I think the cool thing to do is to wait until you’ve finished a book, maybe even found a publisher, before announcing that it exists. At least this seems to be what I’m familiar with—someone will all of a sudden be like, here’s my big news I’ve been so excited to tell you all about! I wrote this 167,000 word novel in my spare time and if you’d like to come see me on my book tour I’ll be in Atlanta July 5th. Oh by the way I also had another child and I lost 50 pounds, now we’re all caught up!

I’m not that cool, though, so instead I’ll tell you that I have maybe started a book. Mmmaybe. I don’t know. I’ve written, like, three-quarters of a chapter. Well, assuming I know how long a chapter is, because really, I DON’T. You know what I know about writing books? Huh! Good god, y’all. Absolutely nothing.

After years of muddling around thinking about the goal of book-writing but not writing one solitary word, I finally just opened up a text document the other day and said to myself, self, you are going to start typing, and whatever comes out is IT. I’m not going to get hung up on trying to think of some creative new spin on a collection of salty parenting anecdotes, I’m not going to tell myself that I have to have the entire story figured out, I’m not going to think about what has a better chance of being marketable, I’m not going to worry if one of the characters is has a terrible name, I’m not going to spend five days mouthbreathing over a good opening line.

What I ended up with is the beginning of a story that I have no idea if I can finish. It’s not about parenting or zombies or a 35-year-old woman living in Seattle with her family, the only three subjects I figure I’m semi-qualified to write about. The main character is a teenager, which may be a horrible mistake because, uh, see also: 35-year-old woman.

(JB: “So what’s your book going to be about?”

Me: “Um, I’m not sure yet. A sort of young adult coming-of-age story, maybe.”

JB: “Like Twilight?”

Me: “…”

JB: “That’s young adult, right?”

Me: “Okay, then yes. It’s exactly the same! Yes, I think this will spiral into a massive pop culture phenomenon and I’ll write three more books and all four will be on the best-seller list at the same time and I’ll sell 22 million copies and a movie franchise in one year alone.”

JB: “Nice. But are there vampires?”

Me: “No.”

JB: “Ohhh. Well, then.”)

Writing something that’s supposed to contain an actual plot makes me feel as though I’ve gotten behind the wheel of a car I am only barely capable of driving. There are some roadside attractions I have in mind, but how do I get there? I can’t even steer this fucking thing. As for the end of the road, I can’t begin to see it. It’s covered in fog. Or locusts. Or a giant pile of jam! Who knows!

I’m worried that I’ll get a decent way into this thing and decide it’s just too awful to continue. I’m worried that only being able to work on it in little tiny stolen moments of time here and there will make for a disjointed, crappy storyline. I’m worried that it would be crappy even if I went to some special nurturing writer’s retreat in the woods where people spoke in hushed voices and we all had Silent Creative Totem Animal Time from 9-6. I’m worried that if I fail, I’ll lose that little dream that has lived inside me for so long, the part of me beneath all the self-sabotage that secretly thinks I could maybe write a book someday, and what then?

Also, I’m pretty sure my main character has a terrible name.

But anyway, it’s started. We’ll see where it goes.

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Cookie
12 years ago

I’m totally there with you on the book writing thing. I’ve started so many stories only to decide they were totally stupid and never finish them. I love your writing here, and can only imagine that I would enjoy reading anything you write. Heck, write a memoir – as you’ve proven with your blog, many people find the details of your life fascinating. Trust me, you have a huge fan base that would enjoy anything you write.

Katherine
Katherine
12 years ago

No time to read others’ comments, so this may have been said already, but want to give you this: don’t give it a label (book) or a purpose. Don’t weigh it down with a bunch of “what is this?” questions or expectations. Just explore. Explore the world of your mind and explore how words capture that world. Make the writing of it an adventure and experience each moment of it with no plan for the next moment. You’ll know when to look up and assess what you’ve done. Good luck.

Laura
Laura
12 years ago

You totally rock – seriously, this is a dream of mine, and I relate to all of those fears. Good for you for getting started! Just remember, any writer will tell you that it’s all about the editing, so it CAN suck at this point, and it’s still all good!

She Likes Purple
12 years ago

Man, if I know nothing else, it’s that you sure as hell write better than Stephenie Meyer.

Amanda
12 years ago

I started writing my first novel in December and it took me a while to get up the guts to blog about it. I wanted to do that thing too – SURPRISE BITCHES – I wrote a book! (Or even better, announce it by singing it to the tune of that SNL short: “I’m on a boat!” – “I wrote a book, a motherfucking BOOK!”) But yeah, no. I have a big mouth and couldn’t wait. Also – if I couldn’t blog about the biggest thing I was doing, I couldn’t blog about anything else either.

It took at least two months of DAILY work for fiction writing to click with me and the hardest part was letting go of my inner critic. (I’m an obsessive-compulsive reviser.) I took a book-writing course that involved reading my work OUT LOUD and man, that forced me to get my shit together FAST.

