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Should you write that book?



If you know someone who is always talking about writing a book, or you’re the one who’s always talking about it, the below set of answers and explanations is for you. The new year is coming. It’s your fucking time. So sit up, shut up, and listen up.

Question: Should I write that book?

Answer: No.

Excuse: Because I might not finish it.

Verdict: Bullshit.

Explanation: Jesus Christ, dude. The idea that you shouldn’t write that book you’ve been thinking about writing because you might not finish it is total bullshit. You ever not started eating a gigantic chicken schnitzel because you thought you might not finish it? No. You have a go at a massive pub schnitzel because you’ve been thinking about it, and you’re hungry, and not finishing really doesn’t have any personal consequences for you. Now, I know there’s a difference – if you start and don’t finish a novel you’ll feel like a failure. People who hear about you giving up might think you’re a failure, too, which would be worse.

But you know what? Fear of failure permeates life. It’s what stops people from going for that promotion, asking that girl out, or taking up parkour. And there’s only one thing you get from abiding fear of failure: disappointment. You didn’t try, so you didn’t fail, but you’re left with the life-long wonder of what might have been. Is disappointment any different to failure? Not by much. So stop being such a fucking pussy and start that schnitzel. I mean book.

Question: Should I write that book?

Answer: No.

Excuse: Because I don’t know how to plot.

Verdict: Bullshit.

Explanation: You don’t need to know how to plot to write a novel. I’m hearing all your past English teachers gasp in horror (even the dead ones). Well shut up, bitches. You really don’t need to be one of those people with thousands of little coloured Post-It notes and exercise books full of chicken scratch to be a writer. You can be a totally authentic writer without a beat-up leather sachel and a chip on your shoulder, too. You can actually just sit down at the computer and wing it. Granted, you might not get very far. You might have to stop constantly and get yourself out of dead ends you’ve written yourself into, and what you end up writing might be a too-long, wandering piece of crap (see below ‘Because what I write might be crap’). But what a great way to learn how to plot for your next novel, or to discover, in fact, that you are one of those writers who flies by the seat of their pants and writes brilliant shit. Fire out of the cannon. See where you land. If it’s right next to the cannon, in a heap, go back to the cannon and try again for fucksake.

Question: Should I write that book?

Answer: No.

Excuse: Because I don’t have time.

Verdict: Bullshit.

Explanation: Lemme ask you something – are you actually dying? If you seriously are going to be dead in three months, then ok. You probably don’t have time. But are you trying to tell me that you don’t have a spare hour a week for the next ten years? Because even if that’s all you could seriously give it, you’d still get a novel done in that time. Don’t give me that ‘I’ve got kids’ crap. JK had kids. Oh! Oh! I’ve got two jobs? No. Not a valid excuse. Stephen King had two jobs when he was writing Carrie. Get up half an hour earlier than you are right now. Write in bed. Buy an ultra-soft keyboard so you can type and not wake your fourteen sleeping babies. Put off cleaning your shower. I don’t care. If you want time, you’ll make time.

Question: Should I write that book?

Answer: No.

Excuse: Because what I write might be crap.

Verdict: Such bullshit.

Explanation: Most first books are crap. My first book was absolute garbage – an assortment of pre-teen drivel that I’m so glad no longer exists (I hope). In fact, my second and third books were probably also crap, but not as bad as the first. And that’s because, with every book I wrote, I learned something from the people who read them. Rather than crying in my room for three weeks because what I’d written turned out to be crap (there was probably a little of that, I’ll admit), I took the criticism and adjusted my process for the next work. Here’s the secret: The only way you can tell you’re any good is by having people read your actual stuff. The ACTUAL STUFF on ACTUAL PAPER. If you do not try, you will not improve. Hoping to try something and magically not be crap at it IS WHAT CHILDREN DO. Grow up, and have a fucking go.

Question: Should I write that book?

Answer: No.

Excuse: Because I probably won’t get published.

Verdict: Bullshiiiiiiiiit.

Explanation: Maybe you’ll get published first time, right off the bat. If this happens, fuck you. You will get no respect from your fellow authors, (especially me). Because most authors have several dozen rejections under their belt. Your inspirational ‘journey to becoming an author’ article in the Herald will be terribly scant if you walk right into that club, Bub.

Maybe (more likely) you’ll submit your novel and then you’ll cower on the ground while every publisher in the country hurls rejection letters at you, until finally you pass out, completely buried in paper and self-loathing, like some fat hoarder the police won’t find until her corpse starts to smell. Maybe, like me, you’ll spend a decade writing books and sending them out and watching as the weeks and months roll by, your heart fluttering as now and then an email pops up with a publisher’s name on it, only to click it open, fingers shaking, and spot that terrible word ‘Unfortunately’ before you see anything else. Maybe you’ll keep a spreadsheet of all these publishers, and one by one you’ll cross them off, until it’s official – not a single publisher in the entire nation thinks your work is good enough for print (even those brand new one-person indie publishers who presumably know nothing about the business and are willing to take a chance on newbies. Nope, they think you’re shithouse, too). Maybe you’ll resentfully wander bookshops looking at the displays, exhausted by the rolling trends – boy wizards, vampires, bondage, vampire bondage, vampire wizards, wizard bondage, teenage girls fighting for their lives in mazes, on virtual battlegrounds, in space. Girls on trains, kicking hornets nests, missing, in love, lost, girls fucking everywhere. Maybe you’ll have to report to all your friends (because they won’t stop asking) that in fact you’ve given up on that book and your only hope is to write another. But you won’t bother confessing that you’re so downtrodden by this defeat that starting another book feels like going back into the ring with Rousey after she’s just put your nose through the back of your skull.

Well, you know what? See above, about being a fucking pussy. If you’re being rejected, it’s because you had something to submit. You wrote a fucking book. If no one likes your book, fuck them. If your friends are smug at your rejection, fuck them, too! Tell them that when their book gets submitted and is being considered for oh wait they haven’t written a book that’s right because they’re creative as shit.

Smile, and nod, and know how good it’s going to be when you write the book that makes it through (or edit the current one until it does). Think about the girls who gave you shit in high school trying to friend you on Facebook now because they saw you in the newspaper talking about your multi-book deal (this has been happening to me a bit lately, and it’s so incredibly awesome. They’re all ‘so proud’). Fuck those girls! Friendship status: DENIED, bitch.

Question: Should I write that book?

Answer: Yes.

Excuse: Nothing.

Verdict: Perfect.


3 thoughts on “Should you write that book?

  1. I like the bluntness of this. I can’t remember how many books I attempted to write over the years. I’m happy that it took years of experience to finally write the story worth telling. There is no excuse. You just have to write.

    Posted by thesarahdoughty | December 30, 2015, 7:01 am
  2. Thanks for this. You rock. That is all.

    Posted by Iona | March 29, 2016, 6:57 am
  3. I’m too scared not to write a book now!

    Posted by Tracey | September 6, 2016, 11:48 pm

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