How to learn to write books

    Six months ago , an article was published here that outraged me. In the comments, I promised that I would write my version. On the other hand, I didn’t want to do this, as I would get legitimate questions: “And who exactly are you?” I do not like to subscribe to Internet posts, I spoiled the opinion of many writers after reading their LiveJournal blog. You read the book, you think: “Cool dude!”, You read the blog, the opinion changes: “What the nerd?”. This difference arises due to the fact that the book is post-processed, edited many times.
    This article has been rewritten several times, in this version, I believe that it has turned out to be the most balanced. The article is quite suitable for habrahabr, since many famous works came out from people of a technical orientation. And some of you will want to write your story.

    The article is more like a collection of useful tips than a complete guide to action.

    Two types of readers

    You have written a short story and want to show it to the public. It is very important to know about two types of readers. (There are many of these types, but relatively speaking - two). When reading their comments, you should understand what type you got.

    First type

    The moral of the story is important to them. What did the author want to say? What does he lead to? This type of readers draws attention to the style, which is sometimes more important to them than the story itself.

    Second type

    If the story is interesting, they can forgive the style. I recall one cult author. The style is terrible, difficult to read, a lot of fans, a couple of films were shot from his books. They don’t really need the moral of the story, the main character defeated the bad guy, that's enough. The main thing is how he did it?

    Where to begin?

    You need to start with short stories. They discipline, learn to write complete stories. Heal graphomania.
    The story can be started from the middle of events, along with explaining to the reader the details of what is happening.

    And what is graphomania?

    Writing an aimless story without logical isolation. I came across a story from a novice writer, he had a half-page description of how a fly flies around the room, then how he poured himself coffee, how he cooked food, went outside, looked at nature, described his feelings. So he wrote 10 pages. Sometimes these graphomaniacs have a talent for beautiful style. The first type of readers are bought for this. Description of feelings, taken to heart, it seems to them that they read something related, recalling their tragedies. But as we see, the story has not been described, it has no plot, no denouement. Personally, my opinion is chewing gum. Chewed and spat out. It was possible not to chew.

    What are you writing for?

    Two types of writers.
    Some write for fame. They think that right now their story will be bought by publishers and there will be a lot of money and fame. Most often they write graphomanian history. The motivation is strong, but there is no thought in the plot. Such graphomaniacs flood publishers with their “works”, leaving no chance for those who can actually write. As a result, publishers sometimes do not even read the sent text, they feed you breakfast.

    The second type of writers live with stories in their head. They have some kind of brain that fantasizes, invents, lives its own life. Such writers also have bright unusual dreams, they cannot be associated with the events that they experienced during the day. In these dreams, they can fall into unusual worlds, escape through dungeons from terrible monsters. But unlike other people, in this dream they will find an explanation of where these creatures came from, they will see a logical denouement of flight. Usually, if people have nightmares, then they are not detailed, meaningless and caused by an anxious state, they dream of how they escape from hordes of rats. The writer, on the other hand, dreams about how he runs away from the orcs, applies some spells against them, there is a plot where you have to run to some room and turn some lever.
    In general, if you take an interest in the question regarding sleep with your friends, you can discover a lot of surprising things for yourself. It turns out that there are people who dream only black and white dreams, where there are outlines of something incomprehensible. If you tell such a colorful dream or a story that you came up with for a book, he will look at you like a madman. Will recommend you to be treated. I am warning you in a friendly way :)
    You can ask them:
    - But how do writers write fiction?
    “For the sake of money, they take it and write it,” they answer.
    In response, they may also ask you: “What are you writing for? You already have no publisher. ”
    So be careful, there really are a lot of such acquaintances. They can kill all your creative impulse. From such people you can hear: “And how can you write books if you have not studied as a writer?”
    By the way, Stephen King studied for a writer, but his university professor said that Stephen already knew how to write before entering. And in the classroom he knew the theory better than others, his essays were already real works.
    These friends always need some kind of goal: “Why are you reading a scientific article? You are not a scientist. ” They have to come up with moronic excuses, and they fully accept them. Sometimes, the dumbest excuses are accepted by them as the best explanation.


