Wednesday, August 6, 2014

How to Write a Book and Never Get Sick of It!

I have ONE secret to writing a book that you'll love EVERY time you have to go through it. But first, a story:

Years ago, I learned how to edit a novel. I took beta reader feedback, combed through each and every page, and made the prose as elegant as I possibly could. Then I freaked out because I "knew" I was done with it, but I had no idea what to do next. So I went online, learned how to query, and sent the book out. Months later, with nothing but rejections, I went through the book again. I liked it, but I didn't love it anymore. For some reason that I couldn't put my finger on, it wasn't quite right. Something was off. But I still thought it was great.

Months later, I went over it again. And again. And again. Until I was so sick of the sight of those characters, that story, and the elusive "bad" element that, like a piece of fish that fell under the refrigerator decades ago, just wouldn't go away. I wanted to throw the book out of the window.

At that same time, I knew that it was as good as I could make it, so I kept querying and wrote a new book. By the time THAT book was done, I realized the previous novel (which I'd abandoned) was just filled with bad, passive, telly writing. Clumsy internalization with caricature reactions to almost everything. Plus contrived plot sequences and a story arc that fizzled and popped like a shuttle powered by fireworks.

The second book: I liked it. I didn't love it as much as I KNEW I would love the sequel, but this book had to get published before the story I REALLY wanted to write could get put on paper (side note: that is a sure sign that the story is going to be problematic). By the time I abandoned that novel, I wasn't sick of it, but I knew it wouldn't work. Not as a YA, anyway, and the effort to turn it into a middle-grade novel wasn't worth it. Like I said, I liked the book, but it wasn't THAT good.

Now to my secret: to write a book that you'll love every time you read it, you need to write a book that you'll love EVERY TIME YOU READ IT. Deep, right?

Okay, I'll expound on that. Learn to write well. Learn the ins and outs of fiction, the parts of story-telling, plot structure, characterization, action, drama, etc. that make a book FANTASTIC. That's what I did with this book that I'm pitching to agents right now. I don't know how it stacks up to other novels, but I like it at least as much as the first Harry Potter book. Maybe more because I read it more often.

That's why I write, too. Not just to tell stories that other people will enjoy, but to tell stories that I'll love. If it's not a book I want to read, chances are I won't write it. I can't say that that will always be the case, but right now, that's the only thing really pushes me forward. I love what I write and I write what I love.

Giles is a writer of stories. A lover of stories. And someone who will not waste a lot of time on bad stories. If he writes something that smells like old fish, it won't last long. And if he reads something like that, it'll probably end up in the same place as the fish.

To his credit, though, he'll be as kind (while honest) about the writing/author if he ever talks about them. No need to be mean.

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