The Number One Reason I Write Books

I write books. Why?

It is a reasonable question. I recently started participating in writer’s groups again and much about them has got me thinking.  A women well into her second novel told me of an acquaintance who has made it to the New York Times Best Seller list. Wow. Something to be in awe of, of course. My critique group-mate is also in awe of the woman’s process. To paraphrase, she read the top ten fiction books at the time, analyzed what they had in common, and wrote the perfect hybrid book, designed to succeed. And it did.

All I could think was “what a miserable way to write a book.” That brought me round to the essential question of this post. If I’m not writing to make a best seller list, what am I doing? I tried to be brutally, unflatteringly honest and I came up with seven reasons I choose to spend most of my free time on my laptop creating books. Some of them are pretty stupid.

This post is about the first answer that popped into my mind. It may not be my biggest reason, but it may be the one that keeps me writing novel after novel.

I have fun doing it. In fact, I have more fun making up a story than I have doing anything else. Yes, even that (although it is close.)

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t particularly enjoy rewriting, or proofreading, or formatting or all the other chores that take 80% of my writing time. I do enjoy research, but not that much. I hate marketing. I don’t do much outlining. But I love, absolutely love, making up stories and putting them down on paper.

I’ve told myself tales in my head for as long as I can remember, but committing the story to typed words moves it from an ephemeral daydream to a real thing. It can become more complex, be improved, and be reread and enjoyed. Seeing the words in front of me makes it better, and allows me to tell far longer tales.

The best part of it? It is finding out what happens. I always have an ending in mind, but I never know how my characters are going to get there, and they continually surprise me. They morph into better or worse or more complex people than I intended, they develop points of view I never considered, and they come up with ingenious solutions I swear I would never think of. (Or is that impossible?)

For me, that first draft is like watching a movie or reading a book except it is in a setting I picked, filled with characters I resonate with, and about things I like. Once I’ve got a story going, I can’t wait to get back to writing to figure out what will happen. Other forms of entertainment seem boring by comparison. I like my own stories better.

There you have it. Goofy but real. I write for my own entertainment.

Are there other reasons? There must be. I keep doing the other 80 per cent of the process over and over as well, no matter how much drudgery it is. Why? Perhaps the reason lies in the other six reasons that occurred to me. Those will be the subject of another post.

(Read more about why I write at My Eye-opening Second Reason for Writing , I write because it’s cheaper than therapy, Nothing cool about modest ambitions, I love to be loved and Remember My Name.)

Why why one?

After finding out that naming my first novel with a superscript was not such a hot idea, ( see “Hugs and Kisses“) I turned right around and named my second novel y1.  Why? Why “y”?

Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier

Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier

Well, the name was supposed to be x1 to be honest, and early on I had a vision of writing a six book series of novels called x0, x1, x2, x3, x4, and you guessed it x5. (Every one of those numbers are supposed to be a superscript.) You have to admit it does sort of have a pattern to it. Unfortunately the hero of my second book is a big X-men fan, with professor Xavier himself being the most favorite of all heroes. And I personally love Patrick Stewart. Suddenly having x in the title seemed just too derivative. Maybe even edging into plagiarism. The “x” had to go.

But by this point I had come to love the fact that any number at all raised to the power of one is itself.  This second novel was meant to be a counterpoint to all the oneness in the first novel.  I wanted to celebrate the individual here. I wanted to rejoice in the wonderful ways we are all different.  My protagonist was a young gay man learning to embrace his uniqueness.  Why not use “y”?  Zane, my savvy hero, does ask the question “why?” with great frequency.

It turns out that the letter y is not quite as common in book titles as the letter x.  There is Brian K. Vaughan’s series Y: The Last Man (oh yes, I’d forgotten about  the Y chromosome).  And author Marjorie Celona has recently published a book called “Y: a novel” that sounds fabulous and also plays on the the word “why”. There are a few religious books out there simply called “Why” and a host of other books that start with the word “Why” and end with everything you can imagine and a few things that you probably can’t.  (“Why Men Marry Bitches” and  “Why are People so Stupid” seem to me to both try to answer universal questions.  Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers surprised me a little but, hey, give the idea a chance. )

So my second novel became y raised to the power of one, and friends and family dubbed it “why one”.  The electronic world refused to show it as anything other than y1.  To me, it’s just called “y”.  As in, it’s just being itself.  As in, why did I get started on this to the power of thing and now what am I going to call that third novel.

Luckily, a fellow blogger solved that last dilemma for me with an offhand remark. Please visit my blog “Treasure Hunting for a Good Time” to learn more.