Monday, December 23, 2013

How To Write a Book or Anything Else

As a writer, I’m asked only three questions: 1. Where do your ideas come from? 2. How do you write a book? 3. Was the main character in your last short story/screenplay/novel/epic poem/limerick based on me? Here are the answers: 1. You don’t want to know because I don’t know either. 2. Read the rest of this blog. 3. Bwahahahahahaha!

So you want to write a book? A novel? A screenplay? Anything? Follow these steps, and cut me 5% of your royalties.

1. Get an idea. Generate an idea. Listen to your heart. Listen to your voice. Listen to your god. Ask yourself, “What do I care about?” Watch the scene from The Princess Bride where Billy Crystal, playing Miracle Max, ask the mostly-dead Wesley, “Hello in there! What’s so important you gotta live for?” Answer that question, and move on to Step 2.

2. Read lots of other books. Read books that you wished you’d written. Read books you hate for their success. Read books that are like the one you are going to write. Read books that make you laugh. Read, read, read.

3. Mull your idea. Take some time. Go for a walk. Grow a beard. Shave it off. (If you’re a lady, grow your armpit hair. Shave it off.) Put your idea into a brandy snifter and swish it around. Smell it. Look at its unctuous color. Consider it. Infuse it.

4. Get a pen. Get a pencil. Get a crayon. Get some paper. Stay away from electricity.

5. Write the idea of your book in one sentence. Pretend you just got into an elevator with J. Moneybags McPublisher, and he says to you, “Hey, do you have an idea for a short story/screenplay/novel/epic poem/limerick that I can throw a million bucks at?” You’ve got fifteen seconds to tell him what it’s about. One sentence. If you can’t write the idea of your book in one sentence, keep working on it.

6. Write an abstract for your book. Write one paragraph that tells the story of your book.

7. Sketch a structural outline of your book. Don’t mess with structure. Make it easy to follow. Stick to The Hero’s Adventure so the rest of us can follow it.

8. Sketch out your main characters. Give them basic story arcs based on their desires.

9. Consider the story arcs of your characters and the primary story you are writing. Harmonize them. Make them work for each other. Push them around a little. Don’t listen to them or you’ll have a rumination, not a book.

10. Write a rough draft. Use your pen or pencil or crayon. Write it longhand. Stay away from electricity. Write everything you know. Go away for a week and do nothing but write this story. Don’t stop until you are finished. Don’t stop until your writing arm is twice as big as your other arm. Don’t stop until your fingers are hooked into raven’s claws. Don’t stop until it is all out and you hate it and you never want to see it again.

11. Take a break. Deal with your disappointment. Deal with your embarrassment. Question yourself and the delusion that you are a writer. See a therapist. Drink heavily. Succumb to your angst. Weep uncontrollably. Discover yoga. Discover transcendental meditation. Discover Crossfit. Discover Zumba. Emerge from the fog a new person. Build on your scar tissue and positive energy. Become a motivational speaker. Work in a soup kitchen. Work for Doctors Without Borders. Feel alive again.

12. Type the book from your longhand draft onto a typewriter. Stay away from electricity.

13. Make handwritten revisions onto the typewritten draft with a red pen. Try not to vomit.
14. You are now allowed near electricity: type a new revision into your word processing software on your laptop/desktop/mobile device.

15. Print three copies of that draft.

16. Give this draft to a copy editor. Give this draft to a content editor. Give this draft to a proofreader. Spend the money. Make sure the copy editor, the content editor, and the proofreader live at least two time zones away, and have their DNA tested to make sure they are not related to you.

17. With the three edited manuscripts in hand, type a new draft into your computer.

18. Print that draft.

19. Go on vacation for a month. Forget about your draft. Start a new draft. (See Step 1.) Begin a new relationship. Then, while riding a Harley through the Badlands National Park, South Dakota with a concealed handgun strapped to your side, remember that you have a manuscript that you wrote some time ago. Get off your motorcycle, get on a plane, and get home.

20. Proofread the draft from Step 18.

21. Update the draft.

22. You now have a draft that is ready to be submitted. Good luck. Stay away from electricity.