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I Always Wanted To Write A Book

I'm finishing up my latest book, Haunting The Cape Fear Coast, this weekend. It was a fun and interesting book to dive into, as I didn't know the legends of Wilmington and the coast there as well as I knew my Outer Banks. I found a lot of ghost tales and stories, though not all of them lend themselves to even a narrative for a collection of short stories. But I think it turned out well. Considering the quality of my other books in the series, the good feedback I have gotten from my readers, I'm sure it will be a good addition to the collection, and you will all love it as much as the other three books.

Part of the reason I say that is that it took a while for me to realize, externally, that my books are good. I mean, I knew, but as an author, a writer, there is this mix of wondering. I know I have good books, so why doesn't everyone have a copy? Are they really good, or am I just my own best sample? When I wrote Did You See That? I knew I had done a good job. It wasn't Hemingway, but that's partly because it was a lighthearted travel guide of weirdness. It was meant to be kitschy. I have deeper reasons for writing, like preserving the stories and histories, but I wanted the book to be accessible. I often joke that my book was made so that you could read one chapter, then toss it in the back seat of a car and drive away. It just took me a while to take in that all the compliments I got on the books meant that I had done decent work. And I could either ignore, or laugh about, any mediocre reviews, even if they don't help any.

When I tell people I'm an author, someone is going to say, "I have always wanted to write a book. We should meet so you can tell me about it." And I'm willing. I want to encourage reading and writing. The one thing that makes me cringe is hearing someone say, "I don't read." Sure, there are worse things in the world, but I wonder how much of the personal issues people have would be mitigated by just reading a book instead of stewing in illiterate anger and confrontation. Reading helps expose you to the greater world, not the myopic view from the echoes of mistaken bitterness. And writing goes even a step further.

I think when people ask about how to write a book, they wonder how they are supposed to sit and down and get enough words for a book, not how to publish a book. And honestly, I have little help on the creation side. The complex part of writing, for me, is the technical and bureaucratic aspects, choosing the right typeface and correct size of font, along with spacing and margins, getting the back copy to fit, the cost of ISBNs and bar codes, a hidden but important part of the business side of writing. But what people most want is how to write words.

I can't say it's easy, but it kinda is. Word processors have a word count at the bottom of the program. Do you know your story? Do you have a basic layout, direction? Do you know how it ends? Most of the time, if someone says they want to write a book, they have that already, even if it's just in their head. Draw a picture of the story, now you are ready.

Then start writing. That's it. Set a goal of 1800 words and write at least until you get to that number. It's not as hard as it seems. You'll get to 400 quickly, easy to get to 1000 and then 1500, so when you are there, you'll be like, okay, I can get to 1800. It's an attractive and magic number, big, but not daunting. Do it at least five days out of the week, while you learn to budget your time so that you can focus on work, not the distractions around you.

By the end of a week's time, you'll have a chunk of a story. If you let it sit there, it will never get finished, it will bother you, so you will now want to write more. If you don't, that story will start to burn a hole in your head, so you better keep writing.

Now, writing a good story, that's a different subject. I've seen many authors push the idea of the First Draft, which is a nice way of saying a piece of junk that you will have to go change and scrap and redo, and then you get into the bureaucracy side, the not so fun part. My advice? Don't do that. Take a little time to edit as you go, make that first draft something of quality. It still may not work. I have had that happen. I've had to trash entire storylines before. But because I went back and edited as I wrote, I wasn't too far into the story. It didn't hurt that much, especially since the book became so much better. When you create the beginnings of something you find good, like when I was first writing, it makes you want to keep going and finish. And soon you'll discover that the writing is the easy part.

And the fun part.

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