How to start writing your book.
“First catch your hare” was how Mrs Beeton famously started her recipe for jugged hare. Quite! If you have ever seen a hare prick up its long sensitive ears to detect your presence some 100 yards or so distant, then run like the wind to the nearest hedge before tracking up the far side of that hedge and then doubling back to race again over the field from whence it came, you might start to appreciate that it has not just one but a number of weapons of delusion in its armoury. The hare is famous for its speed but did you know that it is incredibly aware of sound and movement too? Did you know that by doubling back the way it came it has natural guile enough to throw any dog off its scent? It has these things and more. In fact, you could say that catching your hare was the really hard part. It is the thing that most of us could never hope to achieve. Jugging the beast is almost incidental.
So what has this to do with how to start writing your book? Well, and much later on, I can steer you through the technical steps of publishing (jugging). But before that, and much more vital, I can help you catch your hare, or rather, I can motivate you to write that masterpiece.
First, think of that running hare as time running away from you. You haven’t the slightest chance of catching it as it lopes along, deceptively fast and right before your very eyes. What you have to do is take careful aim, judge the speed and direction it is moving in, pull the trigger and shoot that hare dead before it reaches that hedge and disappears and deceives you with its trickery. What I am saying is, you have to make time stand still so you can grab it and do with it that which you want. And remember that what you want is to write your book. So step one is :-
Think – where is my time going?
Let us examine some scenarios. “I work full time” Did you know that novels have been written whilst travelling on the tube (underground/metro)? Think about it. What is in your head does not have to mind the gap. Find a corner and scribble! “I have a family to look after” Did you know that books have been written in cafes whilst waiting for the kids to come out of school? “I am semi-retired, but there is this charity and that charity that I have promised to work for” Sod the good deeds. Did you know that charities are amongst the most corrupt set-ups known to man, staffed by idlers on the make? Listen to me. Forget your local football team, TV programme, cinema visit, computer fiddling, music downloads. Just stop doing the time! Just stop. It will all still be there when the book has been written.
Step two is :- Get self-motivated, blank everything else out, you can do it.
This project has nothing to do with anyone else. You are on your own kid. It is entirely and solely up to you. Everyone has a book inside them. Even if that is true, which I doubt, it is irrelevant. What is inside is not written, getting it out is what matters. But you are different. You can get it out. You are not doing this for anyone else. This is no altruistic venture, it is downright selfish. Me, me, me. It does not matter a jot if it is not commercial. Let them have their grubby money – I intend to create! I intend to write.
Step three is :- Actually getting started
So I have the time, beaten myself up, and have whipped myself into writing mode, but how do I actually start? Think about three corny things, but think about them really seriously. First the Chinese proverb, the longest journey starts with a single step. Secondly, there are always a thousand and one reasons why not to do anything. Well, just have one good reason to get writing. Thirdly, what the best salesman knows, namely that the hardest door to get through – is your own. So, get out there and sock it to them. Get it? Here is the keyboard/ here is my writing pad, the pulse is racing.
Step four and the final step is :- Laying down the first paragraph
This is the best advice of all because it actually gets you going. You will have a main idea for the book. If you haven’t, then by definition you cannot create. Forget the tripe about having a beginning and a middle and an end. A book is not a symmetrical being: it is built around your central idea. Get that idea down in words and as few as possible – your brain will move you earlier and move you later through your story as the passion takes off. Take this as an example. There has recently been an exercise to see if anyone could encapsulate a whole novel in just six words. An American woman wrote “Fell in love, married someone else”. Having written that down, now see where you can go!
There is one other thing that I want you to take on board. There is no answer to the question “When do I write?” One successful author writes only in the morning and researches or sleeps in the afternoon. Another cannot function until after a long boozy lunch. Another writes late at night in complete quietness. Do not impose on yourself any rules. Once you have started, your brain and body will dictate what you do. If your timetable is not dictated by your circumstances, just take it as it comes. For myself, I am a morning person. I was when I was studying hard for a professional exam and I still am when writing. Also, like in your working life outside writing, you will have days when you simply cannot function. There is no rational explanation, just accept it and go away. On other days you will progress like an express train. Writing is like anything creative, it has no set rules. That is what makes it so beautiful.
jgs – 2020