"There's a good book in everyone!"
How many times have we heard that? As an author and ghost-writer I hear it more often than most and I normally smile and politely nod my head. I think most people see through me because I'm not a good liar but quite simply there isn't a good book in everyone despite what people think.
The Laptop, the PC. What a time to be a writer you think, and you'd be right. Spell checks, a thesaurus, grammar checks, red line warning, dictionary and even synonyms allowing you to select the exact words to fit your scene and of course research at your fingertips in the shape of the internet. It's true, there's never been a better time to write a book. Can you imagine how difficult it was for poor old Shakespeare? Not even a typewriter or a bottle of Tipp-ex to correct those mistakes.
It gets better. There are ghost-writers like me who you can work with, who will oversee your work in progress, and rewrite where necessary or simply talk to you via Skype. If you can manage to write 500 words on a particular incident and talk about it in detail the Ghost will generally turn those 500 words into a 5000 word chapter.
It's the ghost-writer's job to gently cajole, sweet talk and caress you on what will probably be one of the most satisfying journeys of your life. Occasionally a foot will be placed around the region of your buttocks in an attempt to extract yet more words or arrange yet another Skype call. It's not easy, I promise you. That's why less than a fraction of one percent of the population have ever written a book.
"Easy then," I hear you say, "what can possibly go wrong, what does go wrong? With all of this at my disposal how can I fail to achieve my lifetime ambition of writing my very own book?"
So we get to the crux of the matter. The story. Be it fiction or an autobiography you'll need the basis of a good story. Everyone has read a book with little or no plot. A dull, predictive narration and dialogue with no real incentive to move onto the next chapter as you lose the will to live. The writer waffles on about something or nothing because there's no real storyline in there. There's no excitement or sensationalism, no emotion, no tugging at the heartstrings, nothing that gives the reader the urge to turn the next page. So can you imagine how it feels when you start to write a book like that? It will never be completed.
I turned down a commission from a retired premier league footballer some years back because he only wanted to work under his conditions. He wanted to leave out the time he ran with a London gang, the fights and scrapes he got into and the ridiculous booze and drug binges he took part in at the time he was playing. There was to be no mention of the prostitutes or the affairs or the time he'd walked out on his family while his team were challenging for a European place.
"Sorry Scotty," he said, "just the football, the boys club, my rise to the top, my premier league debut, my first goal and medal blah blah blah.
"Sorry my friend," I said, "the book is not for me. I'd rather write an article on paint drying."
It was time to move on and search for the next potential bestseller.
And yet I sympathised with him. I understood, because his children and grandchildren, aunts and uncles would likely end up reading the book and quite naturally there were things he didn't want to include. And therein lies the problem with writing an autobiography. You have to be prepared to bare your soul, to exercise those demons but above all there must be a story in there and it has to be warts and all. If not, it won't be worth writing and almost certainly won't be worth reading.
It doesn't matter whether it's a fiction thriller or a biography the approach must be the same, the story must be good. It must hold the reader and make them want to turn the next page.
I think it was Groucho Marx who once said of a book, "Once I put it down I simply couldn't pick it up again."
Don't let your book fall into that category.
As your book takes shape, read it back again and again and put yourself in the readers shoes. Read backs and rewrites are the key to a good book. I've helped around twenty people write their books, sixteen made it to the publisher. To a person, each one said it was one of their greatest achievements and I know exactly where they are coming from.
If you have the time and the commitment, the desire and the patience and of course a lap top or a PC, give it a go. The two greatest words in the English language are 'The End.' If you make it that far I promise that you'll walk around on cloud nine for many months to come.