Monday, August 5, 2013

So you think you want to write a book . . . Part Two

First steps –

Most people think that the first step in writing a book (hopefully a good book) is to have a great idea or to develop compelling characters. While these are both important – in my opinion the actual first step is to find the time and the place to write. It sounds simple – I know. But so many good ideas have never been developed because the people trying to write them down never found the time or the place to get the work done. So if you’re in the beginning stage, jot down those ideas for now and start laying the groundwork. That way the ideas will still be waiting for you when you’re really ready to write!

Find some time to write – We are so busy. Everyone seems stretched to the limit – even my grandkids and my grandparents!!!!! So people often ask me, “How do you find the time to write?” And the answer is simple. I don’t find time – I make time. We all have the same 24 hours in each day. Some people give up hobbies, some give up exercise, most give up sleep. Honestly, if you commit to write a book every aspect of your life will probably suffer. Your house won’t be as clean, your family won’t get as much attention, your laundry might pile up, you may be on a first name basis with your local Little Caesars employees. The sacrifices can’t be avoided, so the goal has to be worth it to you and the other people in your life.

In order to write a book you will need to dedicate (in my opinion) a minimum of ten hours a week. Ideally you will write every day (at least every weekday) for about two hours at a time. I hear stories all the time about people jotting on the back of grocery lists, their children’s report cards, envelopes they got in the mail – even on their hands. And while this works for a quick idea that you don’t want to forget. But serious writing takes concentration. It takes awhile to get your thoughts organized – to get into the scene you’re writing, into the head of your characters, to remember where you are on the plot development. That’s why I suggest bigger blocks of writing time rather than fifteen minutes here or there (although you take what you can get and if you have to write in fifteen minutes swatches of time then that’s what you’ll have to do!!!)

I also recommend that you not get too caught up in page counts as you start writing. I hear people say “My goal is to write fifty pages tomorrow”. If you have to come up with a ‘page number goal’ keep it reasonable. Some scenes are much harder to write than others. Some days you may not complete one page. Some days you might not write a single sentence in your book. You might spend your writing time researching or advertising (necessary evil) or reading a book in the genre you’ve chosen. Ideally you will set aside a certain amount of time (I recommend 2 hours minimum) per day for writing. And all of those activities are essential to the writing process. So don’t get discouraged if the pages aren’t piling up as fast as you’d hoped.

And back to your two hours of writing per day – ideally it would be at the same time each day (like from 10-12 every morning). Writing requires discipline (self-discipline – the hardest kind!!!) and it’s easier for me to make sure I get my two hours in if they are scheduled (preferably early in the day).

Find a place to write – I’ve always dreamed of having a little cabin in the woods – far off the beaten path – where I could go to write. I picture the rooms bathed in sunlight, no noise except for birds chirping, no interruptions except for the occasional butterfly landing on the window sill. A nice new laptop, a couple of comfortable chairs (one in front of the window, one in front of a cheerful fireplace), food in the refrigerator – who couldn’t write under those blissful circumstances? The reality is that few writers have that kind of space – at least not at first. But I strongly recommend that before you embark on a book-writing attempt you should try to find an office space of some kind. Once you get a couple of manuscripts going (and sometimes in various stages of completion), correspondence, website, books you sell yourself – you need space to keep it all organized (or at least try). There may be an office available in your house. If not, maybe you can convert a part of the basement or the garage or a closet. Maybe your guest room can do double duty if you add a desk and a comfortable chair. I had eight children in a four bedroom house when I started writing. I couldn’t find an empty corner – let alone any office space. And there was hardly a moment of the day when I didn’t need to be available to my family. As a result my writing time was never as organized or productive as it could have been. My computer was set up in the living room. I couldn’t sit in the desk chair for long so I pushed one of the living room chairs over to the desk. And then I wrote when I could with the cacophony of life as my inspiration ‘music’. So if you can’t dedicate any space to your writing – don’t despair. It can still be done – it will just be a little harder.

So, if you think you want to write a book, work on your writing time and space this week. And next week we’ll discuss coming up with ideas and how to practice your writing craft.

Remember about the new feature of my blog – the Book Giveaway!!!!
Beginning in August I will have a monthly drawing for a free book! Everyone who comments on any blog post during the month will be entered in the drawing. I will post the winner on the last day of each month and request mailing information via email.  Thanks to all who have participated so far!

This month’s free book will be Motive for Murder by Maureen Bateman.

Meet Erica Coleman—a gifted and quirky private investigator with an OCD-like passion for neatness and symmetry, a penchant for cooking, (ten terrific recipes are included), and a weakness for chocolate.
Erica imagined that her trip to Florida would be a slice of heaven—a chance to get away from it all and catch up with her best friend, Wendy. But one day into her vacation, all hope of fun in the sun is dashed when she stumbles, literally, over a dead man on Wendy’s driveway. With police closing in on her friend as their main suspect, Erica must find the real killer before Wendy ends up behind bars.
With Erica’s skill, solving the mystery should be a piece of cake but then a second homicide-attempt hits close to home. There’s no way to sugarcoat it, a murderer is on the prowl, and no one is above suspicion.
As the plot thickens, it appears Erica may have bitten off more than she can chew, but she forges on, sifting through mounting evidence until she hones in on the killer who has a most surprising motive for murder. With a dash of romance and some surprising twists, this thrilling mystery will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.

Recipe of the Week

I have just learned that grits are now available in most parts of the country. So for those of you who would like to try them I am going to give you a great recipe. Honestly, I’m kind of a grits purist. I like them with just butter and salt. But for some people served this way they seem a little bland. So I’m going to share a recipe for Cheese Grits that was given to me by my longtime friend, Nancy Densmore. Tip – When purchasing grits you want ‘Quick’ grits but not instant.

Cheese Grits
6 cups water                                                     1 tsp salt
1 ½ cups uncooked grits                                   ½ cup butter
4 cups cheddar cheese (shredded)                    3 eggs (beaten)

Divide cheese into 3 ¾ cups and ¼ cup portions. Combine water and salt. Bring to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in grits. Reduce heat to low and cook until water is absorbed. Remove from heat. Add butter and 3 ¾ cups cheese. Stir until cheese melts. Add a small portion of the grits to the beaten eggs and stir (or whisk) quickly. Slowly add remaining grits and stir well. Pour grits into a lightly greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and put back into warm oven until cheese melts. Serve hot.


Stephanie said...

That book sounds great! I hope I win. I think it is so fun when recipes are in books.

Sara DeWitt said...

Great article!!! I have been on the same two chapters in a book I am writing for three years. Every time I start writing, I think of better ways to say it and don't get much further. It is pretty perfect at this point! I need to get going and write two hours a day. Thanks for the good advice!

Stephanie Graham said...

Love the posts Betsy! I agree with the comment about recipes in books ... I have discovered timeless favorites that way. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and wisdom!

Donna in Alabama said...

Love what you said about only being able to control the characters in your books and not the kids! I am feeling that way and think I may start a book just so I can be in control of something in my life!!!! keep the ideas coming.

K.Griffiths said...

The book giveaway this month is on my to-read list, so I really hope I win. I love your books Betsy, and so do all our Tremonton Library patrons. Thanks