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How to Write a Book: rules that should NOT be followed

January 12, 2019
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I wanted to write a book since I was a child. It all started with fairytales but only now, after three decades I will be preparing my first fairytale collection for publishing. It will be my second book since my first one – Design Your Cloudless Life – was published in September with the biggest Russian publisher. My dream came true. However, the writer’s way doesn’t end here, it is only the beginning. What would I like to share with you? That dreams come true?  Or that everything is not as it seems? Maybe it’s about all of that and something else.

I had quite a selfish reason when I started writing the book and those thoughts were not about waking up famous. Meditations in Russia is not a popular subject for a book, not just yet. People practice it, people find it fascinating but people are a bit wary to talk about it in the open. Let’s call it “shyness” for now. I’ve written Design Your Cloudless Life for myself: I wanted to systematize what I’ve been practicing for over 15 years, and I wanted to tell it all through my personal experience which appeared to be quite extensive. Another reason was that I could not stop writing.

Elizabeth Gilbert shared in her “Big Magic” book that when somebody tells her that they want to write a book in order to help others, she begs them not to. Don’t write a book to save the world. When she was writing “Eat Pray Love”, the only person she wanted to save was herself. And accidentally she ended up saving other people on the way, even though her intention was different to begin with. That’s what happens when we are following our path with sincerity.

I agree with Liz. Let’s save ourselves. This way we are already helping others at least with the fact that we don’t need to be saved, – that’s already a big thing, don’t you think? I’d like to share with you now my five cents when it comes to writing a book which are numerously written by everyone who has ever written anything. Let me add to that list. Because from my experience, I’ve read those numerous advice myself and they all contributed to my writing. Who knows, maybe this piece of writing will contribute to yours.

  1. Somerset Maugham once said: there are three rules to writing a novel. Unfortunately, nobody knows them. If you are looking for a happy formula which will help you to write a book, I am here to support Maugham’s words. That’s the reason a lot of people do not write books. Because it’s not easy-peasy. If this statement doesn’t scare you, keep on reading.

2.  Let’s figure out what is lurking behind the question “why am I writing this book” in the first place. Are you planning to save the world with it? Are you entertaining yourself? Do you intend to make your mom happy with it? Is it because you have something to say? Intention matters. If you can NOT write, don’t write – that’s what Tolstoy said. If you are in the same category as me, keep on reading.

3. Writing a book is a commitment. Nobody needs your book – it’s brutal, but it’s a fact. Nobody will be knocking on your door saying “write a book for me, please, and I’ll pay you a million.”  That’s why you need to find things to motivate yourself. Financial motivation is not a motivation, at least in my experience. Russian publishing world and American/British ones are two different worlds. As my Human Design teacher Chetan Parkyn said, a book is your glorified business card. May the money be a pleasant surprise for you. If you have a supporting motivation that is with you until at least you finish your first shitty draft, keep on reading. 

4. Writing is a lonely labor. These are many hours that you spend working while the whole world is enjoying itself. Writing doesn’t have days off, there is no Friday here, no weekends for relaxation. Friends start forgetting about you little by little just like you are forgetting about them. Your husband is not fed, the dog is not walked, the kids are not brushed – the list is endless. Are you ready for this? Is your family ready? What about your dog? If the answer is yes, keep on reading.

5. Define for yourself whether you want to write fiction or nonfiction. I started off with fiction but eventually wrote the non-fiction. Approaches here are quite different, and they are fulfilling different tasks. What books do you like to read? What book would you like to have your name on it? What book would you like to hold in your hands (my motivation)? If you’ve answered these questions for yourself, keep on reading.

6. The book is your child which you put into foster care. That’s why you should not get attached. Fix a deadline for yourself and work hard towards it. That’s when things will get serious. Of course, it’s a serious business to carry a child in your womb and keep your health up to speed in the process and make sure that your eyes are sparkling throughout (men, it’s your process as well). I’ve already put my child into my publisher’s foster care, and I am not sorry for this. Now I need to work on my next “pregnancy” and as it happens with each pregnancy, you sort of know more than with the previous one, but it still feels like for the first time. Not scared? Keep on reading then.

