How To Write A Book
The holy grail of an author's internet search is an instruction manual on how to write a book. If only it were that simple. I've spent many of my procrastination hours reading about how other authors work and only managed to come up with one consistent message. Everyone is different. There really isn't a catch-all answer to the title of this blog.
I made you a promise though so it is something I intend to pursue to the best of my ability. I can't give you a definitive guide as that would be far too easy. It is, instead, my way of writing. It won't work for everyone, but I hope there's something you can take from my process in your own journey.
I can already hear my accountant screaming at me for giving away intellectual property for free, but that's why he is an accountant and I'm an author. He'd probably like me to pay his bill too which may well be the best bit of fantasy ideology in history. It also follows my one key principle. Authors aren't in competition with each other. The more we all encourage people to read the more books we all sell. If you don't believe me just put #writingcommunity into Twitter and see the huge support you get back in next to no time.
I've broken this blog into three parts. So let's start at the beginning.
An idea for a book, short story, novella, song, poem or limerick can strike at any time. The only guarantee is it will be the moment you don't have a pen and piece of paper to write it down. For me, I find inspiration by watching the world go by. It can be the briefest moment in time or the snippet of an overheard conversation that sparks up my imagination. This works regardless of the genre as a reader needs to make a connection to enjoy the book. If you don't believe me read anything by the great Terry Pratchett. Fantasy worlds are filled with very human characters and scenarios. He sold a few copies so I'm happy he knew what he was doing.
I have a trunk at the end of my bed filled with notebooks and lever-arch files containing ideas, story outlines and character descriptions. I have no idea where some of them will fit into books, but their time will come. I've learned no idea is a bad idea. It just needs context. The silliest ideas could become best sellers in a few years.
I only have two rules when it comes to ideas. Firstly, do not, under any circumstances, keep a notebook next to your bed. If you have a good idea in the middle of the night it will still be there in the morning. If not it probably wasn't a good idea. Secondly, imagine yourself being interviewed by a journalist. If you can imagine a lengthy interview talking about your masterpiece (we're authors. Everything we do is a masterpiece) then you've almost certainly got the idea straight in your head. It's then up to you how you plot that idea. For me, I tend to write a short synopsis followed by a two-page outline. Whether that's useful or something that shows I am actually doing some work is for others to judge.
Once the idea has formed it's time to take out a couple of pens and a brand new notebook. I'm old school. I still handwrite the first draft of everything (including this blog). It means my first edit is when I type it up. It saves time in many ways. Once it's typed up I print it and it goes in another lever-arch file. I purposely leave it for a month or so before revisiting it for another edit. It gives me a more objective viewpoint. It's at this stage I annoy family and friends by sending them a copy to see what they think.
The strange thing is I can't sit at my desk writing the first version. I need hustle and bustle around me and the sounds of life. As such I can be found in the nearest coffee house or beach bar scribbling away. I know other people need peace and quiet. That's what makes us all so interestingly different.
Yup, the worst part. There's software that can help with this stage but do be aware most use US English rather than the correct version (ed: that'll set the cat amongst the pigeons!). It's also only really a spelling and grammar help. Only you know the story you're trying to tell and you will change whole pages of text during the editing process. It's a fact of life. I've found several of my stories have completely changed during this process as the characters come to life and take on the story themselves. "It's A Stray Dog's Life" started as a chapter in an, as yet, unfinished novel. It didn't really work until I decided to include more animals and a whole new book was born.
There are two main benefits to this stage. Firstly, coffee growers around the world make a fortune from authors editing their books. Secondly, when it's over it feels amazing.
There you go. I'm an odd person with my own way of writing, but I hope there are one or two things in here that help you too. Over the coming months, I will be giving you my personal guide to publishing with the hope others can fill in the gaps my experience hasn't taken me to, as well as a guide to PR (after the best part of 30 years in the industry I hope I can give some insight).
The stray animals are doing well. Princess is enjoying the warmer weather and the cats keep her company. She has the patience of a saint in the way she lets them climb all over her and snuggle up against her. She certainly didn't get that from me!
I promised a surprise in my last blog and here it is. I've had a very limited number of t-shirts printed. They'll be forming part of competition prizes over the coming weeks so keep your eyes peeled across the website and my social media channels for further updates.
That's me done for this time. The next blog will be a few days late for reasons that will become clear at the time. For now though take care and stay safe.
MaxS and the Strays