    There is a misconception that the plot needs a unique story. Take any book from the great classics and try to analyze the uniqueness of the story. Anna Karenina, meeting with the train, while the train was the latest technology. This was a marketing ploy. The whole novel describes how a woman came to such a life. With the same success, you can change the train to a supercomputer and write a novel, as the main character decided to commit suicide after communicating with the first rudiment of artificial intelligence. The reader is interested in the story itself, which should not be banal, interesting.
    Uniqueness can be imitated. Add little-known historical facts. Description of things that are already out of use. For example, how your cd worked, how it was noisy, how the disk was shimmering with rainbow colors. After 30 years, it will be interesting to read, and after 100, they will already refer to your book as a historical fact. For example, one teenager will argue with another, were the sidyuki noisy or working quietly?

    One more word about uniqueness

    If you still think that you need uniqueness, then just write a book on modern history. A simple description of daily news events, without any conclusions and conclusions. Pure facts with links. Five years of such scribble - this will already be considered a textbook on modern history, which will be recommended for study. But if you draw conclusions and conclusions, then they may seem controversial, and it is because of them that they will not recommend the book.


    The reader wishes to be deceived. So an interesting story is born. First, you acquaint the reader with the plan of action, the reader agrees: “Good, logical,” and then violate the whole plan, put the protagonist (hereinafter) almost in a hopeless situation and the reader is intrigued, how can he get out?
    The narrative should not be commonplace. For example, your gg is going to rob a bank, you first dream with the reader what you can buy for the loot. Then gg. is going to rob, but in the bank is what? You can write that gg. the police were waiting, but this is trite, the reader himself guessed that the bank could not be robbed so easily. Therefore, we transfer events to the night, and instead of protection, other robbers appear who entered the bank from the other side. Somewhere in the middle of the bank they meet and try to share a safe that has not yet been opened. The situation already does not look corny and the reader is interested in how it will end.
    Your main character should not be a fool, because the reader subconsciously identifies with him. Dummies and cretins should be surrounding. In the story of the bank, these are competing burglars. Let's say the negotiations were successful and the safe is opened jointly. After the autopsy, it turns out that one of the unfortunate robbers has a strange form of branch, when he sees a suitable hole size, he tries to stick the intimate part of the body there. And so he gets stuck, a piquant and unexpected situation arises, with many jokes. You can’t leave him, he saw the faces of all. And you can’t kill him. And why? Because it turns out that competing burglars are brothers. Here you can drag their mother, who leads the entire operation, she is somewhere outside the bank and scolds them on the radio, simultaneously recalling something personal. You already wonder how is your gg get out? The most logical thing is for him to simply take his share and leave. But something must stop him. Everything should go according to plan.

    Stretch the book

    Greek rode across the river, sees Greek in the river crayfish. This tongue twister can be stretched over 10 pages.
    We describe the Greek We
    describe the river We
    describe the cancer We
    describe the road on which the Greek traveled We
    describe the wagon in which the Greek traveled.
    Grek rode not alone, add dialogs.
    This is best done at the end, when the story is already written. You can write the whole story in the form of dialogs, and at the end already begin to dilute with descriptions.
    However, one must be very careful. If you have all 10 pages of the main characters traveling in a cart and chatting about something, then you will lose the reader, he will become bored. It is desirable that on each page there is a change of events.


    Some writers make a huge mistake, which disappears in their later work. The mistake is that their heroes constantly eat something. The task is to keep the reader in front of the book, so that he read it excitedly. Someone is trying, therefore, even lose weight in order to forget about food. If you are talking about food, then the reader recalls how hungry he is, throws a book, goes to eat. The question is, will he come back? This also applies to any stool, far from the best way to stretch a book.


    Robert Heinlein has a moment where a minor girl offers her master to deprive her of innocence as a fee for a shelter. The protagonist is indignant at such a proposal, expels her. It follows a formidable tirade that he is not its master, but she is a free man and so on.
    I recall another case. A famous Russian writer, at the beginning of his career, on the contrary describes sex with a minor. When the writer started a blog on LJ, readers recalled this moment to him.
    So be careful when describing such moments. Of course, this is an easy way to keep the reader, but it has its own price.


