This is the first in a new series of blog posts looking at all the skills you need to become a self-published writer. Make sure you subscribe to or follow the blog to get all the latest updates, tips and articles.
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It’s said that everyone has a book in them. And that’s probably true. More than one, possibly. We dream, we imagine, we say “what if?” and play out lots of scenarios in our heads.
All you’ve got to do is write them down. Easy.
Yeah, right! As anyone who has done it will tell you, writing is not that simple!
We’re not going to talk today about plotting, characterisation, creating suspense or anything else related to the craft of writing a great novel. Firstly, there’s so much to talk about I’d save it for another blog series. Secondly, there are many different opinions on that stuff already out there.
Instead, we’ll look at the skill of grit and determination. How do you, as a self-publishing author, keep on at it and get your story written?
It’s amazing how easily “writer’s block” disappears when you have a deadline to reach. Self-imposed deadlines are easy to get out of. Really, what many of us need is someone breathing down our necks, finding out how far we’ve come and what exactly have we been doing all day.
Yes, research is important, but it soon takes away all your writing time! It’s all too easy to just read one more page …
I’m not a big fan of daily word counts as these can sometimes lead to writing for writing’s sake, but it is important that you do write daily if possible. Getting a friend, family member or some friendly stranger to check in with you regularly would be a start. Joining a writing group, be it physical (when we can) or online, is a great way to find mutual support but also, crucially, accountability.
It might take you months, it might take you a year or it might take years of this to get your story finished. It’s going to depend on your own circumstances: your day job, your partner, pets, children.
But, no matter how long it takes, you’re going to have to keep going!
So where do you find this grit and determination from? Well, let’s first talk about belief.
You have to believe that you are going to write that book. You have to believe that you can do it. And that can be incredibly hard if you don’t surround yourself with the right people.
But most likely, it’s not others’ voices that are the naysayers, it’s your own internal monologue that puts you down. For me, the feeling that I’m not good enough is enough to stop whatever I’m doing, be that writing, editing or even just playing my piano.
Do you remember that theory about the “10,000 hours”? It’s said that if you practice something for that length of time you’ll become an expert at it.
Yeah, sure, after 10,000 hours spent writing, you’d hope that writing would be pretty darn good! But you don’t have to reach 10,000 hours for it to be good. There’s not a clock that, at 9,999 hours, 59 minutes says: “no, this is not good enough” but a minute later says “okay, publish!”
It’s all too easy for any doubts we have to creep in and infiltrate our brains. Once that doubt starts, the determination goes. And then it’s just another file sitting on your computer, another unfinished story. Another opportunity lost.
Don’t lose that opportunity.
Write daily, when you can.
Seek support from others.
Be held accountable.
But most of all, enjoy your writing.
For most people, at the start at least, writing will be a hobby. Then, if you’re lucky, it’ll be nice to get a little bit of extra income. For some, it will become the sole income stream. But however you view your writing, you have to enjoy it.
If writing is becoming a chore, a slog, and you just want it to end, think about your readers. Will they be having the same emotions as they read it? If so, it might be time to take your story in another direction. Think about those what if? questions.
This might also be the time to get another pair of eyes on your manuscript. Developmental editing (what’s that? Click here.) could be one way for a professional editor to point out some of the possibilities for your manuscript. Maybe an editor will see how a rejig of your chapters could change the pace of the narrative or spot a point where you could increase the tension.
Blank pages are hard. Watching the cursor blink, when you have nothing but an idea in your head and no way of knowing how it will turn out, is scary. Committing your words to paper (or screen) is daunting. But know, what you are doing is special.
Since the dawn of civilisation, humans have told stories. You are one of those fabulous people, that once sat around the fire and told tales of the next valley; of what lies beyond.
Know that you can do it.
Next up in this series of self-publishing skills, we’ll look at editing. Many people find trying to edit as they go along prevents them from writing effectively, so it’s often a good idea to avoid this. Get the damn thing written first. Maybe you’ll write it again, from a totally new point of view, or with a completely different ending (and beginning, and middle).
Editing is hard. So give it the attention it needs. For now, just write. Right!
Edited and proofread by Jackie Bates
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