Is There a Book in You?

It’s funny how the real life me and the writer me are colliding. Twice this weekend I was involved in conversations where writing came up. I’ve known these people for years, and neither is a writer, but somehow when I walk into a room nowadays, everyone feels compelled to tell me they’ve thought about writing a book.

Good for them, I say, and far be it from me to discourage anyone. I mean who knew there was a book in me, let alone five? Two of which are even publishable. (Grin.) However, I still maintain that people don’t really want to write a book, they want to have written a book. It’s not always a fun process, though when things are rolling, there is a certain high to it.

So for all of you out there who think you want to write a book, here are some things to keep in mind. Kind of a litmus test to see if you’ve really got it in you.

1. Are you willing to devote time to your writing every day? There’s plotting to be done, craft to learn, and characters who need to weasel themselves into your brain.

2. Once the book is written, are you willing to edit and re-edit and re-edit? On your first one, at least three passes are needed to make sure the piece is clean, tight, and well-written.

3. Are you willing to throw out your favorite scene – the one that made you laugh/cry/smile/declare yourself a literary genius – because it doesn’t advance the plot?

4. Are you willing to summarize your brilliant prose in 7 double-spaced pages or less? And then into a paragraph? And then a sentence?

5. Are you willing to research agents, editors and publishers to be sure you’re submitting to the right people who will be the right fit for you?

6. Are you prepared when those people tell you that what you’ve slaved over doesn’t fit the market or is just not polished enough for them to consider?

7. Are you prepared for them to love it? (Yes, this can be scary, because it means you have to do all this over again. And again.)

8. Are you willing to read the book at least five more times during the process of edits and galleys? (Trust me, you’ll be sick to death of it at that point.)

9. Are you willing to let it go? To let it out into the world where people will call you “appallingly awful” and tear your book to bits? Do you have a thick enough skin to let the bad reviews run off your back, and are you centered enough to take the good ones with a grain of salt and not let them swell you head?

10. Finally, are you willing to have people you know, care about and respect read your book? And talk about it? Perhaps even email you continuously as they read it? (Yes, this happened to me. Line by freaking line.)

If the answers to all of these questions are Yes, then you might have a book in you and the wherewithal to see it through. If you answered No, that’s okay, too. Like I tell my kids, everyone has their strengths, and they’re all different. I don’t have it in me to go into space, but we need astronauts to explore and maintain satellites so we can watch HBO on Saturday night.

And one last thing for those of you who think you have a book in you – stick to your guns. Keep at it. Don’t let anyone discourage you. Not even me.


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