Thursday, November 3, 2011

Guest Post: Allan Leverone

The Dirty Little Secret about Writing Books

This is my first appearance on the C.P. White Media Blog, and I would like to thank Chris for allowing me to be here, potentially frightening off the group of readers he has worked so hard to build. Sorry, Chris, in advance. [you will pay later--ed.]

For me, guest blogging is a bit of a daunting experience. What do I write about? The fields in which I could be considered an “expert” are few. Maybe none, depending on how narrowly you define the word “expert.”

I like to try to tie my guest posts in to the owner of the blog in some way, so today I want to talk a little bit about a comment Chris made on Facebook the other day. A young lady had stated she would love to participate in NaNoWriMo—where the goal is to produce a fifty thousand word novel in thirty days—but just couldn’t find that much time to write in her busy day.

Chris’s response was that writers don’t “find” time, they make time.

That comment really stuck with me, because in my experience, it’s absolutely true. The process of writing a novel requires not just the ability to tell a coherent story, but also—and maybe especially—the self-discipline to sit your butt in a chair for hours at a time, weeks at a time, and work at it.

It’s almost like having a second job, at least if you expect to approach writing like a professional. And this is not a knock on the young lady who made the comment. Maybe she is too busy to write, but if that’s the case, then it simply means she doesn’t want to do it badly enough.

When people find out I write books, their response is often, “I should write a book, too,” as if doing so is as simple as saying it. As if doing so is as simple as sitting down and pounding it out.

And the fact of the matter is, it both is and is not that simple. You see, writing a book requires you to sit down and do it today. And again tomorrow. And again the next day, and the day after that, and so on. And then, when you’re done, you’ve really accomplished nothing yet, because the first draft of anything rarely makes much sense at all, except in the most general way.

After finishing the first draft comes revising and editing and cleaning and polishing until finally you might—you might—have a product worthy of showing anyone outside your immediate family.

It’s like trying to accomplish anything else worthwhile. Having the ability is necessary, but having the drive to see it through is just as important, if not more so. I’ve read studies that suggest upwards of ninety percent of the population believe they have a book inside them waiting to be written. Here’s the key question, though: What percentage has the ability to push themselves enough to see it through?

In most cases that book will stay no more than a pipe dream, because unless your name is Harlan Coben or Lisa Gardner or one of the couple of hundred authors fortunate enough to be writing novels full-time, your writing is going to be done after putting in a full day at work, after making dinner and folding laundry and paying the bills and playing with the kids and spending time with your spouse.

After all that, if you can still sit your butt in a chair and pound out your daily allotment of words, pushing yourself toward your goal of finishing a book, and if you can do that today and tomorrow and next week and next month, guess what, brother? If you can do that, you’re a writer.

I salute you. Welcome to the club.

Allan Leverone is a three-time Derringer Award finalist as well as a 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee. He is the author of the thriller, Final Vector and The Lonely Mile, as well as the novella, Darkness Falls. His paranormal suspense novel, Paskagankee, will be released soon by StoneGate Ink. [and it's friggin awesome! -- ed.]


  1. No, I definitely don't think it's easy! Writing is not my talent and I have a huge respect for those of you who have the gift and work hard at it. (And that includes you and Chris.)

    Michelle V

  2. That same FB comment struck a chord with me, too. It reminded me of something my high school AP Lit teacher used to say: "You do what you do because of what's most important to you at the time." If you don't *have time* to write, that means it probably isn't one of your top priorities. And if that's the case, frankly, you're not a writer.

    Nice post, Allan. ;)

  3. Mushy gushy sentiment is now prohibited on this blog. IN ALL CAPS. =)