Everyone has a book in them. But how many of us bring that thought knocking in our minds into reality?
For many years I wrote. Diligently. I wrote maybe 4 or 5 fiction novels. But then came the hard part. Trying to get published. Back in the early 2000’s self-publishing (or vanity publishing) was a dirty word. Being self-published meant that you were not a serious author and you were not good enough to be picked up by an agent or publisher. And that meant many books, some of which were most likely great, staying on the shelves of our minds.
I tried the traditional route. And I was rejected many times. The genre I was writing for was overrun with books which had all started to sound the same. I know because I read a lot of them through my part time job at a well known bookseller. I gave up writing because what I wanted, which was to see my book on a shelf in store, wasn’t going to happen. I became frustrated with the blocks to a path that I wanted to follow.
Roll on 20 plus years of introspection and self development. Writing a book is the one thing I’ve always wanted to do but I had already done that, with little success. I wanted my book to be published and available for people to read.
A coaching programme led me back to writing. But this time it was non fiction and I felt differently about it. I wanted to help others. I wanted to share everything I had learned over the past 20 years whilst dealing with depression and anxiety. I knew there were so many people out there who were struggling with the same things I had. That life was not satisfying. That life felt difficult. That there was little or no purpose. I had managed to overcome most of my own fears and problems and I wanted to help others with their own issues.
I knew that writing a book was not a small task. But in fact it was going to take commitment and time. I knew if I really wanted to do this I had to take this seriously and set my self up for success.
I had bought Gabby Bernsteins Writing Masterclass in 2021 but hadn’t looked at it. But being in a coaching programme that had me looking at writing again pushed me to finally logging in and starting the course. It helped me to think of a name for my book. It helped me to structure what I wanted to write about. It showed me how to set myself up for success and to make sure that this book was written.
I’d only ever written fiction so my first port of call was to find out how many words I needed to write for my book. I gave myself 6 months to write a first draft. I calculated the number of days I had in those 6 months subtracting weekends and periods of time that I knew I wouldn’t write (such as Christmas, birthdays and other special occasions).
Once I knew the number of days, I worked out the minimum number of words I needed to write each day. I first decided to write at the end of my work day but this soon turned out to be a problem. Long days at work and late finishes meant there were days I didn’t write. My mental energy had been zapped by my 9-5 job. I knew that in order to succeed, I had to pivot. I sacrificed sleep to get up earlier and write before I started my work day. This turned out much better for me. The words flowed and most days I wrote more than I had committed to. I managed to finish my first draft one month ahead of schedule. This also gave me space to set my manuscript aside for one month before a first edit, something I would recommend to anyone undertaking this type of project.
That breathing space also gave me time to find an editor. I had tried to put a book proposal together and I knew I needed help and had to reach out to people who were better placed to do the work. I wanted to do this properly even if I chose to go down the self publishing route. A different set of eyes looking at your work can pick up glaring errors or holes. I was lucky to find an editor who also provided developmental input. My editor made the process easy. We had weekly meetings via Zoom and she kept me to strict deadlines to make sure we achieved what we set out to do. Even if you choose to self-publish, I would encourage you to get a editor, someone who is familiar with the editing process and who can guide you and your book to be the best they can be.
Even when I had an editor, I still had a decision to make regarding whether to go the self publishing route or to try and get an agent. There are pros and cons of both. Joshua Fields Millburn discusses these in his 4-week course ‘How To Write Better.’
I decided to go the self publishing route because everything I read and heard from other authors was that it is a quicker route to publication than getting an agent and having the book pitched to different publishers. There were parts of my book that were relevant to where we are as a society now and risking having it published in a couple of years time could mean missing the right readers. Just with the editing, I tried to self publish by myself through Amazon KDP, but it soon became clear that there is a reason people have set up companies to help! They know what to do and it’s their zone of genius!
The Book Shelf helped me. And their advice and input was exactly what I needed. I couldn’t have had my journey go as smoothly without their help.
So what should you think about when you want to start writing?
Are you ready to enjoy the mundane and monotony of writing. It’s not always pretty and you will sometimes get blocked and lack inspiration. I found writing at the same time each day helped me to stay focused and create the habit I needed.
Taking the ‘How To Write Better’ course has also changed how I write. This blog post was originally written on my phone. Something I’d never even considered before! I’d always thought I needed to sit at my desk and get my words out. But inspiration will strike anytime and anywhere. Sometimes it’s on a train while you are going from A to B. Sometimes it’s sitting in the hairdresser’s chair.
Something else that has helped me is knowing that my first draft is not my final draft. In my early days of blogging I used to write a piece and be finished with it. Now I let myself get the words out, leave my piece to sit for a few days, sometimes even a couple of weeks, and then go back to it. It makes it easier for me to edit and see where I’m using too many words!
But the biggest piece of advice I would give you is some advice I got from Joshua’s course. Sit in the chair. This could mean literally, as you sit down at your desk to write or type. Or it could mean sitting somewhere else and writing down your thoughts in a notebook or typing on a laptop or typing on your phone. Sit in the chair - and write.
It took me many years to come back to my passion for writing, but it’s something that I now do in various ways. Journalling; writing content for my blog or social media; emails for my mailing list; and of course, my books.