Thinking of penning a novel? Read this first

Over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to adoring fans complimenting my writing.

“I saw your picture in the paper,” they’ll say. Or: “You look familiar, do you work at my Starbucks?”

With compliments like that, it’s amazing my headshot doesn’t swell right out of the frame.

But years of headshot viewers acknowledging my existence have left me wanting more, and now I dream of getting a book published, so I can hear compliments like, “I saw your picture on a dust cover.”

But before I can reach such wuthering heights, I have to first — and this is true of many authors — actually write a book. 

So far, it’s been a great success. I’ve writhed around in my chair, stared at the cursor, cursed, thought about my shortcomings, had a bit to drink. In other words, I’m tortured. As far as I understand it, this is an excellent first step.

I’ve also read a lot about how to write a book. So that I might create more competition and therefore torture myself further, here’s what I’ve learned.

WRITING A BOOK

Choose an idea: Most coffee-shop patrons, first-year university students and other leading philosophers agree there are no new ideas. So it’s OK to steal one. Ripping off one author is called an “homage.” Ripping off multiple authors and mashing them together is called “finding your own voice.”

Choose characters: The best approach is to write characters based on people you hate — for example, you might have a villain called Jerky MacBadhusband. To protect yourself from legal issues, make sure the character wears a hat they don’t wear in real life. Then say, “The character is actually a pastiche of many people I’ve met in my travels.”

Choose a plot: Start with a first line that grabs readers, such as, “This book is covered in anthrax spores, sucker!” If stuck for an ending, walk away for a bit. Then quit and call it “first in a series.” You’ll get great buzz.

Choose an agent: This person will give you added legitimacy as a writer by making you poorer.

Choose a cover: This is the step by which everyone will judge your book. I recommend you seek out glowing quotations from friends who share names with famous people. If your dentist is Milan Kundera or the kid who mows your lawn is V.S. Naipaul, you’re good to go.

With these tips, you’ll have a completed tome in no time. If it goes well, let me know. I may pay homage to it.



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