Sunday, January 5, 2014

Shut-up and write!

With a new year upon us a renewed spirit of accomplishment should take the helm of your writing expedition. You hemmed and hawed through 2013, finding every excuse in the world for why you couldn’t finish writing that first book, and look at the result–a great story that no one will ever read.
So where did you go wrong? I’m sure you started off in the right direction, making notes about the plot, jotting down chapter outlines, etc. I’m just as sure the excitement of starting the book was like the feeling of driving to the airport the morning you are to start your holiday. That’s the way it should feel. So what happened?
There are many answers to that question, but I’m going to focus on one that I’ve encountered many times in conversations with first time writers. I’ll tell you what happened, they were so excited over the prospect of writing a book they told anyone who would listen all about it.  They went into nauseating detail about every aspect of the book, with each encounter unknowingly planting the seeds that would eventually chip away at their very desire to finish said book. As the weeks went by, and they settled into writing, they became distracted by the, “. . . have you finished the book yet?” questions from all those people they mentioned the book to. Each time having to reply, “no, not yet,” a thin shred of self-confidence peeled away in the process. Over time some even started to resent the book. And why not? If it weren’t for that damn book they wouldn’t be subjected to appearing such a failure in public. They saw every understanding smile in response as, “new books are published every day, so why aren't you done yet?” I’m sure nothing could be farther from the truth, but subconsciously it still had an affect.
So, what to do? Keep in mind writing is a solitary function. It’s you, an idea and a keyboard. I would suggest, as I did with those I’ve spoken with afflicted by the above scenario, in order to keep the distractions to a minimum refrain from telling anybody what you’re doing. There will come a time when you need to broadcast your intentions, but save yourself the grief and aggravation and wait until you have something really exciting to say.
With that in mind, you start off alone wading into the murky waters of writing a book. You won’t be alone for long. As the story develops, you are suddenly surrounded with a new group of people. These are the people you’ve created to bring your story to life. Without distraction you start getting to know and understand this new group of friends. Some are thoughtful, some humorous, some evil (I write mysteries so there is always a villain I need to keep a watchful eye on), but none ever judgmental. They appear at your beckon call, ready to take on whatever challenges that days’ writing conjures up. This group, though constantly aware of every sentence you peck away at, have an inexhaustible amount of patience. They are the best motivators you have.
Take your time and write the book. Then, when it’s finished, or at least the first draft, you can shout it from the rafters. It’s no longer just an idea you mention over dinner, or one of many New Year’s resolution that may or may not take hold over the next few months, it is a complete manuscript. It’s something to be proud of.
I’d like to say you’re done here, but in reality that was just the easy part. On the positive side, you have proven you can see something this difficult all the way through, so getting through the next steps–edits and beta readers–may not be so tough after all. While all this is going on you should be working on the marketing end of things. Start with a website promoting the future release of the book. Then onto blog entries about your struggles/accomplishments through the process. Anything to get the buzz going will work. Finally getting to notes and the outline for the second book. Second book? You’re going to need something to keep your mind off all those queries you’re sending out.
The query process is a subject all in itself. There is enough free information out there to help you craft a query letter that will help you fulfill your dream of becoming a published author. The key is to continue to believe in the book you wrote and not give up. First time authors have so many options now that one will certainly be right for you.

Image courtesy of Wiangya/

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