Writing A Book: Your Foolproof Guide

How do you write a book that works? Today, I’m here to tell you.

That’s right, there’s an answer. Of course, nobody ever shares it, because then we’d have nothing left to blog about. But today, I’m breaking my silence. Here’s the deal:

  1. Outline your story in advance, so you know where it’s going and don’t take any false turns.
  2.  Work up your plot as you go, so your creativity isn’t stifled.
  3.  Take as many writing classes as you can, learn from a pro.
  4.  Remember you don’t need classes to write your own story, don’t be tied down by external advice.
  5.  Listen to music.
  6.  Write in silence.
  7.  Write every day, without fail, rain, hail or shine.
  8.  Don’t force it, take it as it comes.
  9.  Write your draft the whole way through, don’t stop to polish as you go.
  10.  Read through what you’ve written. Pause, prune, consider.

See where I’m going with this? I was being untruthful about that whole one answer thing. There are no rules. You can write a book any way you like, and if you round up a bunch of authors, half of them will swear one of these rules is the golden one. This isn’t just a post about walking your own path, though.

It’s a post about excuses.

You don’t need anything in particular to write a book, apart from something to write with, and something to write on. Add an idea, and you’re good to go. Yes, of course you should study craft, work to improve and continue to challenge yourself. But you don’t need your special music. You don’t need to set aside a whole day to outline before you can get started (except you never have a day), and you don’t need your lucky tea, candle or warm-up routine. Often, when we insist there’s a particular process to be followed, we’re really making excuses about why we’re not doing anything.

I know I’ve wasted time trying to make my square peg fit into round holes. Trying to do things other people’s way, because I believed there was just one right way, and thinking it was hard because writing’s supposed to be hard. Now, that’s not wrong—of course it’s hard. But I can’t escape the feeling a lot of us make it harder than we need to, by listening to a bunch of rules that don’t match our circumstances.

I’m just going to say it. Even if J.K. Rowling says it’s super important to her process, it’s not a rule. If Neil Gaiman says using only purple pens is integral to his process, you should check it out, but it’s not a rule.

You don’t need to wait until the right month to query, putting it off even though you’re ready. You don’t need to outline if it feels wrong and uncomfortable, or follow anyone’s wisdom. Of course, I’m not saying you should ignore the wealth of fantastic information available to you. I’m just saying that, in the words of a famous pirate, they’re more like guidelines, really.

Do walk your own path. Listen to all the great advice out there, but don’t let it hamstring you. Don’t get yourself so tangled up trying to follow rules that you don’t make any forward process. Don’t use the lack of something that’s supposedly an essential to stop you doing something, anything. Work out what works for you, have courage, and stick to it. You’ll be rewarded.

     

19 Responses to Writing A Book: Your Foolproof Guide

  1. Marc Vun Kannon Sep 26 2012 at 6:10 am #

    Use the Force, Luke. Trust me.

    • Amie
      Amie Sep 26 2012 at 10:01 pm #

      (And if you can’t use the Force yet, then don’t make that an excuse for failing to get out there and kick butt! Just do it the old fashioned way….)

  2. Natalie Aguirre Sep 26 2012 at 6:41 am #

    Thanks Amy for the great advice. It is true that no writer’s rules fits everyone. We just need to focus on what works for us. Can’t wait to read yours and Meagan’s new book.

    • Amie
      Amie Sep 29 2012 at 10:32 am #

      I can’t wait for you to read it either! Now, if only we could find a shortcut to which rules DO work for us!

  3. Katherne Sep 26 2012 at 8:45 am #

    Great advice! My biggest problem while writing is editing. I can’t help myself. I’m currently writing my second book while The Avenging Angel is in edits. I could write a lot more if I could only STOP editing.

    • Amie
      Amie Sep 29 2012 at 10:36 am #

      Knowing where your challenge lies is definitely a start! Good luck with the writing (or should I say editing?)!

  4. Kateri Ransom Sep 26 2012 at 9:46 am #

    Threw me for a loop for a second. Cleverrrrr.
    Great post! It’s so important how much aspiring writers need to KEEP THIS IN MIND!

    (haha! Where’s the bradny?)

    • Amie
      Amie Sep 29 2012 at 10:37 am #

      Thank you! It’s not just aspiring authors either, I promise you! I think we all fall into the ‘it has to be done this particular way’ trap.

  5. Sooz Sep 26 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Awesome, awesome, AWESOME post. It really resonated with me today. I was literally lying in bed about to make excuses for why I didn’t need to write that early in the morning…and then I read your post. <3

    • Amie
      Amie Sep 29 2012 at 10:38 am #

      Glad to be of service, Sooz! For me it’s about how long I’ve got — I’m trying to break myself of ‘fifteen minutes isn’t enough to really get started’. I bet I could do a lot with all those quarter hours….

  6. Alexa Loves Books Sep 26 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    “Do walk your own path. Listen to all the great advice out there, but don’t let it hamstring you. Don’t get yourself so tangled up trying to follow rules that you don’t make any forward process. Don’t use the lack of something that’s supposedly an essential to stop you doing something, anything. Work out what works for you, have courage, and stick to it. You’ll be rewarded.”

    This is probably my favorite part of this entire post! Though I’ve certainly moved far past the days when I tried to follow all the writing rules/guidelines I’d read, I still think I manage to fall into this trap sometimes. Thanks for sharing!

    • Amie
      Amie Sep 29 2012 at 10:39 am #

      We allllllll fall into it– I wrote this because I noticed myself doing it! I’m so glad it was helpful!

  7. Adriana Sep 26 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    This is the best thing I’ve read today, thank you so so much! 🙂 and absolutely true, I’ve been making soooo many excuses for myself and a lot of them have to do with exactly this–oh but I can’t write this late at night, I’m not comfortable, write without coffee?!–so thank you <3

    • Amie
      Amie Sep 29 2012 at 10:39 am #

      It’s my absolute pleasure. I’m delighted to know I’m not alone! Good luck writing–any time, any place, with or without coffee!

  8. A. Barone Sep 26 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    I like to write by the seat of my pants… however when I get to a certain point on my stories I tend to do a basic bare bones outline of what I’m planning on doing. ^_^ Music however is a must. ^_^

    • Amie
      Amie Sep 29 2012 at 10:40 am #

      I do love writing to music, but I’m in the process of teaching myself to write whether I have it or not–more productive that way!

  9. Cat York Sep 27 2012 at 5:06 pm #

    What a clever post! And very true! All of it! 😉

    • Amie
      Amie Sep 29 2012 at 10:40 am #

      Thank you muchly!

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