SO...YOU WANT TO WRITE A BOOK?
So, you want to write a book? And one of your New Year’s goals is to start your book this year. We’ve gathered some facts, tips, and tricks to help you reach your publishing goal.
Stat: 81% of people feel they have a book in them.
If 81% of people feel like they have a story to tell what stops them from getting started? There are a lot of myths around writing, let’s break down three of the most common misconceptions about writing.
I have to be good at grammar to write a book, and I suck at grammar. To get your book out of an agent's slush pile your final draft should be free of grammar mistakes, but you don’t have to have a Ph.D. in English to make that happen. You can partner with a friend (perhaps a high school English teacher who needs to read something other than college essays) or pay a copyeditor to polish your prose.
Writing is a lonely pursuit. The reality is very little creativity occurs in a vacuum. Thankfully the image of the lonely writer cloistered in a tower is being replaced by a “tribe and thrive” mentality. Look for a writing group, people you can exchange ideas with, who are going through the same process and who will support your writing long after your friends and family have stopped believing your book will ever get finished.
I’d love to write a book, but I just don’t have time! Three of my favorite writers did not quit their day jobs until long after they became successful writers. Steven Pressfield and James Patterson both worked in advertising and wrote in the mornings before their “real” jobs began. Liz Gilbert supplemented her income with "any job she could get including waitressing" because for her writing is art, not simply a way to make money.
“To yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Fact: The word count for a novel falls between 85,000 and 100,000 words. If you write 200 words a day, you can finish the first draft of your novel in a year. Many Facebook rants are 200 words long. The average adult spends 23 hours a week texting. If you cut your texting time down to say 18 hours a week, you could finish your novel in half a year.
Of the people who start writing a book, only 20% finish. Think about that. The number of people who say I’m writing a book, or someday, I’m going to write a book is massive, but the number who finish their book is quite small. The number of people who get their book published is smaller still. Roughly, 3% of finished books make it to a bookstore’s shelves or to a listing on Amazon. Why? Because finishing the first draft of a book is only the first step in the publishing process. Published authors go through 6-8 drafts and some do even more before they consider a book finished.
Writing what Anne Lamont affectionately coined your “shitty” first draft is only the beginning. Your SFD is the place from which your story grows, your characters evolve, and the setting, language, and descriptions become richer and more engaging for the reader. It is the place where creativity blossoms and the possibilities for your story expands if you are serious about becoming a writer. The difference between the first draft and the sixth, seventh, or eighth draft is the difference between a writer and a published author.
Still want to write a book in 2017? Here are some important first steps.
Tell people you are going to write a book. Speaking your intention out loud makes it real. Find one or two people you trust to hold you accountable. Ask them if you can report on your progress each week and set realistic goals for your writing.
Dedicate a time each day to writing. If you are a morning person, set your clock an hour early and get up and write. If evenings are better, turn off the TV and your phone at a set time each evening and write.
Find a writing group and begin sharing your work. Don’t worry if you aren’t a great writer at first, stick with it! Remember your first goal is to finish your first draft.
Read! You cannot write if you don’t read. Writers read. Published authors are voracious readers. Surround yourself with the type of books you want to write. Analyze the way the author created the characters, the story, uses timing, setting, dialogue. Make notes in the margins. Read for craft, not just pleasure.
Here are some of our favorite resources for beginning writers:
Big Magic By Elizabeth Gilbert | any book by Steven Pressfield
Learn what researchers have found thousands of best-sellers over the years have in common. An interesting read whether you write the next runaway blockbuster or are just curious as to why books such as Fifty Shades of Grey set world records and continue to top the charts.
The Best Seller Code By Jodie Archer & Matthew Jockers
The Story Grid Podcast-Listen Here
James Patterson’s Master Class in Writing
Sandra O'Donnell Ph.D. Editor | Author | Literary Agent
When Sandra isn’t editing and writing stories for Huntsville Life Magazine, she is reading queries and editing books as a partner in RO Literary, a boutique literary agency. Sandra has twenty-plus years of experience in publishing and plans to make writing, reading, and the world of books regular features for our readers.