Since becoming a published author, I’ve noticed an interesting trend when I talk to people. They have stories to tell too! They relate a personal or family anecdote and then say, “This would make a great book.”
The problem I usually find with their “great book” is that they haven’t gotten around to writing it down. Several have hinted that perhaps I might write the story for them and then happily send it to my publisher so they—the individual relating the story—can become a published author also.
If it were that easy!
I’ve talked to a lot of people about the process of writing and getting books published. In most cases, I’ve found that they have an idea or two bouncing around, or they have actually written down a few details, but they have not completed the project.
And I think I know why so many “great books” are unfinished.
Writing is plain, hard work. The process of writing, rewriting, revising, and tweaking requires patience and a word I like to use: stick-to-it-iveness. I tell people: “Get the story written down and then congratulate yourself for accomplishing what 80% of people who begin writing a book never do: completing it.”
I remember the sense of pride I felt when I finished my first contracted book and sent it to my editor. She looked it over and to my surprise said, “Great job . . . so far. Now, let’s take it apart, rewrite it, and improve it here, here, and here.” And a lot more here’s!
As a beginning writer, I had the illusion that what I wrote was sacred and didn’t need to be edited. It appeared in perfect form as polished prose. (Insert laughter here.) Rewriting my first book took six months! And then I still wasn’t done! There were two more rounds of editing and rewriting, although each one became shorter and less painful.
So I totally understand why many people chose not to pursue the matter.
Still the fact remains. Your personal or family anecdote may indeed make a great book, but you have to write it first.