    Be careful with some numbers. Megabytes, terabytes, petaflops, all this will become obsolete over time. Readers get nostalgia, they re-read your books after 15 years. Kilobytes - that sounds ridiculous.
    You can get out of the situation like this:
    - How much information did you upload to my brain?
    - I tell you, what a nerd? Sit do not rock the boat, - she muttered through her teeth without releasing a cigarette with foolishness.
    Please note that nonsense is not accidentally indicated. This explains a few points. Why doesn't the doctor know how much information she uploaded? Since he smokes nonsense, then most likely he is not a doctor and the case is clearly happening in some kind of underground room. The following is a description of a dirty underground room.

    First person

    Many begin to write in the first person. There is a problem with switching to other heroes. There are several non-obvious points:
    * You can write in the first person, then suddenly switch and write in the third person. The reader will understand and accept this.
    * You can write in a third person and switch to first person.
    * You can always write in the third person
    * You can write in the first person immediately on behalf of all the main characters. But one must have enormous experience in order to do this skillfully.

    Switch between events

    At first, the problem arises of linking logically several events in different parts of the universe. I recommend reading Kurt Vonnegut, in his first paragraph the events take place in New York, in the second in California, and in the third you are already on Mars. After it, you can easily learn to switch events.

    What programs to use?

    There are specialized programs for writing books. I heard about these. They are designed like Wikipedia, where you can roll back to the previous version. Make notes. Some argue that there are even programs that will write a book for you. Maybe there is, but how do you reconcile your style with software? Over time, you realize that using such a program is utter nonsense. This is said by people who have never used it before, but they like the idea. “The computer is writing a book for you!” Good headline for a yellow newspaper.
    The most important program that you should use is one that can check grammar and spelling on the fly. I personally use MS Office XP for Windows. Unfortunately for Mac, the Russian module is incredibly bad. Therefore, you have to write through a virtual machine.

    Read other people's books

    Reaching this point, I was tired. Thoughts are lost, I want to postpone everything. How to make yourself keep writing? Firstly, you should know that you can write a very large book if you write at least 10 lines a day. And for a writer it is all the more important to learn this. You can’t write 100 pages in one day?
    Secondly, in case of loss of strength and interest, read other people's books. This will give you an impetus, and you do not read other people's books as a reader, but as a writer. You immediately see where the author is stretching the book, you feel when he is tired. Admire other people's maneuvers, write beautiful phrases. You are constantly learning something.

    Post-processing or how good is the book?

    Give reading to friends. Someone out of politeness will never tell you the truth. Therefore, you should be interested in:
    * Where are they stuck, at what point?
    * What confused them?

    Usually, after writing, I put the book aside for a month or more. Then you read your own work, like a stranger. If I’m interested in reading, then I recognize the writings as fit for reading to friends.
    I write for pleasure, so I have nowhere to rush. Sometimes I rewrite several pages. I remove the chapters or swap them, change something at the beginning, to link it with the new chapter. Correct stylistic errors. Be sure to reread it several times before showing it to someone.
    Work on styling also means removing duplicate words and minimizing complex subordinate sentences. After 15 edits, then you can’t believe that you wrote this text. Especially, if you return to re-reading after a month, you notice so many mistakes!


    Many novice writers rely heavily on proofreaders. Allegedly, you can piss off with errors, and the dangers will fix the path. With so many errors, the corrector actually becomes a co-author and they already claim copyright. You also come across proofreaders who are so outraged by your style that they redo phrases until they are recognizable. So do not rely on proofreaders. A good corrector is one that places commas (or vice versa removes) and corrects rare grammatical errors.

    Recommended reading:

    Stephen King "How to Write Books." Read, as amended, what the American wrote for the English text, where the passive voice is not the same as Russian.
    James Frey “How to write a brilliant novel”
    James Frey “How to write a brilliant detective”
    Recent books are good because they look at the history of the issue, you can find out a lot of useful things, as it was before and how it is now.


    The written fantasy becomes more real for the writer himself. And after 8 hours of continuous writing of the text, there is a feeling that he was just finished watching a new Hollywood action movie. For the sake of such a bonus, it’s worth doing this.

    PS About all noticed errors, please inform me in PM. I’m constantly correcting the text, but at the moment I don’t see an error, the eye has “blurred”.
    Update: thanks for the messages, fixed the errors.

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