“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” — W. Somerset Maugham
Are there any rules for writing books? Are there any rules that are applicable to most authors?
When it comes to making a book happen, the rules that I think matter are first (and foremost), you “see” a book in your head. Next, write a first draft and give it at least two edits. After that, if you humanly can manage it, hire a professional editor. Then, finish the book.
As for the writing process? Everyone who has completed a book has a few “rules” that worked for them and might work for you. Or not. Everyone’s process is different. Some writers need complete privacy and quiet to write. Others’ like noise and activity. Personally, I’m an isolationist. For anything longer than a blog post, I need to be left alone without interruptions. No phone calls. No casual conversations with friends unless I’m taking a break.
I didn’t take many breaks. The few I took were brief. I was sure if I stopped writing, I’d never get back to it so I never stopped writing until I finished the first draft and initial edit.
It took me 9 months to complete a first draft and first edit. It took three more months to do a second edit, by which time I was getting tired of the book. That was when I should have had a professional editor go over it and give it back to me with corrections and suggestions. The book never became as good as it should have been because I was unable to do that. Friends who might have edited the book had already read it, usually more than once.I didn’t have enough money to hire anyone, so I skipped the final edits and moved on to doing what I knew: designing the physical book.
Dr. Tanya is right when she says the most critical premise for book writing should be: YOU HAVE TO FINISH IT!
Regardless of what process you use, whatever rules you follow or don’t, if you haven’t the grits to plow through a full draft and at least two self-edits, you will have a a lot of lonely first chapters cluttering up your hard drive.
It’s easy to start a book. Most of us who write have an idea or three that can produce a good first chapter but that’s as far as we go. As often as not, first chapters that never go anywhere might have made better short stories. A lot of ideas aren’t “book length.” It can be a great idea, but not a book.
The thing that made my book a book and not another of my many first chapters is I saw it as a book. I knew where I was going to start, had a pretty good idea how I would finish, a clear idea of format and what would happen in the middle. If you mentally see a whole book, you have a much better chance of writing and finishing it. If you don’t see a book, but only an idea, consider a short story.
I’ve never written another book. I never saw one in my head and for the smaller ideas, blogging has suited my writing needs well.