7. Every book has its reader. It might sound strange to you especially after I’ve said that nobody needs your book. However, if you’ve read this far, it means that there is no doubt anymore, so we keep on going. Your book will be read at least by your loved ones. Now, in the beginning, you have to forget about it. Completely. Begin to write your book honestly and sincerely, no matter what subject you have chosen. Forget the fact that you have to filter yourself, be smaller than you are, hold something back. Don’t. Bleed onto the paper. After all, when it’s time to edit, and it will happen at least a few times, then you can remember about each and every relative in front of whom you can get embarrassed. But not in the initial stage. In my days I had to argue with myself in order not to delete some experiences from my book. I know in my English version I’ll be able to be more explicit, so I negotiated with myself. “Oh my god, mom and dad will read this book!”  You still didn’t change your mind? Keep on reading then.  

8. Write a plan for your book – and here I am talking about non-fiction literature specifically. I’ve researched tons of literature on how to write a novel, and even took grad class from a very good American writer Jonis Agee, went to workshops with Kate Bernheimer, and some prominent journalists, but my mind is such that it forgets everything it doesn’t need (thank God for that). Non-fiction books require a structure. I’ve seen those without one, or with a structure that was swinging on its thin feeble legs. It was difficult to comprehend what the writer wanted to convey. Everybody needs a skeleton, and your book is no exception.

9. Non-fiction book has to be practical. It means you need to have some knowledge on the subject you are writing about. Or you should have a bottomless well of knowledge coming from a good specialist. Be useful to the reader, and they will not forget you. Well, they might forget you but it’s OK. Make sure you remind them of yourself from time to time. Meditation and awareness is the most practical thing on Earth, Human Design and Gene Keys are phenomenal systems capable changing your life in so many incredible ways, and that’s what I am spreading all over the world. Very practical.

10. Read. Read. Read. Read on your subject and on other subjects. Read good books and bad books. Read on how to write, and read on how not to write. And when it’s time to write, forget everything that you’ve written. Tune into yourself. Somewhere deep down inside you’ll hear this thin little author’s voice which wants to come out. Hear it. In order to do this you’ll have to shut up and listen.

11. Writing takes time. Do you have time? Do you have time for writing? Do you have time to look at the screen or a sheet of paper and not write a word? I used to believe that every minute that was spent under the writer’s hat has to be productive. I was told that it doesn’t happen like this all the time, but only my own experience could prove this to be true. Yes, it doesn’t sound promising, but surprisingly the book cannot happen without these moments. Silence is words that haven’t been revealed yet. That’s when something new is being born inside of you – in the silence. And you need to give it time to be born. Do you have time to be an aspiring writer? Do you have time at all since nobody else does? If the answer is “yes,” keep on reading.

12. Writers are people with strange oddities. They constantly write something on napkins, pieces of paper, and if they don’t write it down, their eyes start twitching. If in those moments you are in their company and you are telling them something, believe me, writers are not hearing you. Do you have any oddity of yours as a writer? I am sure you do. I might jump out in the middle of the night and write down the thought that visited me and doesn’t let me go until I do. Sometimes I am talking to my consciousness at night: let me sleep now, please, and you can remind me about this tomorrow. Sometimes it works. I don’t find it odd at all. It’s a part of my life. Do you like to write so much that you don’t mind to be strange in the eyes of others at least? If yes, keep on reading.

13. Who is your favorite writer? What do you like in this person’s writing? Study their writing style. When we write for the first time, we will want to imitate someone, and it will be great if we imitate someone successful in the field. I realized what was common between all my favorite writers: the sincerity they are describing their experiences with, their sense of humor, their kindness which filled every word and line, and motivation to act, to be, to love and live – right now, every minute. For you it can be a completely different set of characteristics.

14. Knowing your subject and writing about it – these are two completely different things. If you know about cosmetology, it’s good to tell about it in such a say that a person will want to change their job or at least use your tricks right this second. Indifferent reader is much worse than a reader who didn’t like your book. When I started writing, I’ve already had more than 15 years of meditation practice, and whatever I’ve described in my book is just a small part of my journey.

By the way, first Meditation Challenge group was very successful – you can read the testimonials and now we are starting a new group. I’ll be happy to see you among the participants. If you’d like to receive a “home pharmacy” in the form of 21 awareness techniques which you will be practicing at your own pace and time along with other people all over the world, subscribe to my free useful weekly newsletter, and I’ll send you all the needed information.

15. It is only the beginning. Once you’ve written your first book, everything just starts for you. Being a writer is an action of a constant Present Continuous. It doesn’t have the past, and the future shouldn’t bother you at least while the process of writing is happening.  

There will be more on writing, stay tuned!