Joseph Campbell said that if writing a book excites you and scares you at the same time, it might be a good thing to try.
I love stories, of course, but never thought I would be writing one… or two, or three, or um… six.
When I first entered college, I took the normal first semester credits. In one of my classes, I had to write a paper. The professor handed it back to me, and I will never forget his tone when he said, “This is the worst paper I have ever read! My advice to you is to quit school.”
I was shocked, upset, holding back tears, disoriented to think that my parents were spending money to educate me, along with my own student loans. How could it be that as soon as my higher education began, a professor was telling me I wasn’t good enough? Right then I had a choice – quit and go away quietly or roll up my sleeves and prove him wrong.
And I did. Consequently, I became an English teacher and author, so the story had a happy ending!
I believe that each of us has a story to tell. Not necessarily our own memoir, but daily encounters offer lots of stories. Some are happy and funny, others are sad, still others have a lesson to teach.
I always felt I had a story in me, but for most of my life, like many of you, I was too busy to even think about it. And then, one day, it came to me. At the time, I lived on a 10-acre farm near the Gulf of Mexico with horses, dogs, chickens, and a baby goat, Jaxby, who also happened to be quite sick.
In my care for him, night after night, as I bottle fed him and gave him his meds, I realized that Jaxby’s story was full of lessons for children and grown-ups. And so, I wrote a story, then another, and a while later a book appeared.
Beginning is difficult, and not everyone has a baby goat for inspiration. But life happens around us all, so let me share my template that has worked well in my writer’s life.
The setting includes the time, place, experience or character (maybe an animal, friend, small child, whomever appeals to you) you want to write about. This is where the story begins. Don’t struggle to find the setting, just think about it.
You may want to teach a skill in a how-to book, or you may have an experience you would like to share, and still you may have a lesson that you think would be helpful to others. Each of us is different, so focus on the type of story you want to tell.
After you have a topic or a character, you can begin writing. This may seem like the hard part, but if you do just that, begin to write, it is easier than you think.
You are going to just write. And write, and write. You will be using the right side of your brain only. The side that houses the creative juices, the artistic thoughts, the free-flowing inspirational stuff.
During the writing stage, DO NOT think about:
You are probably wondering why I am telling you to ignore important writing skills. To put it simply, the right side of our brain is our creative side. We use the left side of our brain to do more analytical things like correct spelling and grammar. Therefore, when we write and we are working on being creative, we do not think about anything else except writing. Otherwise, we will quickly suffer from writer’s block. Our brain is not designed to be creative and analytical at the same time.
Following this process makes writing easier, so it flows smoothly.
Keep on writing until you tell your story, whatever it is – a cute story, funny story, memoir, fiction, or non-fiction. This may sound hard, but when you ignore the rules of writing, the story flows very easy.
Now that you have your story down, the fun part is over. You have the task of grammatically editing your story. The left side of the brain which is analytical, structured and detail-oriented will help you in that task.
The editing of your writing can be daunting, but when it is all done, you will have a finished story and feel unexplainable joy.
Paragraphs usually have five sentences. Introduction to the main idea of the paragraph, three sentences explaining that idea and forming the body, and a closing sentence summing up the paragraph.
This is the grammatical structure of a sentence. Sentences consist of a noun, a verb and a direct object. For a sentence to make sense in the English language, we follow this simple rule. Another rule for a good sentence is we never start a sentence with the word ‘And’. We don’t end a sentence with a preposition.
In the usual case, you will have a subject (the performer of an action), a verb (the action itself), and a direct object (receiver of the action) in every sentence. This should be enough basic information to get you started.
Your paragraphs must flow together well. The closing sentence has to take the thought of the paragraph and blend it into the next paragraph. So, your closing sentence in paragraph 1 will be written in a form to blend that idea into your introductory sentence in paragraph 2, etc.
In this step you correct any grammar, any spelling that you didn’t notice before. Unless you are hand writing (and I am a fan of paper and pen), your computer has probably done this step for you already.
This final step sometimes feels like the most daunting. You have written an entire book, and now comes the time you must read it and read it, and read it again.
One last tip I used as an English teacher was to read papers backwards. The reason I did this is because our brains work much faster than our eyes and tend to fill in words in places they very well may be missing.
After you have exhausted yourself reading, you can sit back and feel good that you are now an author! Good luck and let me know how it goes!
What is your story? How do you feel about writing it? Have you started on such a project? Is your story flowing or do you feel stuck?