Hello, everyone! Welcome to Days 17 and 18 of this series. Yes, we are still in quarantine, and will remain so until May 3, at the earliest. It sucks not being able to go out, but honestly, as an introvert, this is kind of a paradise and much-needed respite in the midst of a chaotic, hustle-bustle world.
The past few days, I’ve been really getting into the nitty-gritty of my book-writing. I spend several hours day and night glued to my desk, writing and writing, with the occasional bout of frustration when I feel blocked or uninspired.
I actually have two books in mind to write, but I’m thinking of fusing those ideas into one. It’s a long process, rife with trial and error and rewrite after rewrite. But I honestly love the creative process, and as frustrating as it is sometimes– alright, let’s be real, 90% of the time– I find great joy and fulfillment when everything just… works.
I am wholly committed to my craft, and I have, without a doubt, the determination, grit, and work-ethic to succeed in making my dream come to fruition. I tell myself every morning I wake up, “I WILL be a published author one day, and I WILL move people with my words.”
Going from blogger to book-writer is, admittedly, intimidating. Blog-style writing is much different than, say, creative writing or even narrative writing. With this personal blog, I kind of just spill out what comes into my head. The chronology is muddled, and most of my posts are directionless, isolated stream-of-consciousness ramblings with no clear destination. Were I to create a book simply by compiling all of the hundreds and hundreds of blog posts I’ve written in the past five years, that would make for an awful book– not to mention, a SUPER long read.
Honestly, the content is there, buried inside this very blog, “Teenage Struggles”. It’s like a puzzle with all the pieces in the box that just need to be put together; or a treasure chest filled with hidden gems in a sea of gold. I have the concepts, the ideas, the substance, which I believe is the most important thing. I just need to reorganize, refurbish and refine until something concrete manifests.
The most difficult part of writing a book is creating an outline and structure. The first question is, how do I want to present my book to the public? In journalistic form, similar to The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank? Or should I weave my blog entries into a narrative, which would tap into a whole new way of writing and thinking? The former way seems a lot easier. Yes, I’d need to organize and extricate the relevant blog posts, as well as significantly cut out extraneous information and condense my writing into a size people can actually chew (I have a tendency to drone on, and on, and on, especially when writing). The latter way, which involves creating a narrative with plot, characters, conflict, rising actions and the like, would require a lot more creativity and thinking on my end. It’s like, I know my story and I know my message, but how do I tie in everything together in a way that draws readers in? I have no idea, as I haven’t had any formal training in writing beyond the high school level. Man, I really should have taken at least one creative writing course at UCLA… But I know of many self-taught writers who have gone on to become very successful! I am of the mind that one does not necessarily need formal training to nurture their craft. In fact, in some ways, training art in a regimented environment can actually stifle, rather than inspire great work. But who am I to judge?
Back to what I was exploring earlier: the creative process. I’ve heard that many great writers actually reject the idea of an outline and simply start writing what comes to mind. From there, a story slowly unfolds, and the plot eventually reveals itself– or that is the idea. As this is my first time trying to write a book, it’s difficult to get myself into that headspace of feeling completely liberated and unconstrained with my work. The minute I sit down to write, my fingers hover over the keyboard, uncertain. As the minutes tick by and the blank screen glares back at me, the cursor arrow taunting me with each additional blink, my palms start to sweat and my mind panics. Where to start, where to start? I keep thinking about the readers, and wrack my brains to figure out what they would want to read. Well, how bout I shut down that part of my head and just think about the writing itself? What’s the premise behind my story? It starts with a message, a theme. And I already know mine: the challenges of being a young person in the context of modern-day, digitized, ultra-competitive American society. There are many topics and sub-themes within this book, including: the growing mental illness epidemic in the younger population; pressures of striving for excellence and perfection; facing much uncertainty, as well as navigating first-time independence and responsibility; the ongoing journey of developing one’s holistic identity; and so much more. I know what messages I want to impart to the reader– it’s now just a matter of how to convey it best.
The first step I’ve taken is chronologically laying out all the blogs I wrote in the past five years and compiling it into a several hundred page long Google Doc (we’re currently sitting at over 300 pages, and have yet to hit the halfway mark). From there, I’ve color-coded each blog post based on topic and relevance. Are they major, must-mention events that have happened in my life? Minor events that may serve as a plot enricher, though not vital to the development of the story? Perhaps they are reflective pieces (God knows how many of those I have) that signify an important lesson learned, or revelatory posts that divulge some of my backstory.
Once I’ve sorted out what purpose each blog post serves, I can begin the arduous process of picking and choosing which ones make the cut, and which ones are deleted into hyperspace. This process is challenging in itself, as it can be difficult to let some of your best writing go, if it doesn’t fit into the story or make logical sense. But such is unavoidable. When that editor tears apart your rough-draft, covering the once pristine, white parchment in blood-red ink, you’d better be ready to cut, cut, and cut some more.
Then comes what I think is the most difficult part: organizing and reordering these blog bits until they fit into a story that makes sense. Sometimes, gaps must be filled. I very well might have to create content that didn’t exist before to fill in time lapses, build on a sub-plot, or highlight an important character or event. A good story flows logically, is entertaining for the reader, and is, of course, well-written. Tempo I suppose can vary throughout the book, but too many fluctuations is disorienting.
Look at me here, talking like I’m already a book-writing expert. These are all just my opinions on what a good book entails. But writing is supposed to be creative, not rule-binding. Ugh. I just need to trust my instincts. I actually sought out some tips from a writing professor at UCLA, who said, “Write what you really feel and think. Don’t try to write a book. Write what you think. You can revise later.”
I have my work cut out for me, but I’m always up for a good challenge. I truly believe I can do this, that I can be a published author whose story rings loud and true to the world. This first book might be a hit, or it might be a complete bust. Probably the latter. But I came across an inspiring quotation today that discusses the idea of failure:
“In the end there’s only one real failure – and that’s the failure to be able to fail. Having tried is the true bravery.”