Want to write? It’s like digging a ditch.

Pick a genre. Pick characters from central casting in your mind, start throwing words at a blank screen, and you’re off and running as a writer.

When we begin scattering words for a new novel, we are working strictly for ourselves, and we have mean bosses.

I recently read an article written by a mystery writer.

His name doesn’t matter.

Neither does the name of his hero.

He said, “I finally decided it was time to sit down and write. The story had been running around in my head for a year and a half. I had the plot all worked out in my mind. I knew who would be murdered. I knew who did it and why he did it.  I was ready to put it all on paper.”

I read his words again.

I thought I must have read them wrong.

I hadn’t.

My immediate thought was this:  Who wants to sit around and think about a story for a year and a half?

I couldn’t.

I won’t.

By then, I would be too bored with the story to write it.

There is no mystique to writing a book.

You pull up a chair in front of your word machine and spill words onto a blank screen.

That’s it.

Write the first word, the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first page, and you’re off and running.

You write one word at a time.

Some words you like.

Some you don’t.

You delete the words you don’t like, and you write again.

It’s not unlike digging a ditch.

One shovel full of dirt at a time.

One word at a time.

But here’s the difference.

Shovels filled with dirt may kill you all right.

But they don’t talk back.

They don’t fall in and out of love.

They don’t travel to other planets.

And a vampire has never nuzzled their necks.

They have no necks.

They’re shovels full of dirt, for God’s sakes.


Writing is not mystical.

It’s hard work.

It’s demanding work.

We work for ourselves, and we have mean bosses.

We don’t sit around, trading witticisms with our muses, and think about a book for a year and a half.

We can have three or four novels, maybe more, written in a year and a half.

We simply start with words.

We end with words.

We collect words.

We scatter words as we go along.

That’s all.

Connect enough of them together, and you have a book.

Writers can be defined only one way.

We play word games.

And we don’t have a minute to waste.

Please click HERE to find Place of Skulls on Amazon.

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  • You’re right: it is demanding. However you write (even if you do some thinking in between).

    But no book ever wrote itself.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Alicia, I often wish a book did write itself. We use a computer but on some days, it’s still like chiseling words out of stone.

      • Ah, but if the book wrote itself, way too many people would be able to do what is actually rather difficult: write a whole novel and make it a tight story readers will love. You wouldn’t be necessary. So many people say “I have a novel all figured out in my head, and just need time to sit down and put it on paper.” They are so wrong and so naive.

        Chiseling words from stone makes them permanent. Keep doing it.

  • Sally Berneathy

    When I did computer programming, I told the other programmers that the process was much like writing a book, except writing a book is harder. They didn’t believe me, of course. A book and a program begin at point A and must make a logical progression from there to point Z. Every word must contribute to that progression. But there are specific rules for computer code. And if something isn’t working right, you know it when you try to run the program. Then you can find the problem and fix it. The rules for books are things like…scene/sequel, character arc, pacing. Nothing as simple as ending every “if” statement with an “end if.” And when the book is finished, there’s no way to test it to be sure it accomplishes what you set out to accomplish.. And I left programming to write books. Nobody ever said writers have to be sane!

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