20 steps on how (not) to write a book

If anyone had asked me if I’d ever like writing when I was in the first grade, my answer would have been a firm, “No! Never!” Back then I had F’s in grammar and spelling, and six-year-old me was not about that life. Somewhere along the line something changed, clearly, because I became a grammar and spelling freak, and loved English class by the time I was twelve. Honestly, though, twelve-year-old me probably never would have imagined writing a book if it hadn’t been for my childhood best friend.

One day I was at her house, and she announced that she was going to write a book, so of course I had to join her. She had one of those flip pads while I used a normal composition notebook, and we got started. We would have sleepovers every weekend and stay up until midnight-something that was really late for us back then-reading what the other had written in the time we’d been away from each other. We thought we were the next J.K. Rowlings and that we had future best-sellers on our hands…little did we know.

I remember my favorite movie at the time of writing my first book was National Treasure with Nicholas Cage, and I had a crush on Riley Poole…So naturally I made the book about a treasure map and named one of the characters Riley and another one Abigail. I thought I was so clever titling it The Map to Nowhere, and I thought the plot was pure genius. It involved these three kids randomly finding a map (actually, it blows across the street and hits the main character in the face), and they “assume” that it’s a treasure map…Then of course there’s the bad guy who wants the treasure map and recruits the local bullies to go after these kids…They all go on this insane hunt around the country following this “treasure map”, and when they reach the end they find all these amazing inventions and cures to diseases that haven’t been discovered yet…

Sounds okay-ish, right? Wrong.

I recently found this old, purple notebook and re-read my old work…Needless to say I was rolling with laughter the entire time. Not only is it poorly written, but it’s full of loop-holes and awful, terrible ideas. If I could insert a cringing emoji right here, I would.

Below I am going to list a few of the more humorous, completely embarrassing problems with it.

  • First of all, these kids are supposed to be freshmen in high school…When I was eleven/twelve, I thought being fifteen/sixteen was ancient. Either I was just writing for the fun of it or I had a very vast misunderstanding of what real fifteen year olds are capable of, because I had these kids just packing up, saying, “Peace out, Mom, I’m going to go follow this random piece of paper that could possibly be a map and possibly die trying,” and just hopping in a car and going for it.
  • I tried to be smart with the map, but it made no sense. One chapter these kids are in Colorado and the next they’re in Florida…It made for a guessing game when I was reading it: which state will they be in next time? Tune in to find out.
  • For some reason I kept describing the main character, Holly, with having “black/brown” hair…Is that a thing? C’mon, little Lauren, pick one or the other and stick with it.
  • The rate at which the plot progresses is astronomically fast…It escalates about as quickly as the end of Hamlet. One second it’s the first day of school and Holly doesn’t know anyone, and the next she’s got two BFF’s and three enemies. Girl, you need to focus more on finding your third period and less on some random “map”.
  • “Lunch was fine. Abigail, Riley, and I all got laughed at and called nerds, but other than that I think it was fine. I swear, sometimes I want to bash those bullies in the head with a cinderblock. Someday I think I would.” Now…I’m haven’t studied psychology, but I’m almost certain that is some psychopathic stuff going on in Holly’s head. Is that considered my head since I wrote it? Uh….
  • I clearly didn’t understand how high school worked seeing as Riley is sixteen and still a freshman…
  • Somehow Riley’s car survives bullets, a head-on collision with a bus, and more catastrophic things that shouldn’t be possible to survive…Also, side-note, somehow everyone is unharmed after that bus crash…I clearly hadn’t started watching Grey’s Anatomy yet.
  • The amount of times I used “to” instead of “too” is unreal.
  • I start the book with it being the first year of freshman year and by page 20 it’s summer vacation…(see number 4)
  • For some reason Ken, the “villain” who is supposed to be 40, has teamed up with the three bullies from Holly’s school. One of them “hates Riley’s guts” because Riley shoved ice cream in his face, and now he wants revenge. So naturally Ken hands them all guns, and they’re immediately like, “Okay, yeah, sure, let’s go on a rampage across the country with this complete stranger so I can get revenge against those losers.” I also didn’t understand how bullies really work either.
  • At one point they encounter a “gang” whose names are Fang, Tooth, and Bite…Absolutely no plot development from these characters. It’s kind of just a random scene thrown in for my own enjoyment.
  • The way they make connections to “clues” is completely illogical, and at this point I can tell that I was just making stuff up to make the story longer. “Birds? What do they mean? Oh, let’s look it up on the internet…Oh, there’s a town called Birds, let’s go there, it must be the next stop.” Literally what?
  • Okay, wow, a random tornado just touched down…another thing Riley’s car survives that it shouldn’t.
  • Ken and the bullies get arrested and then break out of prison like two times. Being a Criminal Justice major now, I’m like “smh…”
  • My favorite part is that they keep driving to all these states, and then don’t do anything there, and then go to the next stop…Like, they clearly have the full list. Why not just skip to the end?
  • Also, another favorite part, when they do reach the end it’s in the same area as where they started…so that’s a waste of an entire summer apparently.
  • They finally get to “Birds”, the only name I could think of for the town, and it’s apparently some ghost town in the middle of nowhere (LOL see why the title makes sense now? Ha…haha.)
  • Well, the map did have a purpose I guess, because the kids discover this magical, heavenly word underneath the ground that has cures to diseases and new technology the world has yet to discover….
  • Annnnd they decide not to do anything with it. They’re like, “Oh, the world needs to discover it on their own, and make these things themselves.” People are dying and these kids are like, “Eh, it’ll be fine.” Then they just leave? Okay.
  • Then suddenly by the end the kids aren’t fugitives anymore and they’re back home, where their parents ask nothing about where they were. School starts again and the end.

I guess for being an eleven/twelve year old it was okay (that’s a bit of an overstatement), but I sure I hope I’ve improved since then…If not, my life’s about to get a lot more embarrassing and awkward than it already is.

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