Saturday, July 24, 2010

You want to write a book? Then don't. . .

Almost every author has heard at least one or more customers say – I want to write a book. So if you truly want to write a book, here are some things you shouldn’t do.

1) Don’t put off until tomorrow what you need to do today. Every book has a time theme. Every book has a place in time, and a time when it will be more popular with the general public. Actually most publishers will tell you that you’re writing for the future (unless you’re doing historicals). What may be popular today, could be totally uninteresting two years from now. So, if you truly want to write a book, have a good idea for today—then start writing now.

2) Don’t be afraid to fail. It is that fear of failure that will keep you from finishing your story, and once it’s finished will keep you from sharing it with the world. Competition in the publishing world is vast. If you want a good idea of just how vast walk into any bookstore and look at the number of books on the shelves. Do an internet search and see how many books are being published a year. You may have the best story in the world, and still have trouble getting it out there. Still nothing ventured, nothing gained. You need two things to make it—a good story, and luck. Start with the good story, and luck will surely follow.

3) Don’t edit as you write. Write as the story is flowing. As the characters are coming to life. Write, write, write. Don’t stop to praise or chastise yourself. Just keep writing until you put that final period at the end.

4) Learn to visualize, and share those visualizations on paper. Make sure your readers can see it, feel it, taste it, hear it. Don’t say, “John was listening to Steppenwolf as he drove along main street.” Let us feel it through John’s body motions. See it through his eyes. Hear it through his ears.

5) Don’t forget you need a beginning, middle and end. And your beginning needs to be the reason a reader wants to read the middle and the end. I hear it all the time. I want to write a novel, but I just don’t know where to start. Scope out your theme, then your plot. Start with the beginning and know where you’re going. This may change as you’re writing, so don’t worry about totally following your outline. Write, write, write.

6) Don’t neglect research, but don’t overdo it and bore your reader to death. It may be necessary to tell your reader how an airplane engine failed, but it isn’t necessary to take them through every step of the investigation going through each part of the engine one by one.

7) Don’t ever be afraid to rewrite. One thing that you can expect—every time you sit down to write you will get better and better, so odds are by the time you finish your novel you’ll be a much better writer than when you started. So when you go back to Chapter One you may find yourself say, “Oh, my God, did I really write that?” Rewrites are a normal process, and will only make your work better.

8) Don’t ask everyone on the street to read your work seeking validation before you decide to send it out to a publisher or agent. The opinions of family, friends and co-workers will always be tempered by their desire to make you feel good about what you’ve written. If you have the opportunity to work with a critique group, go for it. Many times having them read your writing out loud will give you a really good idea of how it sounds to someone else. If you can’t find a critique group, take a tape recorder or digital recorder and read it yourself. One thing you’ll discover by doing this is words you left out, or things that may be unclear to your reader. It’s all in your head, but did you get it all down on paper?

9) Before you submit your work do your research. You don’t want to send a horror story to a romance agent, or vice versa. Search your market, know your market and stick within your genre’s market.

10) Last, but certainly not least—DON’T GIVE UP! Many authors will tell you that the only difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer is one kept going, and one gave up. Be realistic. You know if you’ve written a good story. You know if you would buy the book you just wrote. Check out the different forms of publishing. Major publishers require an agent. So if that’s the route you want to take then seek out an agent first, but make sure your manuscript is totally finished prior to soliciting anyone. Small press publishers will often work with the authors one on one. Self-publishing has now become acceptable, and is quite easy, but if you’re going to go that route you will need to hire a professional editor, and unless you’re familiar with print and book layouts, you may need someone to help with that. And don’t forget—a good book cover can make or break a book. If you’re familiar with design and can do your own, that’s wonderful, if not seek out the help of a professional design team.

I can’t emphasize enough that if you truly, truly, truly want to write a book, the only way you can do it is sit down and get started. If you wait until you have time, well you’ll continue to give yourself reasons to wait one more day. If you wait until you have enough money, you’ll continue to find things to spend your money on. So you need to ask yourself some serious questions. How important is writing this book to me? Why am I writing a book? What am I willing to sacrifice to see my work in print?

Once you have the answers to those questions if you still want to write a book, then quit reading this and go write, write, write.

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