Lately, lots of people have been asking me how I wrote a book. My secret is a simple one, and one I’m pretty sure I have in common with most other writers. I sit in front of a keyboard and write, consistently and persistently.
I got the idea from an interview with Jerry Seinfeld. He had a TV show a while ago that was quite popular. He makes a big X across a calendar day every time he works. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
Seinfeld’s advice reminded me of another story about writing and writers, Throw Mama From the Train, with Dany Devito and Billy Crystal. Crystal plays a writing instructor, and he keeps telling his students, “Remember, a writer writes always.” It seems simple, even trite, but it is the simple truth. If you want to write a novel you have to write a novel. Talking about how much you want to write a novel isn’t the same thing.
Sadly, when I tell people this, they usually come up with a ton of excuses. For all the excuses about time commitments et cetera, I think it usually comes down to self confidence. People are afraid they’re going to suck.
I have good new. You’re going to suck. That’s okay.
An old instructor of mine, Ron Coleman once said, “When you start out you have a big pile of shit. But then you get a truck to take it away, and you keep cleaning it up and cleaning it up, until eventually you just end up with skidmarks.”
Everyone sucks when they start. I did. However, the longer you work at it, the longer you redraft and fix and work, the better you get, and eventually you end up with just skidmarks.