Creating a Person

You and I have a lot more in common than you might think. We are both involved in the same act of magic. I’ve been ruminating lately about what it’s like to write fiction. I’ve spent most of my life not being a published writer, so this whole “author” thing is relatively recent. For me, it still has that new-car smell. I expect it always will. (I know, I know: chances are good that you, reading these words, are not a writer. Not to worry: we’ll get to the what-we-have-in-common part soon enough, I promise!) A bunch of the books I’ve done so far have been what you call non-fiction: the author informing you about a topic. Sort of like a lecture, hopefully an engaging one; a TED talk on paper. Flash Foresight, Take the Lead, Code to Joy, The Secret Language of Money, Total Focus, and so forth. (Of course, I’m typically the coauthor, that is, the one organizing the other guy’s expertise onto those pieces of paper.) For me, those books are like magazine articles: each one an organized thesis, just longer. But those aren’t what I’ve been ruminating about. What’s got me hooked is the stories. The books you make by creating a person. Last week I posted the first few lines of a someday piece of fiction. This, the business of creating a brand new person out of words, absolutely captivates me. Strictly speaking, I haven’t actually written what you’d properly call “fiction.” Really, though, I have. Because to me, memoirs (Funny Side Up, Real Leadership, The Red Circle, Among Heroes, I Should Be Dead) may be...

Ripples on the Pond

This morning I woke up with a new novel in my head. Okay, not the whole novel. Just the first paragraph. People say I shot my daddy because I was so scared of him. But that’s not how it was. You don’t shoot someone cause you’re afraid of him. You shoot him cause you decided to stop being afraid. What’s odd about this is I have no idea what novel this is. I look forward to finding out. Though not right away. As it happens, I have just started working on a brand new book — and it’s not this one. It’s the next book in the Go-Giver series, which I’m writing with Bob Burg, and which will come out about a year from now. It’s a fun story. I would tell you what happens, but we haven’t written it yet … so I don’t know. This is the trickiest part of writing a book, for me, and the hardest: the very beginning. This isn’t even like planing logs for your timber, or putting up the framing, or even digging a hole and pouring the foundation. This part is more like standing on the ground for a few days straight, and staring at the plot of dirt where the house is supposed to go, and wondering what it’s supposed to look like. Soon, I’ll be in the planing-the-logs part, pouring the foundation, putting up the two-by-tens and cutting beams to size, and then start actually framing in the story. But I can’t do any of that now — because I’m not sure yet just what it is we’re building here. Here’s how...