On Writing a Book

I just finished a book. It is my fourth. My first two no longer exist, but I count them because I wrote them. If you ever wrote a book, you understand.  Writing a book is like running a marathon. Well, I guess it is. I’ve never run a marathon.

And I will never run a marathon. It’s not because I am not in shape. It’s because I believe God invented running for when being chased. When people tell me how far they ran, I look at them and say, “On purpose?!? Was someone after you?!?!”

So, let’s see, writing a book is like moving to a foreign country. You plan for it, you’re excited about it, you get your passport and put your stuff in storage and say good bye. And then you get to the foreign country and almost get arrested for buying fruit the wrong way (the American way) and think HOLY CRAP,  I live in a foreign country.

I have done that and it is still not quite like writing a book.

So I have written two books that were terrible. Both got favorable reviews at a writing conference. In retrospect,  I would suspect the readers were high, but it was a Christian conference– so probably not. But those two books died a painless death on an old computer.They weren’t very good and we’re all better off now that they’re gone. But to write a whole book, even if it must die, is quite the thing. It really is.

But then I wrote another book and that book is…eh. I don’t know. I like it. It could work. We’ll see. I’m not being falsely modest. I had words in my head. I sat down and they came out of my fingers. What do I know? And now, I have just finished another one.

And when I say finished, it means I have finished the first draft and will now edit the story I adore till I hate it. Then I will send it in bits and pieces to my critique partners who will make me edit it some more until I loathe it. And then I will send it to my agent… And God willing, I will have an editor who will, yes, make me edit again and again until I puke. I can not wait!!!

People ask me how long it takes to write a book. I have no idea. I mean, it’s not math. It’s writing. Are we talking about the actual writing? Like if I used a stop watch each time I was actually producing words? Well, THAT is probably a few weeks. But if we’re talking my process from start to finish, that’s a whole different thing.

There is the getting the idea. Then there’s the whole talking about it. Then I might try and outline. But I hate outlines, so I don’t get far with that. I take a bunch of notes. I interview people. I research. Then I start writing. And the first 20,000 words or more are crap so I delete those and think about it some more. Then I really start writing and it starts to move. Then life happens and I stop writing. Then something else happens and I think this whole writing thing is a big joke. Then something else happens and I start writing again and I love it. And the characters make me cry and I love it. Then life happens and I stop writing. Then I start again but get stuck and none of the characters will make up their minds as to what is going to happen next and we all just stand around staring at the ground waiting for someone to get a freakin’ clue. Then I am in the shower or half asleep or out for a walk and I figure it out and start writing. And I love it. I’m sitting in the coffee shop with my lap top on my lap laughing and crying like a fiend who’s medication has run out because I love it. Then life happens and I stop. And then I start again and then I finish.

And then I dance.

And then I start editing until I puke.