by: Joelle Charbonneau
You have an idea for a novel. You've either thought about it for a while or have started writing or are halfway into writing it. Perhaps you have told people you are writing this book and now when they see you they ask if you've finished the book. Perhaps you've kept the action of writing secret and aren't telling anyone because you don't want them to ask whether you've finished the book. Maybe you've started writing then decided to scrap that idea for a new one that seems like it might be more like the books you have seen on shelves. Maybe...
Okay, if you've a reader of this blog, you'll probably know what the rest of the blog post is going to say. In the past couple of days, I've met several readers who are also writers. All of them said they were struggling to find time to write or to continue with one story. Most of them had started a book. Stopped writing. Then started something new. Or three somethings new. All the projects sit unfinished and they wanted my advice as to how best to write a publishable book.
Well, first of all, it's impossible to know which books will be publishable in the traditional sense. (Self-publishing is a personal choice not a choice that is made by a third party so for this particular concept, I'm not going to talk about that route.) Trends change. Tastes change. What is hot in the market today could be ice cold in twenty-four months. Don't chase trends. Don't try to guess what will sell and what won't. Write the story that you want to tell. Then worry about the rest. Trying to decide whether an idea you have will catch the attention of an editor is pointless. Worrying about query letters and which agents rep the kind of book you think you're going to write is a waste of time that you could be spend on writing the book. Because--let's face it--writing the book is the first and most important step. Without it nothing else matters.
Which, brings me to the only advice I really have to give new authors. Finish the book. Please. Don't attempt one new idea after another hoping that one will inspire you enough to keep writing. Don't give up on writing the book you're working on because it isn't as "fun" as it was when you first started. Don't ditch the idea for the new bright and shiny one because the old one feels like work.
Writing IS work. It requires focus and self-motivation and the ability to put your butt in the chair and get words on the page even when the sun is shining and you'd rather be outside frolicking in the great outdoors. It also requires respect for the story you are telling and the desire to finish the task you have begun. The story isn't always going to be "fun". Writing won't always (if ever) feel easy. Being a writer is a job like any other. You show up and you make words happen even if you have to scream, cry, eat buckets of buttered popcorn and drink gallons of coffee.
For me, writing feels the hardest when I'm in the middle of a project. The shiny, exciting beginning is in the past and THE END feels far in the future. Pushing through that difficult middle (which EVERY author experiences) no matter the doubt and fear you feel is necessary. Otherwise you will never finish the book. And you need to finish the book.
Let me say that again. You need to finish the book.
Why? Because finishing a book teaches you that you can finish a book. You can climb the proverbial mountain and get to the other side. Once you learn you can finish a book...well, you know you can finish the next one. And the one after that. No matter how difficult, you know you can push through the hard parts and get to THE END. And let's face it, until you get to THE END, there is no story. Because a story has a beginning, a middle and an end. No matter which route you plan on publishing, you can't go about pursuing that goal until your story makes the entire journey. And once you've made it, you'll be glad you did.
This year, I've reached THE END twice. There is no better feeling than typing the final words on the last page. There is relief and delight and a huge thrill at knowing you've once again accomplished what at times felt impossible.
For me, the only way to get to The End is to write every day. No days off. If I do take a day off, I find getting back into the story is harder than it would otherwise be. This isn't true of all my writing friends, but it works for me. Maybe it will work for you. If your goal this summer involves writing a book, I challenge you to the 100 day 100 word challenge. If you accept you have to write at least 100 words for 100 days without missing a day. If you miss a day you have to reset the clock and go back to day one. It's as simple as that. 100 words is a paragraph. You can make time to write a paragraph every day, right?
If you want to write a book, you first have to make writing a habit. Which is why I encourage you to take the challenge. If you do take the challenge...contact me on Facebook or Twitter so that I can cheer you on and provide encouragement if you need. You can also send me your daily or weekly word counts if feeling accountable to someone helps you.
If you want to be a writer you have to finish the book. The rest...well...worry about that later.
PS....Thank you to everyone for all your support during release week for THE TESTING. It's been a really amazing week filled with incredible news. Apple, Sony and Amazon named The Testing a top pick for June. The LA Times said it was a must read for teens this summer. And perhaps the most surreal news was that THE TESTING was optioned by Paramount Studios. I'm not sure what this new week will hold, but I am grateful, as always, to be able to share the ups and downs of this business with you. Thank you for your belief in me. It means the world.