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Thursday, August 4, 2011

How to Write a Book (Part 1)

Friends! October 14 is fast approaching (what's happening October 14?), and as such I am becoming even more reclusive than I once was. I have not seen the sun in days. My skin is the color of computer paper. I know this because I have a piece of computer paper right here, on which I've printed Draft Number 3, and sometimes I confuse it with my left arm.

In times of such misery comes genuine reflection and, of course, the urge to share my own suffering with the rest of you. So, in the spirit of last month's how-to video on Elphaba belting, I submit to you:

Felicia's Totally Made-Up, Learn-As-You-Go, Put-the-Cart-Before-the-Horse Guide to Writing a Book (Which She Herself Is Trying to Follow as She Finishes Editing Unnaturally Green)

1. Decide You Want to Write a Book

This sounds easy enough -- as easy as deciding whether you want to perform electrolysis on your scalp or willingly enter into a jail sentence. A moment's decision will turn into lasting regret. But this is a good thing: if you're the type to stick to a project once it's begun, bully for you! That's an incredible quality, since most people who start writing books never quiiiite finish. (Just as many people who start reading books never quiiiite finish.) So: think long and hard and ask yourself, do you really want to write a book? (Translation: Do you really want to start a project that will take months, or even years, and which will monopolize your thoughts, dreams, and conversations from now until you type your final draft's THE END?)

If yes, please proceed to Step 2!

2. Buy Wardrobe That Makes You Feel Like a Writer

This may seem like a superfluous step, but it is really the most crucial; the only way to become a writer is to look like one.  I suggest you watch any episode of Sex and the City and steal ideas from its protagonist Carrie Bradshaw, who writes one newspaper column a week and yet is able to pay rent on her massive upper east side studio apartment. Anyway: she always wears crazy clothes when she writes. Choose an outfit that works for you and only wear that outfit. Well, that probably will become a biohazard. I guess wear that outfit whenever you need to remind yourself of your writerly identity -- and wash it in between.

My Writer's Wardrobe was inspired by several of Carrie's outfits. I call it, the "off-the-shoulder Carrie Bradshaw sweater," and I've modeled it below, propping my hands up to make it seem that I am typing, even though my hands are floating in the air:

Have you found your Writer's Wardrobe? If yes, proceed to Step 3!

3. Decide What Kind of Book It's Going to Be

Will you be writing fiction? Nonfiction? A children's book in which the illustrations are fingerpaintings by your dog? It's up to you! Ask yourself, what story am I telling, and what's the best way to tell it? At this phase I also encourage you to:

3.5 Read a Ton of Books

This will both help inspire you and clarify what kinds of structures are successful in long storytelling. What are your favorites? What are your least favorites? When I decided to write Unnaturally Green I began devouring other memoirs to get a feel for different authors' pacing, chronology, framing devices, etc. What I discovered was both helpful and daunting: most memoirs are, on the whole, really wild! It is a genre of lawless freeform, whose authors are allowed to do whatever they want. (So...based on my style of blogging you can probably discern why I, Felicia Ricci, decided to go that route...)

Have you decided what genre you're going for? Proceed to Step 4!

4. Write, Damnit!

Yep! This is the most fun (read: excruciating) part. Now you actually have to start writing.

Hmm...where to begin?

(Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, coming soon!)

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