The Equation of Writing a Book

Let’s approach writing a book as if it were a chemical formula. Fun, right?

Let’s see… what do we start off with (reactants)?

  • You
  • Writing Instruments
  • Inspiration (think of this as your very own inciting incident)
  • An idea

And what do we end up with (products)?

  • Book! (the exclamation point denotes awesomeness and excitement)
  • Sense of fulfillment and success
  • Potential for revision (Prev)
  • Potential for publishing (Ppub)

How do we get there (conditions)?

  • Time
  • Dedication
  • Brain power
  • Coffee

BUT WAIT! I hear you scientifically inclined people shout. YOU and the Writing Instruments still exist at the end of the equation. Doesn’t that make them catalysts?

YES. Catalysts exist at the beginning and end of a chemical reaction. They don’t belong at the beginning like ingredients! They belong in the whole shebang!

  • Reactants = ONLY present at the BEGINNING of a reaction
  • Products = ONLY present at the END of a reaction
  • Catalysts = Present at the end AND the beginning of a reaction.
  • Conditions = The how of the reaction.

Come along, science and English nerds! Let’s take a clearer view at this whole formula as a chemical equation:


Isn’t that strange? You, the writer and author, are the catalyst of your own story. You’re not the perpetrator, the start or the end. You are merely the catalyst.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Without YOU, the entire reaction is kaput, a dud.

I think it’s reassuring to think that our stories and books and ideas exist somehow on a separate plane from us. They need us to be successful, and we need them in order to produce something we are proud of.

How about you? Do you have any special conditions under which you write? Candlelight, typewriter, half-glass of pinot noir?


5 thoughts on “The Equation of Writing a Book

  1. Pingback: You Are Your Own Catalyst | words — and other things
  2. Enjoyed your post – Of the folks aspiring to become an author, you appear to be one of those rare ones that should be – Check “Publishing to Enterprise – Beam me up Scotty”

  3. I don’t understand science or chemistry at all, but wow… was this a great post! This has such an awesome message and very valid points. 🙂

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