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How To Write A Book

How To Write A Book

How To Write A Book

How To Write A Book
How To Write A Book

Easy. It starts with understanding the market.

A gruesome business

Writing books is a creepy business, but the most gruesome piece of the whole game is this: it’s very easy to make a

complete mess of the whole project before you have written your first word. You can misjudge the market. You can

ruin your plot. You can hopefully not have enough knowledge about your characters, or the world in which they find

themselves. If you get these things badly wrong from the start, you immediately go into a huge mess.

So planning is important. At the same time, every form of creative writing needs some kind of fluidity. It is simply

How To Write A Book

not possible to plan a thing completely. For one thing, it’s hard to squash all your ingenuity in the three-month

the period allotted to you. For others, the writing process will tell you more about your characters and your story, and

you need to give yourself space to respond to these insights.

The seat of your pants

There is no single way to approach these issues. I know an author who wrote so many notes when it came to

examining her first novel that the notes were longer than the book itself. I also know an excellent author (one of his

books has been heavily promoted on television and has sold a huge number of copies) who takes exactly the opposite

How To Write A Book

approach. she likes to research a period, is interested in an aspect of it, then she just starts writing. she hardly knows

her character and knows nothing of the story; she just throws the door open and waits to see what will come.

So there are several tracks you can do, but most new writers who take one of these more extreme tracks will have to

regret it. If you are an extreme note-taker, then honestly ask yourself if your book needs more research or if you are

simply exhibiting. It may very well be that you are afraid to start, which is a perfectly understandable fear and can be

healed in one way and only in one way: by being imprisoned. As Kingsley Amis famously put it, ‘The art of writing is

to offer the art of sitting from your pants to the seat of your chair’. There is a little more to it than that perhaps, but it

How To Write A Book

How To Write A Book
How To Write A Book

is still Lesson One, the only lesson that does not tolerate exceptions.

At the same time, if you are attracted to the power and boldness of the “just start” approach, ask yourself if you are

not afraid to plan the disciplines if you are not afraid of them because they are precisely what You need most. It is possible that, without planning anything, you will write a wonderful novel, appear on television and sell a

zillion copies – but statistically it is much more likely that you end up with an unspeakable manuscript, the

shortcomings of which were very likely. Thank.

To hunt for Kay Scarpetta

How To Write A Book

Let us assume that you are sold on the idea of planning things to a (non-obsessive) extent. Where should you start?

You will inevitably start at the place you hope to finish: in a library. A library is not simply a repository of the world’s

greatest fiction and non-fiction; there is a marketplace and a catwalk as well.

You have to learn to read cleverly, commercially. Let us say, for example, that you intend to write crime fiction.

Maybe you happen to have a soft spot for British crime fiction from the ‘Golden Age. So you want to do something

similar. Something with a modern setting, of course, but a novel that brings the same attractive mix of

a comfortable life, shared social values, amateurish beatings, decent but bumbling cops, and a good old splash of

How To Write A Book

upper class life. So you do. You are writing this book. It offers strong characters, warm prose, and a deft, if designed,

plot. (Constructions are part of the feeling.) You can achieve a manuscript that perfectly achieves its goals.

And it will never sell. Maybe, if the book was good enough, you could find a second-tier publisher to take it

from you for a very small advance. You could even, with a little luck, lure a large publisher to launch the book on the

cozy crime market, where you might be aiming to sell 5 or 10,000 paper tops and little hope of cracking an overseas

market. But you never make a living from writing and, because agents know how the dice are likely to fall, you

have the greatest difficulty in achieving that success as well because it will most agents will not be helping you there.

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