You’ll get around to it? Time? Knowledge? Don’t know where to start?
I’m going to let you in on a secret. You don’t write because you’re afraid. But, before we get to that, let’s talk about excuses you might be using. I know them, because I used every one of them.
I’ve been obsessed with books since I was in elementary school. My home-life, like many other people’s, was rough. Books took me to places where good guys with spaceships, six-shooters, pet demons, or just pluck and attitude always succeeded, even if it wasn’t usually in the way they wanted (great and necessary story technique, btw).
I needed that–hell, I still need that. I used to tell myself stories and wanted to write them down… but I didn’t.
Issues have cropped up over my lifetime. I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder when I was a teen, I was homeless for a while, used alcohol and other drugs to (unsuccessfully) control my moods, was a horrible boyfriend because I didn’t understand ‘love,’ and a whole slew of other things. I thought leaving what I saw as the black-hole-of-Louisiana would solve my problems. Getting out of Louisiana would kickstart my life and I would be able to write.
Almost twenty years later, after living in five states, I found myself walking down the streets of San Francisco wondering why my problems and fears followed me wherever I went. It took a long time for me to figure out that location wasn’t the issue–I was.
That whole time, I told people I was going to be a writer. I was just waiting–for what, I don’t know. But, I do know that wherever you are is the perfect place for you to start writing. Whether you’re in a beautiful home overlooking the coastline or a mental hospital (as long as they let you have a pencil), you’re in the right place to write your memoir, space marine battles, or love on a pirate ship.
Another issue was timing. Later… that’s when I would get stuff done. Later. My best friend kicked that excuse in the ass one day.
We all have moments that stick in our heads. A friend or family member turns to us and says something that makes that second stick; a perfect snapshot of their words, the way their face looked, what was going in that tiny sliver of life. My friend, Leslie, gave me one of those.
She and I took a two year road trip around the U.S. We zigzagged across the country, stopping in a town for a couple of months and then moving on. Have you ever spent that much time that close to another person? Don’t get me wrong… I’m all awesome and stuff, but how she survived with her sanity is beyond me.
Finally, she’d heard me say that one day I was ‘gonna’ one time too many. On a sunny, October day on an Oklahoma highway, with the windows down and Melissa Etheridge playing on our Sirius Satellite Radio, she turned to me and said, “I’m tired of hearing about that. If it were that important to you, you’d have done it already.”
Now, I live on the coast of Massachusetts and she lives in Colorado with her wonderful wife, but every time I want to put off my daily writing, she and I are back in the cab of that Toyota Land Cruiser, cruising through Oklahoma.
If you want to put off writing your book until things let up at work, until your kids are out of the house, or until you retire and have more time, that’s on you. But, if it’s important to you, you’ll do it. And the bottom line (and painful truth) is, if you don’t do it, it’s not important enough to you.
I don’t know you. I don’t know your life. But, I do know that you have time to write a book. Let’s talk about math.
The widely accepted minimum word-count for a novel is 50,000 words. If you write 200 words per day, you’ll have a 60,000-word draft complete in a little less than a year.
A year feels like a long time. Another winter, another beach season, another trip around the sun. I’ve got news for you–that time’s going to pass anyway. Whatever’s going on outside your window right now, whether it’s a blizzard or a hundred degree day, one year from now, you’ll see the same kind of day. On that day, do you want to have completed a novel or do you want to feel the same angst you feel right now? The angst that you have a story in you that needs to be told can eat away at you.
Now, more math. I average 1,600 words per hour. That means 200 words take up a whopping 7 1/2 minutes. Even if you write half as fast as I do… can you afford fifteen minutes a day to make your dream happen? If it’s important, you have time.
Before I actually sat down and started pounding out books, I bought eight electric typewriters, four iPads, six computers, more Moleskine notebooks than I can count, and tons of other software, electronics, and fancy blank-books. They never made me write.
Now, I still have a good computer, Scrivener, and some good photo/graphic software for making covers… but for the actual writing, my absolute favorite things to use are a G2 gel pen and a spiral notebook. Fancy things won’t make you write… only your desire and drive will make that happen.
I read hundreds of writing craft books over the years before my ass met chair and my fingers met keyboard. Craft books are awesome… but they are no substitute for sitting down and writing. Many times, they are just another way to procrastinate. This even goes for the one I’m planning on writing.
There are very few things you need to know before you write your first draft. If you can tell your friends a story without their eyes glazing over, you can write a story. If there’s nothing else I get across with this site, I want you to remember that you don’t have to worry about capital-w, wicked-important Writing at the moment. All you have to do is tell a story. Every one of us does that every day.
As for where to start, I’ve got that covered for you (and will insert a link here as soon as I type it out).