Writing a book is a journey, not a trip to the corner store.

11 Feb

The Journey Ahead

You’ll get the following advice: start a manuscript with action, make motivation clear from the start, hook the reader in the first line, don’t leave the reader with unanswered questions in the first chapter. The list goes on, and on, and on. For some books, these ideas work. For others, not so much. And others still, apply all of them.

The fact is, writing isn’t and shouldn’t be cookie cutter.

Yes, there are rules in writing. Sure, there are ideas out there that work great for the multitudes. On the other hand, we need to remember that while we live in a fast paced world of information, where how-to-do-just-about-anything is at a touch of a button. We also need to know when to apply what applies to us. With so many suggestions out there, it is difficult to sift through them. And if not careful, you might very well end up with a one page, thrill-a-minute story, that lasted literally a minute.

Writing is a journey.

I’m not saying don’t start with a hook. In my opinion you need to. However, will that hook be in the first line, first page, first chapter? You decide. I’m not saying ignore character motivation. Honestly, you shouldn’t, it’s essential. But, does that motivation need to be addressed in the first three words? Usually not.

The best suggestion I’ve ever read was simply this, write!

I’m adding a bit to it, because so much out there tells us to make it to the corner store. I suggest writing a journey. One that starts with a Title, a sentence, a paragraph, a page, a chapter. Applying only the suggestions you need to get you through to the end. You see, a journey takes you from one place to another and doesn’t tell you how to get there. A trip to the corner store shouldn’t be everyone’s destination.

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5 Responses to “Writing a book is a journey, not a trip to the corner store.”

  1. Rebekah Purdy February 11, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    You’re absolutely right. Sometimes we get so caught up with writing, rewriting that first page or paragraph that we never get to the rest of the story. And here’s the thing, if I read the back of the book and it sounds good, I’m going to keep turning pages until I get to that action I want to read. Not that I’m saying wait 100 pages to get into the meat, but I’m one that when I pick up a story I feel vested in it.

    Great post!!!

  2. R.M.Gilbert February 11, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    @ Rebekah Purdy:
    Thanks for commenting.
    I think most people will continue if a story builds momentum. Rather than just starting with it. I began a book recently where the first line, first page and most of the first chapter were hooks, but by the third chapter it fell flat. The best opening hooks won’t make the reader read to the end. So there’s a journey. An expectation that should carry through the entire book.
    Thanks again for stopping. šŸ™‚

  3. Nicola February 12, 2010 at 2:13 am #

    Great post Rachel – and good advice. Maybe it’s a matter of ignoring the rules until you get lost on your journey, then using them to get back on track.

  4. R.M.Gilbert February 12, 2010 at 2:40 am #

    @ Nicola:
    Absolutely, Nicola. Rules a writer actually needs will be a road map. Everything else is like the fast food wrappers that make you feel badly and make your car smell funny, therefore they should be tossed out. Because not every suggestion, bit of advice, and/or rule is going to work for your manuscript.

    Thanks so much for commenting!

  5. Silke February 15, 2010 at 3:47 am #

    Indeed. šŸ™‚

    The only way to be a writer is to… write.
    Many wannabe authors get so bogged down in rules – they forget to tell a story.
    But without a story you don’t have a book, no matter how well it’s written and how many rules you follow. To make the jump from wannabe to being, you’re going to have to be creative and tell a good story, even if it means throwing the rule book out of the window.
    You can be a writer without being an author.
    But you can’t be an author without being a writer first.

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