"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." - William Wordsworth
I want to begin my discussion on writing not with those of you who have a finished manuscript burning a hole in your computer hard drive. Instead, I am going to begin with those of you who say to yourself, "I have this great idea, I should write a book", or "I really want to write a book, but..."
In my travels promoting The Game of Lies and Decision for Disaster, I have been approached countless times with this question, "I would really like to write a book, what made you decide to write yours?"
If you read the previous pages you know the answer to that question. As a rule, I usually answer their question with one of my own, "Well, why don't you give writing your book a try?"
The answers are too numerous to list here, but they all boil down to simply failing to start. I had never written anything literary longer than a book report in my life, yet I made up my mind to write a spy novel with a female intelligence officer as its main character and succeeded. Had I had that inspiration and never sat down at my typewriter (yes, it was a "real" typewriter) and begun to write, I would never have the book represented here on this website. It would still be an unfulfilled dream.
Writing a book of any kind is a daunting task.
So, it is no wonder so many fledgling writers fail to achieve their dream. It is my hope that if I accomplish nothing more with this section than to stimulate you to write your story, I will have again succeeded.
For me it was easy. I sat down at my typewriter and words flowed. For those of you who have made the attempt and come up empty, let me encourage you to try again, and again, and again. You may have to scrap a lot of opening lines before the real ones sing to you, but I assure you that moment will come.
Here is an idea to try. Whatever genre of book you have chosen to write, select a few of the best books written in that genre and copy the opening lines from each. Then, take your idea for your story and paraphrase their openings with your ideas. This will give you a feel for writing an opening that will grab your audience, an agent, and a publisher. Play with this idea until your words sound every bit a captivating as theirs.
Say you're writing fiction, another idea might be to take the characters you plan to use in your story and do bios on them. I mean real in-depth bios. Go back to the day they were born and flesh their lives out from there. Leave no element of their lives incomplete, including a profound understanding of how people and events shaped their lives. When you have finished, you will have created characters with soul and with motivation on which to build your story. The characters will carry the story forward.
Or, can you picture the ending to your story?
Write it. Then, imagine how your characters arrived at that ending. Once upon a time... etc.
I hope those of you with finished manuscripts have followed along, because The End doesn't always mean you are finished. If, after reading your manuscript again, your opening doesn't have the punch of a New York Times bestseller, your characters seem shallow and don't engender any emotion from your readers, and your ending doesn't bring them back for more, a rewrite is in order. Whether you do the work yourself or seek the help of a "book doctor", do not proceed further without this important step.
Well, it's a start, and after all, that's all we were after here... a start.
If you have questions, need more information, or would like to suggest a topic to discuss, please join me at our "On Writing" Blog, and check out our "Links" page for helpful sites for writers of all levels.
Honesty is the best policy, that's especially true for the written word! »