All over America, there are men and women who have included “write a book” on their proverbial bucket list. Whether it’s a science fiction novel or a family memoir or a gripping suspenseful thriller, wanting to write a book is a noble goal. You want to get your ideas out on paper, you want the world to hear your voice, and you probably want to make bucket loads of cash, too. We’ve all heard the stories of people like Elizabeth Gilbert, a writer for years to some critical but little public acclaim, until her bestseller Eat, Pray, Love hit the shelves. Could you be the same overnight success? Or will you end up more like James Frey and his vastly over exaggerated Million Little Pieces?
You may know that I’ve recently embarked on my own journey of publishing a book, and I’ve learned an incredible amount through the process. I hope some of my insight can help any of you who have the dreams of someday writing a book, just like I did.
- Start on something other than the book! Every movie that depicts a writer has a scene where said writer sits in front of her typewriter or computer, staring blankly at the empty page. Writing the first words, sentences, and chapters of your book are the most difficult part of the process. So I recommend starting, but on something other than your book. If you’re so inclined, consider writing an outline for the book. Go through the book chapter by chapter and give a one paragraph description of what will be covered or will occur in that chapter. This kind of outline can easily start your process without the pressure of writing a first line like Dickens.
- Make a commitment. If you really want to write a book, at some point you’re going to have to stop talking about it and do it. The best way to make a commitment is to agree with someone else to get it done. Consider hiring a consultant to help you through the book process or pinpointing an editor who will keep you accountable. Even just a friend who helps you set a writing schedule and keeps you accountable to it will suffice.
- Quality counts! Whether you’re publishing traditionally or self-publishing, the quality of your book depends largely on editing. The last thing you want to do is publish a book, be so proud of it, and find it riddled with typos. Your first investment should be in a good editor.
- Ask for help. A successful book doesn’t just depend on its content. It requires marketing, public relations, graphic design, and more. Enlist contacts and friends in the process to be your team of experts in necessary areas.
More than anything, the best thing you can do for your process of writing a book is to start something. If you’re going the way of traditional publishing, you’ll need a literary agent. If you’ve decided to self-publish, a book consultant can be the right first step. Whatever it is, take it. It’s scary, it’s a long process, but in the end, I think it’s worth it.