I’m often asked what’s the best way of writing a book.
I’m asked, like I must have some secret formula, because I’ve done it several times. Well, I have only one real answer.
Sure, you might require planning. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I’ll write out the names of every character I think I’ll use. I’ll map out locations, like restaurants, bars, schools, or whatever’s required. If I need a specific blueprint – e.g. a house that’s important to the story – then I’ll draw that up, so I can know the space my characters occupy. I might bullet-point some plot points (and will definitely do so as I write). But this is my methodology. It mightn’t work for you. You might have a completely different way of working. That’s fine. You need to prepare in whatever way you see fit. Ultimately, there’s only one commonality that we’re all going to share if we want to write a book.
You might think you need a special place to write. You can’t write because kids are running around screaming and the house is a mess. We can long for an ideal space, for a writer’s den, with our trusty laptop set on an antique desk by a window overlooking the idyllic countryside. That’ll do, won’t it? That’s perfect. And will get us in the mood, won’t it? Well, it might, but rarely are circumstances ideal. We need to deal with what is, because, invariably, when it comes to writing a book, whether we’re working in our dream location, or penned up in the toilet because it’s the only room where we can escape and have some privacy, the same duty remains to us.
But what about time? We might work, might have a partner, might have kids, might have housework, might have dialysis, might have a full day. That’s hard. It’s near impossible. Unfortunately, short of inventing technology that can stretch a twenty-four hour day into twenty-eight, we can only work with what we have. So whether we have eight hours a day where we can lounge around and work on our book, or only fifteen minutes a day, we’re still left with the same overriding requirement.
There will always be reasons that you can’t write. Excuses. Life will never be ideal. We’re too tired. Too busy. Not in the right headspace. It’s too noisy. My writing space isn’t set up correctly. My computer is old. My brain has turned to mush. I keep getting disturbed. My friend is having a meltdown. I’m having a meltdown. I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I can write. Who’ll read it? Who’ll want it? What’s the point of it? This. That. Everything. Every single thing. Yet, despite it all, if we really want to do this, guess what we have to do?
There’s no magic formula. Whatever our situation, whatever our circumstances, whatever our methodology, we’re always left with one simple truth.
Writing is a muscle. Sorry for the cliché, but it is. You want to write a book, you do so by sitting down and writing it. By doing that every day, you build up that muscle so, next time you sit down to write, you welcome the prospect, your muscle tells you, ‘I can handle this’; you build it up so that it’s strong enough to endure tough patches and flat patches; so that on those days you don’t feel like it, when you’re exhausted, when you’re not in the mood, when the house is burning down around you, that muscle will pick you up and carry you – kicking and screaming if need be – the rest of the way, because there’s only one way it’s ever going to get done.
And that’s it. That’s all. Finito. No tricks. No tools. Nothing but this one reality.
If you do that, you’ll get there.