Writing a book is both the most exhilarating and frightening thing that you can do. I think the only thing that ever terrified me more than pressing the “Publish” button on my Kindle Page was when the nurses gave me my newborn son and I realized that I was now responsible for a human being.
I would like to tell new writers that my anxiety got easier each time I released a book, but that would be a lie. When you publish your work, you are asking people to critique your creativity and your imagination. It’s a feeling that never goes away, at least for me. I have learned over the years to focus on what I can control when I am writing. So, for you, new writers, here is a blue print of what I follow.
I know this might seem pretty basic, but let’s face it, all stories start with an idea.
If you have an idea, do not be afraid to explore it. You are going to have critics in every stage of this process, including the story development.
For instance, one of the novels I wrote focused on a young woman during the 1960’s who moved from New York to California to escape a bad marriage. When I mentioned the idea to a friend of mine, she quickly pointed out the fact that I was born in the late 70’s, so what could I possibly know about that time period? After I finished the book, she ate her words. She picked up the book and didn’t put it down until she was finished. To this date, it’s also my most successful book, and if I had listened to her, I would have never written it.
And while my book is nowhere near the success of J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, imagine what the world would be like if they listened to everyone who told them that their ideas were bad. I, for one, would not want to live in a Quidditch free world.
Bottom line – don’t let anyone talk you out of your idea. It’s up to you to make it work, not them and the reality is, you might have an idea that wouldn’t work in the long run. I have a whole shelf full of abandoned story lines, but I gave them up because they weren’t working in the long run, not because I didn’t try them.
How and when to write it
I’m going to tell you right now – don’t quit your day job to write the great American novel.
The most prolific writer in the world is James Patterson and he worked in advertising before he was published. If you ever take his Masterclass, he talks about how he devoted a certain part of the day to writing. He didn’t quit his day job to write full time until he had been published a few times.
As tempting as it is to quit and write full time, and I am totally with you, don’t do it. Only a few people made a massive success with their first books. Instead, carve out times of the day that work for your schedule.
If you are going to be a serious writer and publish your work, you have to practice. Remember human babies are not born walking. They have to practice on instinct until they are ready to take their first steps. But they practice until they get it right.
You have an idea and now you need to flush it out. Novels have different suggested word-count based off the genre being written. My thesis adviser once told me to keep writing until I said everything I needed to say. So, get your writing instrument of choice, find a time and a place and get started. And don’t worry, if you get writer’s block. It will happen, and it’s part of the process. Don’t let it stop you from continuing. You will work through it.
Who’s going to review and edit? All writers have typos. Even Shakespeare
When you have finished your novel, the next step begins – editing and review. My next tip for all writers, new and experienced, don’t make the rookie mistake of being the only editor and/or reviewer of your work. All writers need to find someone who is going to give them an honest review of their work. That’s not saying that writers should not do a read-through before sending it.
I am going to admit this now – I’m the queen of typos. Ask my husband. He recently gave me a five out of ten when I showed him a document I was writing for work. He’s a teacher and lives to use his red pen. He wasn’t saying anything new to me. A friend of mine pointed that out to me when I shared a social media post without rereading it first.
I say this not to make fun of myself because unless you are my husband, the human grammarchecker, we all make typos. I can type almost a hundred words a minute, which is significantly slower than the way my mind works. When you’re in a hurry mistakes happen, especially when you are trying to get thoughts out before you forget them.
The key is to go back and fix them before they go to publish.
My suggestion is to read your work out aloud and catch what you can. It also doesn’t hurt to use a checker like Grammarly or Hemingway app to do a final run through before giving it to someone. If you can afford a professional editor, then fantastic.
If you’re on a budget, find someone you trust to be honest. Essentially you want that person to make you cry by the time they’re finished with their review. It is better for you to find errors during the pre-publication stage than after a book has been released.
I’ve been there when I released a book with multiple typos and settings. One thing I do in my non-writing life is teach courses on customer service. So, I know an interesting fact – statistically you need to provide five positive experiences to combat one negative one.
The Clean-up and construction
Book Cover Design
In case you are wondering, yes, editing and constructing a book is almost as much work as writing one. Personally, for me, it’s not as much fun. What is fun is working on a cover for your book. Good cover designers will have you fill out a form to get a vision on what you are visualizing for a book cover.
Remember this, your book cover is what buyers will see first and is equally as important as the words. The cover needs to be eye-catching and encompass your story in a single frame. If you have a background in design, then fantastic, you have an advantage over most of us.
This is an area where I’m going to encourage people to budget for it unless you have a friend who is a designer. Do not use preloaded covers that you can create on Kindle or other services like Nook. Everyone has access to the same art and copying bestsellers is nothing new. Remember the Crossfires Series? The covers were similar to the 50 Shades series that came out around the same time. I know this might seem like common sense, but find a designer that can give you something fresh. I am working with Original Book Cover Designs for my book covers and I’m happy with the results.
The next thing to do after editing and getting your book cover in order, is deciding how to convert your work to a MOBI or ePub file. Again, this is an area that writers should budget for. You can hire someone to convert the file or use an online converter. Having had problems with online converters, I would not recommend doing this as the files can come out warped.
Find a software that works for you.
There are several options that writers use such as Scrivener, which is on the lower end of the price scale or Vellum which is significantly more expensive. There are several options like Freepencil that offer free versions of their product to do file conversions. If you are serious about being a full-time author, eventually, invest in a software that works for you. As you publish more, you will need something that runs flawlessly when converting files.
How to release it
This part is actually the easier physical part of the writing process, if you are planning to go the self-publishing route. Your manuscript is cleaned up, your cover is ready, and you have a flawless file. You have decided what platform to release the manuscript. Now you just have to get over that last mental hurdle and hit the release button. It’s scary because you are putting your baby, your work, your time out there for the public to review. Remember it’s like a Band-Aid, just rip it off.
Above all else, enjoy the journey. You’re one of the few people who have the courage to write and publish a book. Remember this when someone tells you to find something else to write.