December 06, 2008

The Basics

A Letter In Response To My Young Friend Who Wrote And Asked Me What "The Basics" Were To Writing A Book:

Dear M:

The basics of writing a book are to remember that every story has a beginning, middle and an end. You'd think that would be the easy part, but most people can only start, and never finish.

Think about what you want to write. You might make an outline or even just a list of the things you want to cover so that you remember them all and can touch on them in the way that you want to as you write.

The next thing you have to do is decide to whom you're telling the story.

Find your audience. Think of one person in the world – a real person – to whom you're telling the story. And then sit down and type it up. Double space, just like for a school paper. You should use spell check and grammar check so that your grammar is as intelligent as possible.

Every day when you start to write, read what you wrote the day before out loud to yourself. Make the corrections you need to so that it sounds good.

The other basic thing you need to do – while writing – is to read. Read the type of books that you want to write. This will give you some idea of style and the right vocabulary to use. It will also get you familiar with the names of publishers, if that's the plan for down the road. You can make a list of the publishers, and then research them online to see what their requirements are, and how to approach them. (Every publishing company has Author Guidelines online; it's just a matter of searching the site 'til you find them.)

Basically, that's it – you write until you reach the end. It's ideal to have a group of writers around your own age to read it for you, and discuss it with you – or a writing teacher/English teacher from school can help.

Publishing a book is a different matter, but writing a book – once you decide you're going to do it – can be pretty uncomplicated. Not easy – but it's a pretty straightforward job. The most important thing is that writers… write. Every day. So, it's a matter of discipline, of sitting down and just doing it.

Hope that helps,

(I'm pretty sure that did not help. I think what the author of the letter wanted was for me to tell them, step-by-step, the fail-safe, what-I-have-to-do to get published. I think she figures since I did it, it must be easy. I could have told her that, yes. But see, that's not what she asked, was it?

See, this is what happens when you ask a teacher a question and you're not specific...

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