My Convoluted Story Of Writing A Book And The Take Away
I wanted to be a writer for as long as I could remember. I always had stories in me, happy ones, sad ones, scary ones...name it. I had a story. For fun, I would make up stories on the fly to entertain my friends and then, when I settled into my career as teacher, I wove my storytelling ability into my lesson plans. Word traveled. Soon, I was telling stories in the lunch room when the students got rowdy and before I knew it, students who graduated would come back and say, “Ms. C remember the story when…”. That’s when I knew I had to write down the stories I had inside, but there was one problem. I didn’t know how to start writing a book. I needed to research.
Where To Start
I must have hit every website on how to start writing a book. There were hacks, and tips, and do’s and don’ts for as far as I could scroll. Then I came across an organization, Golden Crown Literary Society, that offered an intense writing academy for lesbian authors. They even offered a scholarship, but I needed a writing sample to apply. How could I offer a writing sample, if I didn’t know how to start writing a book? I felt writing was always going to be out of reach.
Sticking To The Path
That night, I called my friend and told her about the Academy, the scholarship and how they needed a sample. She told me to just sit down and write, She continued to say I should to write what I know and since I knew a lot, I would have a lot of material to draw from. I thought she was full of it. She didn’t know how to write a book either but I let her words percolate for a moment. What was the worst that could happen? I hung up the phone and I wrote. I sat in my room for a weekend with no distractions. Isolated and by myself, surrounded by nothing but my dogs I absconded from all digital connectivity. Ideas flowed from my head and onto my page. I was writing a book for the first time.
I quickly sent off my application but the oddest thing happened. Hopefully, they didn’t care if I was writing a book for the first time, but what if they did? I decided to hedge my bet with crazy idea. What if I organized poetry I had already written and made them into a story? I would have to self-publish it. I quickly devoured all I could on self publishing then enlisted my friend to help me format it. When I received my first sample copy, I was speechless. Not only, did I know how to write my first book. I knew a lot about self publishing as well.
It’s reviews were great. I performed it’s material in NJ and NY. It won the Bronze 2019 Living Now Award for Sexuality/Feminity. Parts of it were reprinted in Gay Parent Magazine. I quickly updated my Golden Crown Application with the news.
Although it wasn’t a monetary success, the accolades gave me confidence to play with style and performing. I introduced new material and wove old excerpts into each of my three minutes of fame at coffeehouses, book stores and galleries. Some of it panned but some of it took off but either way I was a writer, an author, and on my way to completing my first novel. But wait..what happened to the scholarship? I was so caught up in self-publishing and my first book, I didn’t realize I had not heard back from Golden Crown Literary Society. I was heart broken, until I checked my spam folder. There it was. Not only was I accepted into the Writing Academy but I was the 2020 Sandra Moran Scholarship recipient. Through them, I would learn how to write a book for the first time.
You Have To Put In The Work
The classes were rigorous. They covered everything from writing style, to character development to self publishing. Through it all, the goal was to complete a manuscript in approximately eight months. I completed two. My classmates were fantastic. We all bonded and sought each other out for help and support. We had such a special connection we decided to present at the next Golden Crown Literary Society Conference. I am proud to say I am a presenter on two panels: From Novice to Novels and The Author Spotlight.
What about the two manuscripts? Are they self-published or commercially published? The answer is neither. I am sitting on them, revising them, and deciding what is the best route for me to take. In the mean time, I am practicing pitching my novel to agents, blogging for Algonkian Writer’s Conferences, and writing almost daily.
So, what are my steps for writing a book? By no means am I advocating follow my path. My steps to writing a book were convoluted because I had no idea what I was doing but there were a few take aways I picked up along my journey.
STEPS TO WRITING A BOOK:
Start with an idea. Inspiration is everywhere. Find something that intrigues you and jot it down.
Ask yourself “What if?” That’s how you start to build your climax.
Ask yourself what led up to that “what if?” There is your rising action.
What happens after” the what if?” There is your falling action.
How do you want the novel to end? Create the resolution.
Develop each character. Pretend you are a private investigator researching each character. What is motivation? Their traumas? You will need to get into their head.
Develop their world. Decide where your book takes place. Is it New York or someplace fictional? Take the time to make the world believable to your audience even if it doesn’t exist.
Plot out your book from beginning to end. I use any word processing program to outline my plot points and then Plotter to create a better visual. You will need turning points and scenes along the way so I find it easier to write and see novels in sections.
Give yourself uninterrupted writing time and a goal. I know it is hard, but once you get into the habit, you will find yo
urself missing the time you took out of your day to focus on your book.
Write your first draft!
So there it is. My ten steps to writing a book. Remember not to worry about the minutia. You are creating is a DRAFT. It should be malleable, unformatted, and easy to work with. Rigidity will stress you out. One of my teachers said, “The piece of your novel you are desperately holding on to is the piece to delete. You are spending more time trying to make it fit than you would trying to create a new scene without it.” She was right.