Someone actually asked me today how you actually START writing a book. They wanted to know if it's just a spontaneous thing that you just decide to sit down and do or if it's something that you plan a time for and execute at that precise moment.
I guess the process is different for anyone, but for my first book, I had a few false starts. The first one, though, was the funniest.
I had just left a corporate job (I have a thing for timing, the economy basically bit the dust the day I gave my 2 weeks' notice), but I had decided I was going to pursue this writing thing anyway because this what I had always wanted to do. So, there I was...alone in my apartment on a weeknight with nowhere to be the next morning and I was sitting on Facebook (of all the wild ways to celebrate my first night of freedom). I hadn't actually ever used Facebook...it wasn't new, I just hadn't used it yet, so I was tinkering around on there trying to see what it was all about. Now, mind you, I had just recently watched the movie The Secret about putting positive things out there and that supposedly making them come back to you and blah blah blah. So this whole constellation of things is going on and I see the feature where I can post a "status update." I had seen people do this, but I hadn't done one. I figured I might as well, so I pound at the keys and I have my first status update. "Jeanette is.....writing a novel." Click. Post.
Ok, so then I'm sitting there thinking. "Shoot, now I really have to start writing something." I hadn't been on Facebook long, but I wasn't stupid...I knew that posting something on your status update that you weren't actually doing was committing a social felony, so I got to it. I lit a bunch of candles, I turned out the lights, I turned on some soft music, I curled up on the sofa with a blank notebook and my favorite pen in my lap and I sat there. For two hours straight, I just sat there.
Finally, I forced myself to write something...anything...because the million man march begins with the first step, or whatever, right? So, I literally started writing "My name is...my children are x, y and z. My husband is..." and this is how I was "introducing" my main character. It was pitiful. I knew it was pitiful, but I didn't know how to write a book and I wasn't going to let that stop me. So I wrote this ridiculous half-outline, half-story thing that I slapped "Chapter 1" at the top of and went to sleep (I blew out the candles, don't worry).
I was furious. How was I going to be a writer when THAT was my best attempt at writing?
There were a few other false starts after that and I hate to say that some of them weren't much better. In fact, I saved them and have looked back at them...not a single word of those pages would make my roughest rough draft at this point, but that is how I learned. If I would have just forced a Chapter 2 to follow that Chapter 1 on the Facebook night, who knows what kind of horrible book I would have ended up writing? Or if I would have ended up writing one at all? Something tells me I would have abandoned ship on that project relatively quickly. Instead, though, I knew when to be that person you see in cartoons and on the movies and have the crumpled wastebasket overflowing with crumpled papers and you still pull out another one and start over again. Except that the modern day version looks a little bit more like this...
The point is that we don't always nail it the first time, but we learn something from every single effort.