We all love a good story.
Curling up with a page-turner can magically transport you. You never regret the sleep you lose from needing to know what happens next. Sharing your opinions with others who’ve read the same book can nourish your soul and help you feel connected. Even if your thoughts don’t align; you’ve shared an invested experience. And as for the argument of Book vs Movie goes, it’s still fascinating to see how that story comes to life on the screen, if you’d imagined it the same or differently. A good story gives you so much in terms of rooting for characters and caring about how the events unfold. You’re reminded that you’re alive. You’ve been given an intimate glance into a whole other world. You’re all in. Completing a book, even if you weren’t that keen on its content, will always give you deep satisfaction.
So it’s no surprise that becoming an author is seen as a dream job. Imagine being the creator of something that provides all of the above? It seems rather God-like, doesn’t it? And unless you work in publishing, it’s unlikely you’ll meet many authors day-to-day. They’re hiding in attic flats, warming their cold fingertips by candlelight, right? Or, sitting at a cafe in Paris, pondering their next chapter whilst admiring the cobblestones. Writing a book is either seen as a poetically challenging hardship, or a whimsical lifestyle, when really, writing a book is something we are all capable of doing.
Speaking from experience, I can tell you that being an author is challenging, with elements of whimsical. While I’m lucky enough to whack on the central heating when it gets cold, I don’t have the luxury of listening to my thoughts in fancy European cities. Most days, you aim to write. Most days, you procrastinate. Creating something - often without a deadline - can be demotivating, especially when you’re distracted by meeting the demands of a busy life. Celebrity authors aside, most writers have “day jobs”, which may (or may not) involve writing, but more of the kind that pays the bills without having to wait months/years/decades for a book deal/advance installment/royalties payment. My intention here is not to burst your author-ideal bubble or put you off writing; what I’m telling you is that we’re all authors. We all have stories to tell. And we all have a life that stands in the way of writing that book (which ironically, will make that damn book more damn exciting). Being an author simply requires discipline and willpower to plough through to the bitter end. Honestly, if you can do this, you can write your book.
When people find out that I’m an author, I’m met with one of two responses.
Either; ‘Wow, I could never write a book.’
Or; ‘Wow, I want to write a book.’
A recent US survey revealed that more than half of the population think they have a good idea for a novel, with over 200 million people wanting to write a book. But apparently only 15 percent actually put pen to paper, and just 6 percent have reached the half way mark of a first draft. The numbers dwindle further again, with a mere 3 percent who complete their manuscript, and of those, only 20 percent will go on to become published. So what is so difficult about writing? Is the slog of putting word after word just too much to handle? Or, is it that you don’t believe in your idea?
Your idea…is fine. More than fine. In fact, it’s brilliant.
How do I know? Because everybody has a story. Everybody. Whether it’s a tale you created as a child, sitting tight in your imagination, or if it’s quite simply something that happened to you in real life, humans are made up of thousands of stories. You don’t need to spill your whole life story. Your experiences don’t need to be traumatic or eventful. Think about it; some of the most well-loved stories are extremely simple. A meets B…they fall in love…there are some obstacles in the way…they figure it out (yay)…or, they don’t (grab your tissues). Seriously, going to the shop is a story. Staying home all day is a story. Eating lunch is a story. Sally Rooney’s hugely successful Normal People is about two young adults who go to university. It doesn’t matter what it’s about. It’s how you tell it.
Now, don’t panic. You don’t have to write poetically. Or overuse descriptions. Or appear to be super intellectual. You don’t have to impress anybody. You just need to tell your story, however best you feel you’d like to tell it. Some write in short sentences (Matt Haig). Some don’t even use punctuation (Bernadine Evaristo). You can write from the first person, the third person, or even from the point of view of Death itself (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak). Write in past or present tense, or switch between both, there really are no rules. Yes, I just said that; no rules.
Actually, there is just one rule.
You have to write it.
The book you dream of seeing in print one day won’t write itself. The first step towards making your dreams a reality is to stop thinking about it and start doing it. Remove yourself from rigid ideas about what it takes to become an author; many writers aim for 500 words a day, which is just one page of A4. And many writers will delete that 500 words the following day! But even if you don’t feel ready to embark upon your best story, it’s important to get started and play around with your style. Your voice. Take inspiration from your favourite writers, by all means. Trial and error is a must. But unlock your own path of putting word after word. This is the key to becoming an author.
However, here’s the harsh reality. If you don’t take the time to develop your unique way of storytelling, then no, there isn’t a book in all of us. There is only a book in those who dig deep and find their way of connecting the words to the story, and vice versa. In Emma Donoghue’s bestselling Room, a huge majority of the story happens in one small room. It’s how she brings this room to life though, through the eyes of a child, that has captivated readers all over the world. You won’t hone your craft by thinking about it (whimsically, nursing a latte in Montmartre), because writing is active. Yes, you need to create space for your characters and story to breathe. But they’re never going to come to life stuck inside your head, jam-packed in there amongst bills to pay, school uniforms to iron, doctors appointments to attend and sorting your car insurance.
So let’s stop faffing around, eh? Let’s be done with all the waffling and the endless excuses. Come on.
Let’s just cut to the chase, and…
Write down - WITH A PEN - what you’d like your story to be about
Spider diagram any ideas, no matter how random
Return with fresh eyes and pick out the most interesting thing you’ve written down
Focus on that…
This will be the part you most enjoy working on
Set a timer for 15 minutes and write…anything…bearing in mind your interesting choice
You’ll be surprised at how quickly 15 minutes has gone, if you truly stuck to the task and didn’t have a “quick” scroll on TikTok
The book inside of you is being released, at its own pace
And now, my friend, you are an author