June 24, 2015

On Writing That First Book

By C. H. Lawler

I've had a number of book signings so far with The Saints of Lost Things, and at each one there's been at least one person who's said, "I've always wanted to write a book."

Let me tell you something, something about writing a book.

Writing a book, or creating anything, a painting, a song, anything, is a very vulnerable, incredibly soul-baring experience.  But let's face it, as Faulkner said, if there's a story in you, it's got to come out.

He also said to 'quit when you're hot.' In other words, save an idea for next time you sit down to write. Do this to keep from getting writer's block. 

It's also been said, maybe by Faulkner also, that you should read, read, and read. It fuels your writing. Find a word or group of words that grab you. Language can be delicious. Taste it, smell it, savor it. Open up your senses and then mix them. Let sounds have colors, let smells have textures.  'Vivid' is the highest compliment you can receive. Be mindful in the most mundane life circumstances.  Ask yourself, what am I hearing?  What am I seeing?  Relax and enjoy where you are, even if you don't write.

If you have an idea for a book, you should write it. Play around with it. Get frustrated with it. Set it aside. Reread it. Prune it like a shrub. Wake up at three a.m. and jot it down. At some point you'll begin to enjoy your characters. They'll become like family.

Then have a wide range of people read your story. This is always tricky. Don't avoid critical people.  These are the very people you need most. Even if you self-publish, get a good editor before you do.
And when your story finally sees the light of day, after you've eased it out of yourself, I swear you'll want to hold the book gently and wrap it in a baby blanket and coo at it and wait for the world to love it as much as you do.

Which of course they may not do. No one is obligated to like your book. No one. You were only obligated to write it. No one is obligated to read it or, having read it, like it. Or, having read it and liked it, tell someone they did.

But your job is done. You created. You have bared part of yourself to the world. And if one other person reads it, likes it, and tells you, you are richly blessed.

Be grateful for the latest person who reads and likes your book.

Even if it's only you yourself.
C. H. Lawler is a native of Louisiana and a resident of Baton Rouge.  A practicing obstetrician, The Saints of Lost Things is his first novel, written largely at the hospital while waiting on babies to arrive.  He is married with grown children

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