How to Write a Book

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I’m gonna do something different with this blog entry—I’m gonna be serious. And yes, I actually can be. But I’m cool keeping that between you and me. If too many people learned this, the government would probably figure out a way to tax me for it.

They tax everything else I do.

“Why so serious?” as Heath Ledger’s Joker might say.

I got sent an ad today that promised to teach me the secret formula to writing a book—a best-selling novel, no less—in six weeks. Color me intrigued. I write novels, and it would be terrible if I’ve been doing it wrong. And six weeks? That’s good time.

I’ve seen these things before, usually on Facebook. So even though I was pretty sure it was a scam, it was a scam sent to me personally. And if you can’t trust a personal scam, what’s this world coming to?

So I clicked on the link in the ad. I was taken to this obnoxious whiteboard animation telling me this person’s life story, how he’d always wanted to be a writer but it was so much work. And then he stumbled across this seemingly magic formula that he’d tell me about in just a moment.

Author Tom Hoover: How to Write a BookTurns out, he and I have very different definitions of the word “moment.” For example, if you tell me you’ll be here in just a moment, I figure I might have time to change my shirt before you’re banging on the door like the undead were chasing you.

Anywho, after the fifth or sixth “in just a moment” in what was the longest 10 minutes of my life, I closed the site and deleted the email. I never even got to the secret formula. But that’s okay, because I know a bigger, better secret.

There is no magic formula for writing a book.

It’s a lie. A con. A made up story to bilk you out of your hard-earned money.

I do know the formula for writing a book, though. And I won’t even make you wait just a moment to learn it. Ready?

  1. Get a story idea, preferably a good idea. If you don’t have a good story to tell, go find one.
  2. Think long and hard about what it would take to tell your good story. Outline it if you must. Or don’t—your call.
  3. Sit down and write it. This is the hard part. And there’s no way around it.
  4. Edit, rewrite, and repeat until it’s ready. Sometimes this part’s harder than writing it in the first place.
  5. And while you’re doing all that, READ.

Writing is work. No way around it. It’s work I love, but it’s still hard work. Anybody who tells you it isn’t is just one step away from selling you tickets to the rodeo where Bigfoot will be riding the Loch Ness Monster.

Hang on to your wallet … and your dignity.

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