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How do you write a book?

February 6, 2015

By CP Bialois

CP Author PhotoHello everyone!

As authors, we get asked all sorts of questions ranging from, “Where do you get your ideas?” to the ever popular, “What do you really do?” Those are questions I’m ready for as well as a boatload of others, but then a friend threw me a cure ball. He asked, “How do you write books?”

Sounds simple, right? I think it’s only fair to say I blanked for a minute. I’d like to think it was due to the question being something I’m not used to, but the truth is, I was caught in a paradox of sorts (Yes, I watch a lot of Doctor Who).

I had the urge to respond with a question of my own concerning if he wanted to know how to write or how to write length. I managed to stop myself before I went into a complex and possibly roundabout answer and said, “I have stories to tell. So I listen to my muse.”

Lo and behold, he meant how do I write for length. I was as honest as I could be. I told him, I don’t know, it just happened.”

Yep, that’s my highly intelligent answer. The funny thing is that after writing as many books as I have, I still have no set answer except to describe what works for me.

You see, I could always tell the same story as a Stephen King or John Grisham, but in thirty pages instead of hundreds and, obviously, without the same amount of depth and story. I’d write the basics and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how they and so many others could crank out something longer than an afternoon nap’s worth of story.

Even in school, I’d write a simple one line answer for a question instead of the long, drawn out response the teachers wanted. I never saw the need to embellish of let it grow and it resulted in me having a lot of my answers marked wrong.

I know it’s different for each of us, but I like to explain the first step isn’t being afraid of a big story. I know it’s hard, but allowing the weight of it to overwhelm us when starting out is crippling. At least, it was for me.

The first time I sat down to write my fantasy novel, I thought it was going to be a simple thirty page story of a group journeying into the den of a dragon to steal some gold. It was simple, direct, and clichéd out the whazzo. It was also never meant for anything but a fun story to share with my friends.

Then, just like that, the dam broke.

Suddenly, I didn’t have any barriers holding me back and the characters took over. It was great feeling as though I were a conduit for others to tell their stories, but even better, I took the first step to something bigger and more fun than I ever expected.

That was also the first time I experienced the fear of not being able to control the monster I was creating. It happened several times before when the stories would go off on a hundred different directions like a loose thread being pulled and unraveling a shirt or tapestry.

For me, it was a simple act of refusing to let this story get loose like the others. Whether through my will or my muse’s good graces (That’s a debate for another time. Lol), I managed to hold onto the threads and keep them in place to form the story.

I’ve heard of different ways to do it like using an outline and staying to the main idea of the story instead of having side stories, but each time I tried those I either wrote it shorter (Keeping with the outline line by line. I swear, I have OCD or some other affliction that makes me follow directions literally) or refusing to allow the side trips which also shortened the story and seemed to steal its soul and feel for me.

So, I practice what I preach and use what works best for me. So far so good ::knocks on wood::.

How do you answer that question? What type of tricks do you use to keep your stories under control?

  1. February 6, 2015 9:25 am

    Hi Ed…I tried to keep my stories under control once. After they stormed the castle, killed the guards and threw me in the dungeon to think about the horrible fate I had selected for them, I thought better of it.
    Instead, what I do now is keep side notes on what the ruffians are doing so that their story keeps its continuity. My lads and lassies are a boisterous bunch and run off in all directions. Like you, I have stories and they need to get out. Without my notes, I’m afraid anarchy would take control and my books would make War and Peace seem like a short story.
    So for me, my notes become my police and allow the story to be told in whatever length it needs to be. Some are short and sweet while others are bordering on a half-million words. In my world, the only control I have over my muse is to just let the little beastie have its way and use my notes as my security line.

    • February 6, 2015 4:09 pm

      Haha! Yeah, I understand what you mean. I once had my chaacers banish a demon to another dimension instead of just dying like they were supposed to. Who gave them free will? lol I look at it like I’m the moderator in a presidential debate. They listen to me on the important parts, but ignore me on the others. lol

      • February 7, 2015 3:27 pm

        I had a character all of a sudden turn evil. LOL. SO much for that outline…

      • February 7, 2015 4:45 pm

        I think most people believe the writer directs the character. Quite often, it’s the other way round. I bring my characters to life, give them a personality and that’s it. They tell ME their stories and I just write. I’m more of a stenographer than an author.

  2. February 7, 2015 10:57 pm

    That’s so true, Ed. I’ve learned it’s easier to shut up and write. Of course, I rarely take my own advice. lol

  3. February 8, 2015 7:57 pm

    Reblogged this on The BiaLog.

  4. February 8, 2015 8:03 pm

    Reblogged this on Dr. Shay West and commented:
    It’s one of those questions that’s sort of hard to explain LOL

  5. February 8, 2015 9:47 pm

    Super answers! We all have our own way. I keep side notes, mainly to make sure I don’t misspell my story peoples’ names down the line. And, they are the ones who dictate the tale to me. So, in effect, I’m a reader with his fingers on the keyboard.


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