Sorry for any errors on the tips & how to pages. I'm doing this fast.
I won't talk about what's in the book. If you want to write your books, I want to show you how I came to this book.
I started writing my first book-length draft in 2005. I finished it in 2006, just in time to go to Washington, DC to attend Book Expo America (BEA), which was the annual convention for publishers, booksellers and the rest of the publishing industry.
It was my first attempt to write a book. I got depressed recalling my past, both distant and recent, that I just kept on writing thinking that if I died the next day, at least I had all aspects of my life mentioned and recorded.
My first idea was to write about being a masseur, while adding chapters that recalled my more distant past, including my childhood years. I also added some chapters on my views.
I got some copies printed and then decided to take a break from the book. I knew the book had too many chapters and I knew I should divide the manuscript into a few books. The break was between 2006-2014. This is why I encourage you to write, and write RIGHT NOW!, because you'll also take a break. Hopefully a short break.
Think as if you're writing for readers 300 to 3000 years from now. Don't care about what other people you know would think.
In Wonder, I wrote about people who were still alive. I was worried about how they might react to what I was writing. I noticed that I was hesitating to type and slowing down because they might get offended. Here was how I solved the problem: First, I put in my mind that the real people are mere characters in my book. Second, I wrote about them using their real names because that was what was most familiar to me. Because they were characters, I can be as honest and as mean as I wanted to write. Third, When I was done writing the entire book, I made a list of the names and nicknames I needed to change on a sheet of paper, and assigned new names and nicknames to them. Then I word searched the manuscript and changed the names. Make sure that the nicknames get changed too.
Don't care about what the art community cares about you. Don't care about other people. Imagine that you're telling your stories to only one person. The way you speak intimately to a friend will be the way you will be writing your book. You'll be surprised at your productivity. As you learn, you will develop new techniques and approaches in writing. Again, don't listen to future critics. 300 years from now, you're the one with your books. We'll all be dead, but you have left a legacy for the art community that we all care about.
You'll also see your critics, they'll be lucky to end up where you are. Those who ask, "But is it art?" Laugh at them as you write about your life... write about them too. They deserve some space in your book. Those people who bring you down, don't kill them. That's too easy. Let them fill up your book in a colorful way. Just replace their names. They don't deserve the recognition, but you and your readers deserve the lessons you have learned from their put downs.
Look forward to telling a story as if you were a legend or a myth. Imagine describing your events and surroundings in a romanticized way and see where it takes you while being subtle about it. At the same time, make sure you are grounded.
Imagine being a loud, heartless, sarcastic person commenting nasty things. Some characters and events deserve that treatment. When you do that, offer salvation for that character or event later in the chapter or the book.
Here is a good tip. You can elect to "save" that character or event much later in the book. When you do it immediately, that's "instant gratification" to the leader. When you do it much later in the book, that's delayed gratification. You can tease your readers by going back and forth with the treatments.
Imagine writing as if you are the confrontational type who gets kicked out of an establishment. Then imagine yourself as someone calm and nerdy, who has a laptop, is quiet and watching good and bad incidents unfold in a distant way. What's a good approach for you?
Imagine that you have two missions. First, you are writing your memoirs. Second, you are sharing lessons to be learned to your readers, all based on your life, events, accidents, friends, relatives and enemies.
Just don't lie. You're writing a memoir which must be true and which must include your thoughts. Here is an example. If you lost a finger from an accident, don't say you lost an arm. Here is what you can do: You can say that in your mind, you were so terrified that you thought you lost your entire left arm and half of your left leg. The visual mention and emotion is still there, introduced and written by you. You're playing with the reader's mind when you write, so the image and emotion have been shown.
Let me start with an example: You mention looking at your watch in Chapter 1. Then you mention a good event. Then you mention looking at your watch again in Chapter 10. What do you think, as a writer, you should do? You should mention another good thing. Why? Because subconsciously, the reader is expecting it. Consciously, the reader doesn't know what you were up to, but the subconscious knows. This is why writing is a craft. You can just keep writing, but when you begin editing, you can intentionally insert this. This is called anchoring. You used the watch as an anchor. You can use the smell of pie, or hearing someone cough, etc. When you repeat it, you will trigger the past emotion or ambience. The reader will also feel a sense of familiarity with you and your story. Once again, writing is like art. It's a craft. You have deliberate strokes like in a painting.
This is how you can make a better story. You engage your reader both consciously and subconsciously and the reader doesn't know what hit him or her.
Storytelling is like being on a boat. You take a boat somewhere, and you stop. Going from place to place on a boat is a huge undertaking. You normally don't just shift the boat by a few feet. You enjoy the location. Then you go to another location and stop again. You enjoy the next, new location. These are like events and chapters in your book. You take the reader from one place to another. The reader becomes familiar.
