It’s a simple question, but it causes unexpected problems. On the one hand, it’s nice to have people interested in something I do. If I told people I fixed toasters for a living, I doubt I’d get many inquires. People are curious about writing and that’s cool and flattering. Rock on.
But on the other hand, the hand involving people who ask because they have an inkling to do it themselves is that writing books is a topic so old and so well-trod by so many famous people that anyone who asks hoping to discover secret advice is hard to take seriously.
Here’s the short honest truth: 20% of the people who ask me are hoping to hear this – Anyone can write a book
. They want permission. The truth is you don’t need any. There is no license required. No test to take. Writing, as opposed to publishing, requires almost no financial or physical resources. A pen, paper, and effort are all that has been required for hundreds of years. If Voltaire, Marquis de Sade, and Marina Nemat could write in prison, then you can do it in suburbia, at lunch, at work, or after your kids go to sleep. You will always find excuses if you want them and you probably do.
If you want to write Urdu Novels
, kill the magic: a book is just a bunch of writing. Anyone can write a book. It might suck or be incomprehensible, but so what: it’s still a book. Nothing is stopping you right now from collecting all of your elementary school book reports, or drunken napkin scribbles, binding them together at Kinkos for $20, slapping a title on the cover, and qualifying as an author. Want to write a good book? Ok, but get in line since most pro authors are still trying to figure that out too.
Writing a good book, compared to a bad one, involves one thing. Work. No one wants to hear this, but if you take two books off any shelf, I’ll bet my pants the author of the better book worked harder than the author of the other one. Call it effort, study, practice, whatever. Sure there are tricks here and there, but really writing is a kind of work.
Getting published. 30% of the time the real thing people are asking is how do you find a publisher. As if there wasn’t a phone book or, say, an Internet-thingy where you can look this stuff up. Writers-market is literally begging to help writers find publishers. Many publishers, being positive on the whole idea of communication, put information on how to submit material on their website. And so do agents. The grand comedy of this is how few writers follow the instructions. That’s what pisses off all the editors: few writers do their homework.
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