I’m stealing the title of Stephen King’s book for this post, because that’s what it’s about: writing.
I’m talking about fiction writing, primarily books but also short stories and blogs and columns. All of it requires pretty much the same things.
Writing is something that seemingly everyone wants to do and few people have the discipline or talent for. Anyone can scribble a grocery list, but how many can get a book published (trad or indie)?
It takes a lot of determination to finish a book. It’s hard as hell writing one, which a lot of people discover, to their amazement, and it’s no surprise when they quit after a few pages or chapters.
You give up things to write a book: dinner out with friends, movies, bar hopping, weekend trips, vacations, sex. Hell, you pretty much give up a social life. Facebook doesn’t count. That’s what you do when your brain is screaming for a break and you turn to social media to get it.
What does it take to write a book, other than giving up pretty much all external stimulus?
Determination. Professionalism. Knowledge of the craft and the desire to get better. Researching a topic instead of winging it. Crossing those Ts and dotting the Is.
Tunnel vision. That’s what you need to write a book.
Nothing gets in your way, nothing diverts your attention, nothing makes you give up.
Anyone who writes a book is worthy of applause and admiration. But….
If you don’t know how to punctuate a sentence, don’t write a book. If your dialog sounds like melodrama from the 1800s, don’t write a book. If your narrative makes people cringe, if you’re not willing to spend money to get your opus properly edited, if your idea of a compelling cover is a crayon drawing done by your five-year-old nephew–don’t write a book.
Professionalism. It matters.
I’m so tired of downloading books to my Kindle that I cannot read because they’re written poorly or haven’t been edited. I leave shitty reviews because of that, and the authors deserve them. Their books would have ended up in the slush pile if trad publishers were still in control of the industry. One thing you can say about them: they recognized birdcage liner when they saw it and weren’t afraid to say so.
Learn your craft, and if you find out you can’t write, no matter how hard you try… DON’T.