3 Things to Keep in Mind When Writing Your First Book

It’s not a matter of being ready. It’s a matter of doing it or not.

I have been wanting to write a book for about a little over a year now. I haven’t written one for the obvious reason: fear.

I’m afraid I won’t be able to write an entertaining story, that no one will like it, or that I don’t have the necessary skills storytelling requires.

It’s also daunting. The journey ahead of me will be long and have unexpected turns, and I don’t know how long it’ll take me to complete it, which is the most terrifying part.

I could take years writing this book.

So, I never wrote one. I started, a couple of times, but those drafts are still sitting in my laptop, stored under a folder named “Stories.”

Then, NaNoWriMo came along this year. I wasn’t going to sign up and do it. I don’t need some month dedicated to writing to jump start my book, I thought.

Two days ago, I stumbled upon Jan M Flynn’s piece. It’s titled, A Love Letter to NaNoWriMo, and she writes about how it jump-started her own novel.

At one point, she urges her readers to sign up to the challenge on the website. She wrote, “Don’t overthink this step; the point is simply to give your work some reality and to state your intention.”

Hell no, I thought as I continued scrolling. I stopped again when she said something else. “If you’ve never done it before, this step takes some courage, but it’s also a thrill, like signing up for your first marathon,” she wrote.

I thought two things when I read that:

1. It’s great to know I’m not the only one afraid to do something as small as admit I’m going to write a book.

2. *scoff* I’m not scared. You really think such a small step is going to get the best of me?

I signed up. I’ve written 250 words each day so far.

I started NaNoWriMo a couple of days late, so I figured I’d break the other rules. I don’t care to write 50,000 words by the end of the month or to have a complete novel.

I care that I start the goddamn book and write every day, during and after November. I’ll finish when I finish.

My goal is to write two-hundreds words every day — that’s it. Still, already the process has been difficult because I don’t know what I’m writing about.

I know it’s a horror story, and I have two main characters, but that’s as far as my knowledge goes.

Already I want to quit until I’m more ready. Next year, in October, I’ll prepare and plan and maybe even outline a bit, I think. It’s so easy to believe you’ll take action in the future.

I knew I wouldn’t do that.

I know I won’t feel more prepared next year, or “when I’m older.” The fear and that daunted feeling will be just as strong then as it is now.

I had to start and keep going, no matter what that looked like because I’ll never actually be ready.

If you want to write a book because you’re waiting until you’re ready— it’s never going to happen.

That fear will follow you around whether you’re twenty-one, fourty-one, or eighty-one. It’s not a matter of being ready. It’s a matter of doing it or not, and what better time to start than the present?

There are a couple of things I’m reminding myself of as I go about writing my first book.

1. It’s not about what happens after

I have a friend, Jonny Santana, also twenty-one, who has directed three films he wrote. The first is on Amazon Prime and the third is about to premiere.

The other day he offered some great advice for creatives. He said that what matters most in the beginning is getting into the habit of starting and finishing projects.

We can’t worry about what comes after we’ve written. Not the readers, not the publishing, nothing. We need to write, and that’s it.

We have to learn to finish the goddamn book.

2. Just put your character in a siutation and see what happens

My writing journey began with writing fanfics. I started and completed all of them without an initial idea. (My longest was 88,299 words.)

I took a character, threw them into some situation, and let them guide me. It’s like in a movie, when the camera starts up close and then zooms out slowly until, finally, you can see the entire picture.

“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.” — Beatrix Potter

You could also start with setting. I once started a story (that ended up being over 67,000 words) by describing the moon in the sky, the heavy rain, and then — as that camera lowered — I saw someone running in it. Her heart was pounding, and she was soaked, and there was somewhere she needed to be, fast. The rest of my story followed.

I don’t know what my book is about. That blank spot was about to make me quit until I remembered that advice. “Just put your character in a siutation and see what happens.”

I have two characters, I put them somewhere, and now I’m discovering where they’ll take me.

3. Write the bad, the messy, and the ugly

This experiment to throw in characters and see where they lead me could turn out to be an utter mess.

However, isn’t that what drafts and initial writing is all about? You have to get through all the bad before you can find that bit of good and run with it.

I may use what I’ve written in the final draft, I may not. I’ve decided I don’t care. Those few scenes I’ve written are what I saw in my head, what came through my fingers, and that’s what matters.

You can’t edit a blank page.” — Jodi Picoult

No one’s going to read yet, so who cares? What’s important is that you discover and uncover your story. That you write.

Final words

You’re never going to be ready. You’ll never have all of the answers. So, just write.

Don’t worry about the end results or what your story is about, and let the writing process be about discovery.

Write your heart out. It’s the most important thing you can do.

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