Anyway, if you get to the point where you want some feedback, I’ll be happy to show you mine if you show me yours. ;)

Emily
12 years ago

I’m going to second (third?) the “Bird by Bird” recommendation. I’m writing my dissertation and her writing advice has helped me so much. I’ve read it a couple times now, especially when the writing gets hard, just to remind myself. Keep up the good work!

sweetsalty kate
12 years ago

Shut off your brain. That’s the only way I’ve found to get myself the heck out of the way of the story.

go go go!

g.
g.
12 years ago

What excellent news — sign me up to read any book you write! Don’t let the early stages get you down… a character’s name can be changed on hundreds of pages in two seconds of find/replace…

MommyNamedApril
12 years ago

good luck!

OmegaMom
12 years ago

Everything I’ve heard about successful published writers is that the main thing they do is *write*. The more you write, the better you get. You may find, when you’ve written 100,000 words that your beginnings read horribly to you at that point. And THAT’S OKAY.

John Scalzi, a science fiction writer (blog is at http://whatever.scalzi.com), has, somewhere in his years’ worth of blogging, some very cogent writing on the subject of “how to write”. He started out by writing a “practice novel” that he posted on his blog. When he finished that one, he worked on another, which he posted on his blog and self-published. And then a publisher contacted him. And now he’s supporting himself by his SF novels. He says, over and over, that the thing to do is to WRITE. And keep at it.

So: Good on ya. Do it. We’ll cheer you on.

Scott
12 years ago

My advice: KEEP GOING. Do not stop. Do not look back. Do not edit. Just keep writing. Get a complete story on paper, no matter how much you might dislike it and then go back and read it.

If you keep at it, you will reach a state of zen in which your characters start to do stuff on their own, without you planning it out. That is the golden time of a first draft, in which you unlock your store of creativity that you didn’t know you had, and it’s thrilling. And since you are a writing rock star, it will be awesome stuff.

There will be plenty of time to hate your work later. Now is not that time. Now is the time for bravery, and typing.

Leticia
Leticia
12 years ago

As long as it has your signature words like craptastic or sucktacular…I would always read. :o)

jetsy
jetsy
12 years ago

i FOURTH the recommendation for Bird by Bird. Anne Lamott is wonderful and human and so helpful.

and i fazillionth the sentiment that if you write it, i will buy!

Swistle
12 years ago

1. Wait. So you’re saying there WON’T be zombies? What about teenaged zombies? Coming-of-age zombie novel?

2. I will buy anything you write. ANYTHING.

Nancy
12 years ago

Ha! I came over here to tell you to read Bird by Bird, so I guess I’m fifthing it? When I was an English teacher, I assigned a chapter out of BBB called Shitty First Drafts to my students, before they began writing the first paper of the year. I highly recommend it.

Also, in case you didn’t know, Toni Morrison wrote her first book in her cubicle at her night job or something. It took her forever, I believe but eventually, she got it. So you know, you too will be in Oprah’s book club someday!

sara moon
sara moon
12 years ago

i am so proud of you and i would buy anything you wrote. anything at all.

except, i do think you should publish your entire blog as one of those blurb books. because what you write here, linda, is as good as it gets. i so love you.

Lori
12 years ago

I can sense that you’re nervous and using self depricating humor as a coping mechanism so I’ll be gentle.

WHAT THE HECK?!

Dude, whatever you right is totally gonna rock! I’m no spring chicken but I’ll proudly stroll into the young adult section to buy one. That’s one copy sold before it’s even written which should enable you to quit your day job. Isn’t that how the book thing works? Huh, maybe I know less than nothing about the publishing world.

Lori
12 years ago

Okay, that was supposed to say “whatever you WRITE.” Wow, I need to lay off the caffeine.

Heather
12 years ago

But you already have the self-deprecating inner monologue of a great writer down pat! Surely actual writing will be so much easier!
Also, why not a coming of age zombie book? Already have wizards and vampires. I smell an (undead) franchise a-waiting.

Heather C
Heather C
12 years ago

I wouldn’t worry if your character has a terrible name. You can always change it later. Scarlett O’Hara was “Pansy” until just before Gone With the Wind was published.

Nancy
12 years ago

Pansy? Really? I learn something new everyday!

Nicole
12 years ago

I am not a fan of young adult books for the same reason I no longer frequent Hollywood night clubs: They make me feel old and fat. But to reiterate so many previously commented sentiments, I would happily read ANYTHING you have written. That said, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, could you make your young protagonist slightly awkward and at least 15 pounds overweight? Thanks!

Kate
12 years ago

“I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” ~ Pablo Picasso

You go girl.

