As an editor, writer and ghostwriter, I tend to attract people who dream of authoring books on a daily basis. When we get to discussing the reasons why their dream is not yet reality, there are certain explanations that keep recurring.
If you’re someone who wants to write a book but has never gotten round to it, decide here and now that 2017 will be the year you produce your manuscript. The time to start preparing is now, and here are a few things you should keep in mind:
1. Read a lot. Chances are, if you want to be a writer, then you read a lot yourself. Still, I have actually met people who want to write – novels for that matter – but don’t like reading. If you’re not already an avid reader, start reading now. Books, magazines, blogs, newspapers… just read. If you don’t read, it will show in the quality of your writing, so make time for it.
2. Get familiar with your idea. Every book is based on a premise, so what’s the basic idea you’re writing about? Try creating a synopsis. The very process of writing this overview will force you to really think about your manuscript from beginning to end and give you much-needed clarity.
3. Create an outline. Your book will never get written if you don’t start, and the place to start, after your synopsis, is an outline. When I’m ghostwriting a book or simply providing editorial guidance, I always recommend starting with an outline. It’s such a valuable tool. Once you have the basic idea of what your book is going to be about, list your chapters, then put down what’s going to be in each chapter, with a timeline. Not only will this help you get started, it will also help your writing flow, and keep you from getting your plot all twisted or contradicting yourself as you progress with your story.
If you don’t read, it will show in the quality of your writing.
4. Make a commitment. If you will ever write a book, you must find a way to squeeze writing time into your daily schedule. What most aspiring writers lack is not time but commitment, yet you will often hear them say there’s no time. They have time to get their meals daily, they don’t show up at the office with unkempt hair saying there was no time to go to the salon, and some even have 60 minutes for a movie or 90 minutes for a football match. You. Have. Time. Find it and dedicate it to your writing.
5. Have a goal. Know the word count you’re aiming for and plan your writing accordingly so that you can reach your goal. For instance, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) requires participants to write 50,000-word novels in one month, and anyone who has ever participated will tell you that having that clear goal helps.
6. Write every day. This is such a simple yet important discipline for a writer. Even if all you can write is a page, or a paragraph, don’t let a day pass without you working on your book. The truth is that, while it may seem appealing to wait for a time in the future where you will have a long stretch of time to “really work on your book”, that time may never come. Look at your schedule now and decide what time you will write every day, and how many words you will commit to writing daily. It doesn’t matter if it’s just 50 words, or 100. What matters is that you are writing. John Grisham began his writing career as a lawyer. He got up early every morning and wrote one page. ‘A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.’ – Anthony Trollope
7. Deal with your writer’s block fast. It happens to nearly every writer. Sometimes you simply don’t know what to write or how to proceed. The key is to not remain in this situation for too long. The longer you stay without writing, the harder it becomes to resume. One good way to overcome writer’s block is to read. As a writer, few things will challenge you more than the words of other writers. It’s a good way to get your juices flowing. Another way is to get out there, interact with people, and live life. Writing is about life’s experiences, so seek them. Don’t wallow in writer’s block for too long.
‘A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.’ – Anthony Trollope
8. Be open to feedback and get it early. When you’ve written a bit you should let someone look at it. You don’t want to write all the way to the end only to find out about crap that you could have fixed in the beginning before it spread into the whole book like gangrene. Make sure you have someone to be your sounding board as you proceed. You’ll save yourself a lot of stress.
9. Get an editor. No manuscript is perfect. If you think you can’t afford an editor, be reminded that you can’t afford to publish a book full of typos, errors and blunders. A good editor is never out to make you feel bad about your writing, but to polish it and make it the best it can be. #YouNeedAnEditor
10. Find a publisher. You can start looking for one even before you complete your manuscript. Research self-publishing and find out whether or not it’s for you. Get to know each publisher’s rates and how they work. How much will it cost to do everything yourself? If they will publish you and bear the cost, what are the terms? Talk with people who have published their books, and compare as many publishers as possible before deciding who to work with.
Want to know more about publishing your first book? Read 9 Lessons I Learnt About Publishing Your First Book from Connect Nigeria’s writer’s conference last year.