A few days ago I completed my second book (pauses for applause) and while I'm sitting here trying not to die from anticipation waiting for my proof to get here, I thought I would pass on some wisdom. One reason I am very excited about publishing, despite seeing my name in print, is that I've found that I have become an inspiration to others to do the same. With this in mind, I would like to sketch out some tips to help anyone out there wishing to publish but maybe you were too afraid or didn't know where to start.
This is for those of you writing books for yourself that have been gathering dust for the last fifteen years until your significant other asks you the question, "Are you ever going to do anything with that?"
"Yes, murtherfurker," you can say, "I am!"
Here are the diamonds, or steps if you will. I chose twelve for the snappy post title.
1. Have an idea.
Even if you think it sucks, which it just might. You can't get started without an idea, so have one and work it through. You can always toss it if it doesn't speak to you in the end, but you never know until you try. Some of my best characters/ideas started out minor and developed into story lines I am very proud of. Just go with it.
2. Get motivated.
Probably the hardest, but you have to set time aside for yourself even if you only write a few lines. Having a finished product really helped motivate me to write the next book, so if you have something you're really proud of, draw on that feeling.
3. Find your happy place.
Don't be gross. Besides, if you haven't found that by now, writing isn't your biggest issue. Anyway, my recommendation is a creative tower of awesomeness, but if you're like me and you don't have one, find a nice spot at home dedicated to writing where there are no kids, spouses, dogs, pirates, or whatever to get in your way of creativity. Which brings me to step four.
4. Eliminate distractions.
As a wife and mother of two small children, I know how difficult this step is, but trust me you too can find a quiet moment to think! Tell hubby/wifey to watch the kiddos or go to a coffee shop by yourself where you don't have to listen to whining or look at the floor you need to vaccuum. All of life's messes will still be there after writing time is over.
5. Outline your idea.
Before I've written one word, I know my main characters, their personalities, the main plot, the beginning, middle, and end of my story. Then I just fill in the rest. You can't start a journey without knowing the destination, right? That's not to say the unpredictable doesn't happen, but it's nice to have a map. I like to know certain plot points to keep the story flowing. Remember, though, that some of the best ideas are unpredictable. Don't worry about straying off course a little. Like art, there are no mistakes in writing. Well, maybe a few. Twilight comes to mind, but that's what editors are for.
Just go for it! Don't worry about editing and write until your fingers bleed.
7. Keep writing.
Life happens, but don't forget to come back to your story. If you're on a roll, don't stop. This may mean you're up until midnight, but trust me it's worth the lack of sleep. I would rather be tired than lose out on a good idea.
8. Don't stop reading.
Annie Proulx, the author of Brokeback Mountain, said, "Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write." For me, I found this to be very true. I tried setting everything aside, including reading, on order to concentrate on writing, but I found myself blocked. Once I picked up a book again, the words flowed on paper. Get inspired.
9. Finish, then edit.
Margaret Atwood wrote, "You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it." I love this philosophy because it allows you to write without restraint. Don't worry about grammer, word choice, or even elaboration on parts of your story already written. Just write. Get your ideas on paper, then go back after you've written 'the end' and edit and add.
I use CreateSpace.com because it is free and user friendly. Again, you can't reach people unless you get your words out there. Don't worry about sending manuscripts to publishers or spending hundreds of dollars to get your book published. Self-publishing is easy and you reach readers fast. If you are successful enough, the traditional publishers will find you. Be your biggest advocate.
11. Proof. Get outside opinions.
After you self-publish, before you make your book available to the public, order a proof. Check for errors and find places needing work or where you wish to elaborate details. Lend this copy to friends for them to give feedback. Your book is your baby, and you may not see the errors like an outside source. Ask for honest opinions and constructive criticism; you want your book to be the best it can be. Hopefully, you can remain friends afterwards.
12. Don't be afraid to fail.
Afraid of failure? Afraid people will not respond to your writing like you'd hope? It's called taking a chance. Maybe you wont be well received as you expected, but it's better than not knowing and living with regret. Who knows, maybe you'll be the next Hemingway or Tolkien. What if J.K. Rowling never decided to publish the stories she told her children? What if Fitzgerald thought The Great Gatsby was a terrible idea? If these authors scrapped their works and never took a chance, we would be deprived without them. And they would live forever thinking they were failures. You may fail, but at least you took a chance and jumped out of the airplane. If nothing else, you can enjoy the ride.
I hope these steps inspire you to take a chance on writing and maybe even publishing. There is an abundance of wonderful authors out there, and we are living in such an amazing time where their work is available to us readers. We are out there, and we want to support your efforts, read your book, and share your journey.
Now, open a bottle of wine, and get on it!