I was waiting in line at the store the other day as the customer in front of me and the cashier got into a discussion and traded business cards. Apparently the cashier had always wanted to write a book but didn’t know where to start, and the customer wrote books and was apparently the expert on the subject. When asked how she wrote her first book, she responded with, “I went to the library and found a book on how to write a book.”
I had to choke back the snicker, since it is not as easy as that. Nothing in a book will tell someone how to write one. Yes, it can teach you proper grammar. Yes, it can tell you how to format the book. It might even give you suggestions on how to find an agent or which publishers to use, but nothing can tell you how to form those words into a book that anyone wants to read.
They say everyone has a book inside them that wants to come out. Problem is that not everyone’s story is interesting. Others might be but they can’t write. They might have the money to hire a ghost writer to do the writing for them, but most probably won’t go that route.
So what is the best answer to give to someone who asks how to write a book? I tell them to sit down and write it. Nobody is an expert when they start. And no one expects the first attempt to be grammar free, and that’s not the point. You just start writing and keep going until you run out of things to say. Then worry about how to move things around to make it readable. Hire someone if you can’t do it yourself. Or find a grammar book that will help. It takes a lot of work to get a book created and published from start to finish, especially if you’re self-published. And it’s a whole lot easier now than when I got started. Back then, research was done in a building called a library and POD publishers were brand new and produced shoddy results. It amazes me how much self-publishing has advanced in the last decade.
It’s easy now compared to then. Considering I haven’t self-published a book since 2008, it’s even easier now. Sites like Smashwords make it nearly painless. They not only let you publish for free (and provide a detailed guideline on how to format your manuscript), they will even market for you and submit your books to major online publishers. If only that had been available when I got started.
But all that goes back to the original question of how to write a book. Not even Smashwords.com can help you do that. If the question was how to create a book, that’s a different beast all together. Because creating and writing are not the same.