Sometimes your story takes a turn. A new character is introduced and you bring that character to the boat. You take the new character to your familiar locations. Your reader then wonders how the new character will react to the familiar places you took the reader earlier. Once again, there is subconscious repetition and recognition.
Storytelling can sometimes be like several stripper poles on stage. The dancer goes from pole to pole in a graceful way, making sure that all the poles are "acknowledged" through a few minutes of dance. If you're a good dancer, you know you won't just jump from one pole to another in a bad way.
You don't need to write in English. Write in the language you are comfortable in.
I prefer to write in English, but one of my "hidden agenda" was to give my book, Wonder, a Filipino feel. My childhood stories were set in the Philippines, while my adult life was elsewhere. So this was one of my artistic writing challenges for the book.
I made sure that I introduced non-English words in the beginning. When I rearranged some chapters, I made sure that the italicized foreign words were defined earlier than where I mentioned them again.
Here's something to avoid: Do not copy and paste the Ukrainian version of Moby Dick, and pretend you have a memoir no one understands, and then try to make an art sale. If someone finds out what you did, you may laugh for a while, but be ready to get in trouble.
When you begin romanticizing your story, your relatives, friends, bosses, coworkers and strangers can become villains. You can portray them to be as evil as you can.
You then offer salvation in the end. Sometimes, it can be as simple as you sitting down enjoying a cup of coffee. The resolution can be a discussion about what is in your mind, where you finally forgive your villains.
You can end your story with bringing yourselt to the doorstep of your enemy. Fade to black.
If you made yourself the villain, you must still remember to make your reader love you at the beginning of you book. This is the best way you can get the reader to keep reading. Then find a way to lead the reader to salvation at the end.
In 2013, six years after finishing my first draft, I finally took a look at it again. I separated the chapters that would be for Wonder. Six years after I wrote most of the chapters, some of my views had changed. I revised a few chapters, but kept some intact. Wonder, the book title, is the title of the last chapter.
I have read enough how to write books to tell you, in a few words, write for the public. Think that you're reaching out to the public, to the rest of the world. It is useless to write for friends and relatives. Do not force people you know to read your books.
If you're writing to get praise from people you already know, you are wasting your time writing. All you need to do is to take the people you know to a movie, or give them a gift from a store.
Even when my dad was dying, I never told him, nor anyone in my family, that I was chronicling my own struggle with his condition. Then, especially after his death, letting my relatives read about my dad would not be a good move at all.
You may or may not listen to this advise.
I am actually a casualty of letting my own relative read my work. In 2006, I delightedly told everyone my good news. I had finished writing my first book. They knew it was a memoir and of course it included stories about them. My sister asked me a few questions. Have I edited it yet? The answer was yes, but not much.
Didn't I remember that she was a professional editor? She asked me to send her a copy, she will gladly edit it. So I did. She sait it will only take 2 weeks. I gave her two weeks. Two weeks stretched from May to September. She started telling me over the phone that she was busy, she wasn't even halfway.
It seriously felt as if she was purposefully delaying me. It was like scaling a really tall mountain, calling my sister from the top, reveling in the biggest accomplishment I had ever done, and her telling me not to go back down because she will call for a helicopter to pick me up and bring me back down to safety in less than an hour, and the hour stretched to darkness and the next morning and the next and the next.
I finally asked for my manuscript back. She was, supposedly, only 2/3 or 3/4 finished with the editing. It was free, so I wasn't complaining too much. Until I started reading what she did. She was good! She reworded my works in a more romanticized way, but only 2/3 of the book was treated that way. However, I seemed to have lost my own style of writing, and my own voice!
If this happens to you, don't blame me, I just gave you a warning. I decided to leave her edits in the book. They are good. It actually showed me new possibilities of writing. I'm also developing 5 more memoirs. I have proven to myself that my own writing keeps evolving. I have decided to keep moving forward.
I released Wonder, Hocus Pocus Lately and 1-Hour Mentors at he same time in 2014. I told some people that I wrote three books in two months. It was halfway true. I added a lot of new chapters in 2014. It took me a long time to read and edit three books at least eight times each.
Be careful what you tell people. Or not. It's up to you. Some of my "writer friends" reacted in a bad way. How can I write three while they can't even finish one. One of them is bipolar. I thought I was writing memoirs, all about me, but people find ways to twist the attention to themselves.
This is one of those things. If you're reading this, then you probably want to write. Not everyone will celebrate with you. It's like buying a new car. You may have a new one, be happy about it and show it off, but someone else reacts negatively. Why you and not them? It may be a human behavior, know it happens, acknowledge it, and as a writer, why not... write about it. There's a lesson to be learned somewhere.
Make sure you move on. Remind yourself, and I have also told you, your books are for the public first, key people who might be able to help you move forward second, and friends and relatives last.