Maybe this isn’t technically reader mail and maybe it was mandated homework, but this blog doesn’t rake in mail like the Bieber fan club so I’m using it.
My brother is wrapping up a year of teaching English at a university in China. For an English assignment, he gave them some information about my family and had each of them write us a letter. This week I received 30 hand written letters in the mail from students telling me about their life, commenting on mine from photos, and a few asked questions. Also, if I had a dollar for every student who called my brother handsome in their letter, I’d have enough yuan to fly myself to Hong Kong and back.
I love music and writing very much, especially the writing. I think we will have common topic to have a chat, and I’d like to tell you that I’m planning to write a book about my youth, if you can give me some advices I will feel very happy.
Here are some things you should know about writing a book:
Writing a book is not fun
You probably don’t expect that it’s going to be fun. In America, we have an aversion to things that aren’t fun. We’re impatient. Yet, the things that bring the greatest joy in life cost something and come slowly. The harder you have to work for something, the more you’ll appreciate it. Writing a book isn’t fun, but it’s something I think most people should force themselves to do at some point. The key is to ask yourself if you’ll be happy to have written a book, not if you’ll have fun doing it.
Writing a book is like riding an emotional roller coaster
When you have the idea for the book, you think “I can’t believe no one has written anything like this before. This is going to be amazing! Save me a spot on your couch, Oprah!” This euphoria gets you about a fourth of the way into the first draft of the book. Then you look back and can no longer see the shore you pushed off from. It’s just you in the middle of the ocean, no land in sight. Like all people in isolation, you begin to doubt yourself. You have writing sessions where you feel like nothing you typed is worth reading by anyone. You wonder if you should finish because the book is boring, disjointed, and not even close to worth reading. And then you get a burst of confidence. Maybe it’s a writing session where you fingers flutter over the keyboard, moving like a tap dancer with the right words flowing to you out of nowhere. You suddenly see potential in your work, but this soon fades again. This cycle of doubt/confidence/doubt/confidence lasts until you finish the first draft.
The first draft is awful
The first draft of any writing by almost anyone is awful. Great writing looks effortless yet requires a lot of effort. You just need to get through the first draft. It’s much easier to make an ugly girl pretty than to create another human. This is where you delete, delete, delete, polish, polish, polish. I’ve never liked the first draft of anything I’ve written. This reference will probably be lost on you, but the first draft is like the nerdy girl in the movies, who with a little work turns into the princess.
Writing something timeless
If anything, you should be giving me advice on this. The Chinese know how to write wisdom that remains timeless. There are no American proverbs as far as I know. If you’re writing about your personal life, do so in a way where you’re speaking to the human condition because that’s the only thing that lasts in this world. Technology, fashion, fads, culture, civilizations, etc. all come and go, but the individual is timeless. We all essentially share the same wants/needs/desires/hopes/fears/etc ( by that I mean share the same core desires. I assume most people don’t obsess over cupcakes).
Read a lot of good books
Learn from great books. Just reading them will make you a better writer, but you should take this a step further and analyze what you like about each book. What is it specifically about the book that makes it enjoyable? Steal concepts from as many good books as you can to create something original for your own.
Read a few really bad books
I find bad writing just as inspiring as good writing. By finding out what you really hate to read, you can better understand what to leave out of your book. And sometimes the writing is good, but it’s a bad story. I’ve read a few books this year that had enjoyable parts, but some chapters were awful. Reading those chapters and analyzing why I didn’t enjoy them will help me write better. Side tangent – don’t read too many books you don’t like. This is obvious advice, but I sometimes come across people on Amazon where 90% of the books they review, they leave a bad review. If 90% of the books you read are bad that means you don’t know how to select books to read. I rarely start books I don’t end up enjoying.
Finish the book
You can write/edit a book until the day you die. Force yourself to finish writing/editing with self-imposed timelines. If that doesn’t work, tell a friend that if you don’t finish writing the book by ___ date, you’ll give $100 to some company/organization you hate. That works.