Cup of Dcaf: So You Want to Write a Book?


I want to start off with some encouragement here. You want to write a book? AWESOME. You can do it. Sit down with your pen or your keyboard and write it. If you want to write a book, it’s probably because you have a cool idea that you like. Write about that cool idea.

But here’s the thing. You have to understand what writing a book actually is. And what it actually is, is hard work.

I think this understanding is something that everyone needs to learn for themselves, to an extent. It’s tough to grasp just how much time and effort is needed to write even one draft of a book (much less go through revisions). In the end, though, it’s usually worth it…

But only if you’re writing for the right reasons. If you want to write a book just so you can go brag about how you have written a book, it’s probably not worth it. That’s going to give you a brief moment of satisfaction at the end of many, many hours of labor—and it’s pretty tough to get through that when that’s your end goal. Most people who have this motivation, in my experience, don’t end up writing that book.

Similarly, lots of people talk about how they have this awesome idea and want to write a book about it, but then they complain about how they can’t seem to get started, or got stuck, or have writer’s block. This goes back to the point that writing is work. Oftentimes, you’ll end up reading the page you wrote, over and over, and fixing things. Making sentences stronger, improving word choice and syntax. If you don’t want to go through that to write a sentence, think about how tough it’s gonna be to write pages upon pages.

I’ve said it before, and will say it again: you can’t be a writer if you don’t write.

If writing isn’t enjoyable to you, well, that’s something you’re going to have to get over if you really want to write a book. Get better at it. One way to do this is to read. A lot. Reading—and reading a variety of authors—will help you learn how different people use voice, how they have styles that lean in different directions. It’s through this that you can learn things to apply to your own writing.

Importantly, though, you have to practice writing. Nobody is ever going to sit down and churn out a novel in one go, easy as cake, and have it be some literary masterpiece. Improving as a writer takes time, just like writing a book takes time. As you do one, the other gets easier. I once had a writing professor say that the first million words a person writes are crap. While that’s probably a bit of hyperbole, the thought behind it is very much true. Practice is the only thing that’ll make writing better.

If the idea of all of this work isn’t appealing, well, that’s the norm. Tons and tons of people come to this conclusion. They thought they wanted to write, but they didn’t actually want to write. They loved the fantasy of being a writer, some kind of dream-writer where things are easy. Well, it’s not easy.

Writing is hard. Writing is work. Most importantly, writing is writing.

So you have a cool book idea? Awesome. Don’t talk about it. Don’t dream about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t make excuses. Write it.



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