Gleemonex
12 years ago

Dude, I broke the same fear by making the first of my planned three projects the Sixteen Candles sequel. For serious. And it is hawt, but fan-ficky, so I’m getting that out of the way before I start the other two. Disjointed it may all be — because I’m writing it on a tiny little laptop on the bus to and from work — but after 35 years of mulling this shit over, I really don’t have time to worry about that anymore. Keep going — announcing this kind of thing on your blog keeps you honest. :-)

diane
diane
12 years ago

I am so eager and excited to hear you are doing this. You are a great talent!

jenn
12 years ago

Good for you! I’m working on a book as well, and I decided to tell friends and family because I thought it would hold me accountable for actually finishing it. I haven’t yet, but I’ve set a goal for this fall. We’ll see…

victoria
victoria
12 years ago

YAY! YAY! You know I have been a Linda fan since, uh, 2002? Back in your Diaryland days, long before you had kids. It’s been such a joy to me to watch you develop as a person and as a writer. Thank you for sharing this development with us.

Andrea
12 years ago

I got all excited to reccomend Bird by Bird to you…but it’s been done over and over again! I think you took the biggest and scariest step; you started writing a book. It only gets easier from here. Right?

Freda
Freda
12 years ago

I found your blog on Twitter recently and have really enjoyed your writings. You are such a great writer, I’m surprised you haven’t already written a book. I say do it and I will buy it!

P.S. Based of these comments you’ve already sold it… you have some big fans!

Courtney
12 years ago

It takes courage to spin the story all of us have inside us inot a book! Good luck!

ElizabethZ
12 years ago

Whatever you write couldn’t come out any less than great, even if it ends up way different than what you have in your head right now. I have been waiting for a book from you for years, pretty much since I started reading right after Riley was born, because I just heart you and your kickass writing style that much! Best of luck and don’t put too much pressure on yourself, let it go and it will flow. Ok, that sounded lame but oh well. I think I might just have to open up a word document of my own. You have inspired me. :)

Anais
Anais
12 years ago

I’m so happy for you! I seriously can’t wait to stand in line for my copy some day. I know you’ll make it.

Best of luck!!

Deb
Deb
12 years ago

As long as your characters names are not too similar, you will be fine. What is more annoying than having to flip back and forth muttering “was that Tim or Tom who did that?” Honestly, that is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. I feel like calling up the author and saying “Really? You know these people are fictional! Make their names different!”

Or maybe that’s just me and I am a moron who cannot keep the characters straight from one page to the next. Whatev.

Diane
Diane
12 years ago

Just write it….you know all of us will buy it immediately and then convince everyone we know to do the same thing….there’s no way it can be anything but fantastic.

Rebecca
Rebecca
12 years ago

You can do it!

Yet Another Jenny
12 years ago

This is such cool news! You rock for sharing it!

Anonymous New York
12 years ago

You are Teh Awesome. And I’m going to quote Marshall Karp! Only one person can keep you from being a writer. So just get yer butt in the seat and write. I think he was a bit more eloquent, but you get the gist. Much love!

Nerida
Nerida
12 years ago

There are a couple of bloggers who are sharing their writing from an early point. They are also parents of young children:
http://www.miscmum.com/
http://loobylu.com/

Enjoy!

shriek house
12 years ago

High freakin five for just planting your derriere and STARTING. I know exactly how difficult it is and am Impressed with a capital I.

Victoria
12 years ago

Well good for you starting! :D

amy
amy
12 years ago

okay – bizarre question time – i swear i just saw somebody that looked “just like you” on diner’s drive-ins and dive – eating a chicken sausage in portland. i know it probably wasn’t you – but i even rewound it – and yep – still you :). I couldn’t even begin to tell my husband why i rewound it :)

Caitlin
Caitlin
12 years ago

CONGRATULATIONS!

Ashleas
Ashleas
12 years ago

You start a book and I start a comic. My comic’s about Horse Racing. And it’s called RUN.
Maybe I’ll draw another page tonight.

Jenny
12 years ago

I think that it is absolutely wonderful.

One of my favorite authors was answering questions once about her much beloved book and she basically said that she just knew that she wanted to write a novel, she didn’t know how or what or expect it to ever be published or ANYTHING

Jenny
12 years ago

and oops I didn’t mean to submit that comment yet. Anyway, she didn’t expect much, she wanted to just prove to herself that she could write a book and now she is a very successful author. Go for it.

Laura Porras
Laura Porras
12 years ago

Okay – I don’t comment on here as much as I want to, but I’m pretty much going to say the same thing as I did on my last comment I wrote (the one where you were asking advice about whether or not you should take Riley to D.C.) – OH MY GOD, DO IT – YOU’LL NEVER REGRET IT!!!!!! So I hope that this will turn out as awesome as your trip with Riley did. Oh, and I want a copy when it comes out.

DanK
DanK
12 years ago

I think you should work on a comic book next. I’d be happy to draw & color it.

Anyway, I think writing a book is a big hurdle. If anyone could do it, it’s you. I’d actually read your book and that’s saying a lot!

DanK
DanK
12 years ago

*I don’t like reading books.

Thought I should point that out in case you took it the wrong way.

Marshall Karp
12 years ago

Starting a book is easy. Any asshole can start a book. TELLING everyone that you started a book — that takes a very special kind of asshole.

Don’t quit now. We’re all rooting for you.