Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Answering the Impossible Question


“What do I need to know about writing a book?”

I get asked this question a lot. By friends, family, and random acquaintances who find out I’m an author. I’m perfectly certain none of them realize what a very vague question this is.

I mean, the smart-aleck answer is, “You need to know how to write in English.” Not surprisingly, this is a useless answer.

But really, this question is almost impossible to answer, isn’t it? I mean, you’ve got the whole story structure angle, you could go into point of view or the evils of adverbs or the big to-outline-or-not-to-outline debate, or you could go in a different direction and start in on the how-to’s of getting published.

How I usually respond to this question is this: “Writing a book isn't hard. Writing a good book takes practice. Writing a publish-able book is difficult. So I guess what I'm saying is, can you be more specific?”

I truly do believe that writing a book isn’t hard. Theoretically all you need to do is start writing and then keep going until you get to 50,000 words or so. No one’s saying it’ll be a good book, but it’s still technically considered a book.

Writing a good book takes practice, I think. You need to get your hands dirty, make some mistakes, and write some lines that’ll make you cringe in a few years.

As for writing a publish-able book, I’m not an expert. Seeing as how my first book is getting published in February 2013, no one should pay any attention to me as to how to get published because I’m a complete and utter newb. Thankfully, there’s a glut of books on the market that detail exactly what you need to know to get a book published.

As far as answers to impossible questions go, I think this answer suffices nicely. How do you respond when someone asks you that question?

3 comments:

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Practice, study (And I list the books that have helped me), be patient, and wait. It took years for me, but my generation was more patient.

Big Mike said...

I get asked that a lot. My answer? Experience about 30 years of the human condition, ups, downs, love lost, cancer, a sick child, etc. Then think how you felt. Thats a good start.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

January Bain said...

I agree with Julie and Mike, experience plus practice and study puts you in a far better position to write a possibly publishable book.

I cannot say I've been asked this exact question, but if I was, I would say it takes 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration as a starter like the quote goes.