Friday, July 29, 2011

How to Write a Book

Not pictured: Writing
Rule One: drink AFTER you write.
If this were How to Write a Short Story, I’d be all for drinking while you write. You’re trying to finish as fast as possible, so you need an outside clock to race against. In this case, that clock is drunkeness. Try it with speed chess! (On no circumstances should you drink before you write. That never helps.) With books, though, you’ve got to pace yourself. Unless you’ve hit the Next Level or are on drugs, you’re probably not going to finish the book in one day. So, put the beer aside until you’ve got at least 2000 words done that day.

Rule Two: Set a deadline!
Make it arbitrary, but realistic (you know how much you write), then generate an ‘expected wordcount per day’. Buy a wall calendar or some sort of annoying computer program that counts the days for you and yells at you. For my current series, I’m giving myself 25 days for each short book, at 1000 words a day. Obviously, some days I write 500, some days I write 2000, and one day (this is a Certainty) I write 5000 words. Whatever you set, just do it or you’re not a Writer, and stop calling yourself one. It makes the rest of us look bad.

Rule Three: Don’t think about the book too much unless you’re writing it.
Write in the morning, Play in the afternoon, Write in the evening
Note: It doesn’t count as ‘play’ if you’re thinking about work.

Rule Four: Race yourself!
Set a 15-minute timer and type. See how many words you can type, then try again. Mark your highest. FocusWriter has a convenient timer that’ll give you a wordcount at the end. Neat!

Rule Five: Bracket Outline
When I start a book, I usually write the first chapter without knowing what’s going to happen, then I take whatever characters and plot developed from that and come a bracket outline. Each bracket can be a scene, a chapter, a plot twist, or just a cool ‘image’, but the point is that you’re supposed to expand them and ‘explode’ words out of the bracket. Anything not in brackets can be weaved into the dialogue. (I’m sure there’s a way to make the wordcounter ignore anything between [X], but I’m too lazy to deal with it) Here’s an example of a short bracket outline after a first chapter introducing Jimmy Bats, hapless used car salesman:

Jimmy Bats was a man disappointed with his car lot in life. [&c]
[Jimmy Bats loses his keys]
[A global key theft ring?]
[Meet Cute: Darlene, the key detective]
[A Comic Interlude; polka dot dress]
[Murder by Car]
[Jimmy Bats Finds A Clue amidst the wreckage, leads to the Smithsonian’s Janitor Closet]
[The Declaration of Keydepence?]
[Darlene kidnapped!]
[Jimmy kicks Ass. (...keyster?)]
[A Wedding and a brand new car]
“Oh, Jimmy! You DID have the keys to my heart!”

Now just write it, rolling through the brackets and expanding them as far as they’ll go, adding new brackets as you see the need so you always know what you’ll be writing tomorrow. I usually come up with about ten brackets before I start, not worrying too much how to tie them all together. They’ll all come together somehow, if you just force yourself to write about it. (The title of the book is “Christmas and Keyster”. And if you write it, you can keep it.)

Rule Six: Don’t read the book until you finish the book.
It can’t be judged as a book until it’s done. It probably doesn’t suck as much as you think it does.

Rule Seven: [Redacted]
[It was about sex.]

Rule Eight: Buy My Book, I guess?

May you live forever...

Ernie Centrifuge just wants to relax with his girlfriend (a police inspector) and play with his survey drones, but when a Senator is assassinated by laser, Ernie decides that the floating city isn’t as relaxing as he would have hoped. When his sister (a psion) brings in an orphan girl who found a tantalizing map, Ernie decides to descend to the surface of a forgotten Earth. But what has he left behind on Megalopolis?

A technological thriller with a double shot of humor and romance: To roll anyway, a science fiction short novel by David Barron.
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