I meet people all the time who want to write a book. I talked to a brilliant secretary who told me she had eight books saved on her computer that she’s never done anything with. I talked to a community activist who wrote 300 pages and gave it to a friend who told him it was worthless. So, he threw it away.
People have a fascination with books. Maybe we are all crazy. Or, maybe we are right. The lives we live are more fascinating than fiction. Our stories need to be told because we don’t exist in bubbles. Around us, the world is happening and we are in it, living, moving, and doing.
Here’s the thing people don’t realize: writing is a lot of work which actually starts with writing. If you are thinking this is the year you will write, I have a few suggestions to launch you to writing success.
1. Decide why you are writing
Who do you imagine will read your book? Is it a little boy with a flashlight under the cover staring at the pictures dreaming of the fantasy world you created? Maybe you want top executives who need to learn fathering tips and work-life balance.
2. Put that person in a chair
Draw a picture or put a wig on a mannequin. Whatever you have to do to remember the person you are writing for, put them in a chair and tell them the story as if they are sitting in front of you.
3. Write until you finish, then listen
Have you ever tried to tell someone a story and they constantly interrupted you? It’s ridiculously frustrating. Sometimes you give up on the story and walk away from the person. The same thing is happening in your brain. Your inner critic is saying, “Wait. What? Why did you write that? This is stupid. Find something else to do. No one is going to like this. Besides, you need to eat.” Ignore the interrupter until you are done. Seriously, this is the most difficult part of writing-silencing all the internal and external distractions. If you can beat it, you win.
4. If it’s too hard, hire a writing coach
For a price similar to the average personal trainer, you can pay someone to coach you through your writing. I did it for my first book. She gave me all the tools I needed and I finished my first book in half the time. To have a finished project was worth all my effort and my pennies. I established myself as an authority in my field and made a few coins in the process. The special part? I had no idea what I was doing. She used her wisdom and experience to guide me. My advice to you is to NOT call your favorite cousin or your best friend from college for support. When you share what you are doing too soon, you almost never finish it. Worse yet, the comrade may decide to “write a book with you.” Eww! I just eeked. If you don’t know a writing coach, call me.
5. Hire an editor
The first rule of successful writing is knowing that the first draft of anything you write is terrible. Get over it. I hear authors say they finished a book in two weeks and moved on to the next project. No way. Not for a newbie. You are going to need a professional edit. First, for fiction books, you have to have someone to make sure you aren’t moving your characters around and confusing the plot. If you are writing a non-fiction book, brevity is key. Also, drawing in your readers may be a skill that you need to develop. Only an editor can spot places where there are holes in your books.
6. Hire a proofreader
Our brains operate faster than our hands. You absolutely believe your hand wrote what your brain said? Even when you read over your own work, you will read it the way you meant to write it and not the way it’s written. Put at least 12 eyes and three red ink pens to your work.
7. Decide to publish
How are you going to put your book into the hands of the person you imagined in the first scenario? Do you only want one person to read your book, all your family and friends, or the entire world? The answer to these questions determines your publishing goals. If it’s only for your spouse and children, hit print and staple the book together. You only want a book for your family and maybe a few friends to read? Self-publish and print-on-demand. Then market like crazy until they all buy it. You want the entire world to get a glimpse of the story you wrote? Shop for an agent and a publishing contract. You will still need to market like a crazy person, but you’d also market to the people your agent and publisher know.
Yes, to be considered an actual author you need to be a person who writes books. More than one. You can’t be a one-book wonder. Repeat numbers 1-7 for as long as it takes to achieve the success you aspire as a writer.