Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The 5 Stages of Writing a Book

You’ve heard of the five stages of grief, right? As I’ve been writing Book 2 in the Your Life with RA series, I’ve come to realize that there are also five stages of writing a book. To wit:

The first stage of any book is all about the idea. It can sneak up on you, grow quietly, or burst into your mind fully formed. Regardless of how it happens, this is utter delight. You’re instantly swept away by your own cleverness, chortling to yourself with how brilliant this book is going to be. It’s like falling in love at first sight, and equally obsessive. This stage is invigorating, motivating, and compulsive. You want to spend every minute of every day writing to make your idea a reality within weeks.

Not so fast, though. First you have to wrestle with it.

The idea for your book can usually be summarized in what’s called the elevator speech — imagine you have to tell someone what your book is about on an elevator ride, lasting no more than 30 seconds. The second stage of writing a book takes that condensed nugget and starts building a framework for the book. Some people create extremely detailed outlines, other do only a few broad strokes, and everything in between. This stage is very fluid and continuous. Throughout the book, you’ll be thinking and wrestling with ideas, plot lines, structure, and characters. If you like puzzles, you’ll thrive on this part.

Roller Coaster
And then the writing starts. More specifically, the first draft AKA the Vomit Draft. In this stage, you write and do nothing else. No editing, no going back to check, no polishing a particular sentence for three weeks until it’s absolutely perfect. Just write, write, write. When it works, there’s nothing like it. When it works, it is sheer exhilaration. When you get stuck, there are moments of deep despair. The only way out and back on track is to write, even if you think it’s crap. The third stage is an addictive roller coaster of emotion and when you’re done, you want to hop back on and do it all again.

It’s generally recommended to let your book sit for a bit — three weeks to three months — before you start the next stage. It allows you to go to a different place in your head, to forget about the book so you can see it with fresh eyes. Because that’s going to be needed for the rewrite. This is when you look at your book with a critical eye and it is not for the faint of heart. When you rewrite, you focus on finding everything that doesn’t work and write it all again until it does. It’s common to become convinced your entire book is crap and that you should give up your writing career before people start pointing and laughing at you. Oh, and PS. Once you’re reasonably satisfied with your draft, get someone to read it and give you feedback. Then edit some more.

I suspect those myths about writers and alcohol were based on the Dissection stage.

Letting Go
There comes a point when you have to stop editing or you end up like that guy who has been writing the same book for 20 years. There is a saying in the music industry: “sooner or later, you have to ship.” The same goes for your book. When you have made it as perfect as you possibly can, when you realize that any further edits would be polishing something that’s already shiny, when your cover captures your book, you are ready to ship. This stage is terrifying and exhilarating both, as you prepare to send your baby into the harsh light of the world. The fifth stage is about giving up control, and letting go so your book can fly.

Which stage are you in?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I Can See Clearly Now: A Memory of My First Glasses

I was eight years old, maybe nine, when I realized what it was like to see. It is a moment imprinted in my memory, as clear as if it happened yesterday.

For a while, I had not been able to see the blackboard in school. Well, I could see it as a blackboard-shaped dark grey thing that I knew was a blackboard. My teacher would write things on it – I could hear the chalk against the board, and listening to her talk and reference things that were supposedly written there. But I couldn’t see it. Instead, I would lean to my left and ask AB, my best friend sitting right next to me, and then write down what she said in my notebook. She was my translator, the interpreter of knowledge.

I remember that, the leaning over and AB whispering to me. And I remember that it never occurred to me to ask for help, or to tell a grown-up that I couldn’t see the blackboard, even though I had previously been able to see it. It just felt normal. I couldn’t see it, but AB could. We were different in so many other ways, so why not this?

My teacher must’ve spoken to me, spoken to my parents, but I remember nothing of it. I don’t remember seeing the eye doctor and getting tested. I have a vague memory of choosing the glasses, but I could have made that up because it’s logical.

What I do remember is bringing my glasses to school, the hard case safely tucked into my schoolbag. I remember feeling very shy about wearing them on in class, leaning forward so my hair would hide what I was doing when I put them on. And then I looked up, towards the front of the class.

And in that moment, everything changed.

I could see the words on the blackboard. Thin white lines made by the chalk as my teacher wrote. I could see. I could see the words on the blackboard. Everything about my life shifted because I could see the words.

It was incredible, amazing, miraculous. There are no words to describe the moment when you can see where before you couldn’t. This little video of a baby seeing 20/20 for the first time. It shows exactly what it’s like.

I remade the gif because unnecessary &quot;many gifs&quot; annoy me. Send your upvotes here because he posted it first but one gif is better for mobiles <a rel="noreferrer nofollow" target="_blank" href="http://imgur.com/gallery/lzjih">http://imgur.com/gallery/lzjih</a>

I have friends who also got glasses when they were children and who tell similar stories. Of realizing that there are leaves on trees, that grass is composed of little individual blades.

Unless you have existed in a world that’s blurred and thought it normal, I don’t think you can imagine the shock and the delight of that moment when your world becomes clear.

I don’t remember ever being shy about wearing my glasses after that first moment. Why would I be — they brought my world into focus.

Did you get glasses as a child? What was your moment of clarity?