peace, a book will contain approximately 200 pages. Whether it is a novel or a memoir or a self-help book. A book longer than that is not as easily saleable. But, if you have a lot to say, this is only a suggestion. That usually breaks down to about 20 chapters with about ten pages in a chapter. That doesn’t sound so ominous, does it? I suggest you make a tentative list of what each chapter will contain. But this is not written in stone either. The introduction is your guide. Next, after that first strict rule about the introduction, you have a lot of leeway. The book does not have to follow a prescribed sequence while you are writing.
Take the movies, for example. I was surprised when I found out that they did not shoot a movie in order starting from the first scene and ending with the finale. They shoot almost anywhere in the script and are mostly governed by the location of the scene. It is cheaper to do it that way. You have the cameras right there. So, you could literally write the last chapter next. Then, skip to the middle. Remember you are the architect. At the end, you will go over the whole thing and put it in the sequence that makes sense just as if you were editing a movie.And you do not have to write a complete chapter at one time.
My experience is that the “muse” shows up at odd times. When you are taking a shower, waiting for a long red light to change or on hold for the telephone company. Or even if you wake at night. Just make sure that you always have a pad and pen handy so you can write down your thoughts. I guarantee if you wait until later, they will have disappeared.
Put all these pieces of paper with your latest brilliant thought in an expandable manila folder. You could label each one according to the chapter you think it might fit in later but it is an inexact science. Just write down the fragments.Write stories about what has happened today. Especially, if they are unusual or funny. They will plump out your book. Or even be a springboard for a whole chapter.
Writing a novel is not much different. Your “introduction” will be the story you are telling. Who are the characters? What do they look like? What is the start of the book and how do they end up? What happens to them along the way? It is more of an outline. A rough sketch. A storyboard.
Writing a whole book can feel overwhelming. That’s why you are saying it takes time. We all have little pieces of time that we waste every day. Use them. You are a writer. You told me that. Write. A quote attributed to Goethe says it all –
What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.