Ha! What can you tell me about writing a book?

This week I would like to introduce one of the first people to have taken an interest in my blog, Eric Klingenberg. He works as a Special Needs Teacher and is in the process of completing his latest project, A True Wizard. In addition to writing fiction, teaching, and doing all the other things that Englishmen do, (I’m American so being all uncultured and what-not makes the U.K. seems exotic) he is an active blogger. If you like his post check him out at Eric’s Blog.

Ha! What can you tell me about writing a book?

I was very flattered to be asked to write a guest blog post for Steven (my first one). When I asked what about, he just said oh anything that would help a new author. Now here we have a problem. I am a new author. I started my book in March, before then I hadn’t written any fiction, unless you count school reports, since I left school as a pupil. Que mild panic, I hate backing out of something once I’ve agreed to it but then it hit me. There is one thing I do know about is finding and sifting through advice.

Like I said I knew nothing about writing fiction but I did know what makes a good and bad book I have read a few the former and too many of the later. So that was my starting place. I also had three other places to go for advice.

I have a friend who is a bestselling author. Although not in the genre I’m writing in, she has very kindly been helping me. Reading my work, giving me detailed pointers. She is not the type to pull her punches, which is what you need if you want your book to be half way decent. Since she has started helping me I am beginning to suspect she has ‘Show not tell’ tattooed somewhere as it seems to be her constant mantra!

Blogs; there are so many brilliant blogs with loads of useful advice. I have learnt massive amounts which have been invaluable. From detailed posts about dialogue to little tips about editing. I was going to add a few links but decided against it. Go hunting, it’s easy to find them.

Friends and family; now this one you have to careful with. My wife is obliged to say my book is great as my 16 year old step son is to say how bad it is. If your books only fan is your partner then maybe you should read it yourself with a more critical eye! However friends and family have their uses. A friend at work has started reading some of my book and tells me when he doesn’t get it. Because I know all the details in my head it’s hard for me to notice if I have not explained anything properly. My brother also reads a lot in my genre so again can be a barometer if I’m on the right track.

Now you have all this sometimes conflicting advice, what do you do with it? First off don’t dismiss it even if it totally goes against what you think of had planned. Going out of your comfort zone (horrible American expression) can sometime produce your best work. But on the other hand don’t slavishly follow it either. I often think about it for a few days to decide if it’s going to help me. I recently posted my first chapter very much in draft form and got some excellent feedback particularly about the opening. The only way I could tell if it was useful to me was to try it. I wrote several different versions of the opening based on the advice some worked for me others didn’t.

Now here is the crux of the matter; you are writing the book, it’s not a joint effort, you name will be on the front cover. You need to find your voice not an amalgamation of lot of others. It’s no good when a bad review comes in blaming bad advice. Listen to what people say but it must be your decision good or bad what you do with it. Otherwise why are you writing a book in the first place? Your book may turn out to be the worst one ever written in the history of world literature but it will be your book!

Oh and don’t forget; show don’t tell!