Writing is an art. Many people think they can do it, but only a few, in fact, can. In this day and age of self-publishing boom, everyone can write and publish a book. The question is, are you writing a good book? “What’s a good book,” you’ll ask. I’m responding, “One that readers want to read.” Because let me tell you something. Writing is addictive. Once you start is hard to stop, and you’ll want your first book to be as successful as it can be. The success of your next books will literally depend on that. I’m telling you this from personal experience.
I’m guessing that if you are thinking of writing a book you already have a lot of ideas bubbling in your head, so I’ll skip telling you to think about what you want to write.
But here are a few tips so listen up:
Join groups of writers. Before you even write the title of your book, it’s a good idea to spend some time researching and joining writers groups. There are a lot of them out there, everywhere, and they come in handy not only when you need advice but when you need support. Once you’ve joined, start interacting, ask questions, ask for opinions, ask for advice, unravel your own ideas and see what others think of them, etc. If you haven’t already, join social media – Facebook, Tweeter, LinkedIn, Google, Goodreads, Pinterest, etc.
Pick your audience. Are you writing a book for your family and friends to read? Are you writing it because you want to see how own thoughts look on paper? Or are you writing it hoping to become the next Steven King?
Read. When you read a lot of books, you get the feel of how other authors do it –what makes a good story a good story.
You’re ready to write. So you have your idea, your group of supporters, and your audience, now you’re ready to write the next best seller. The first thing to know is that a good story is shown, not told by the author. Here is an example: Tony woke up from his drunkenness, on a cold concrete floor. (I told you the story.) Stiffness from the cold concrete floor drove Tony out of his drunkenness. (I showed you the story.) See the difference? I’ll not tell you how to sit at your desk or even what is the right way to pour your words onto the paper because everyone is different. Some writers hand-write their ideas first. While I have a notebook and pen handy in case some bright ideas pop into my head when I’m away from my computer, and believe me it happens a lot, I’m kind of a neat freak and I like to type mine. It’s easy to correct your mistakes, add and delete words, or rewrite certain scenes. As for planning your plot, it’s a good idea to have it outlined, but sometimes characters take over the story, and they will take you onto a complete different path, and that is completely acceptable; allow them, this is part of the joy of writing. Remember that your story is not required to do anything you tell it to do in the outline. Research things, places, and people you write about.
What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you, so just sit down, or stand up, and write. My only advice here is come up with a killer first page. That is what hooks your reader. If you can’t grab the reader’s attention on that first page, he/she will not read your book. Oh, and try to keep it neat. Trust me, it will come in handy when you start editing.
Take a break. Yes, that is what I said. Once you’ve finished writing your book, it’s a good idea to take a couple of days break, or however long you need, and do something you enjoy doing. Allow your brain to regroup and bring fresh eyes to your work for your first round of editing.
Read your manuscript. You are refreshed, you feel better, you feel confident, and now you’re ready to read your manuscript from beginning to the end. Then you read your first chapter and think, “Was I drunk when I wrote this?”
Don’t fret. It’s not the end of the world. Not entirely. Not yet. Before you train your eyes back to the stack of papers in front of you, remember this:
Everything and everyone in your book must have a reason to be there. If there is no reason, kill it. You’re just bogging down your reader by keeping it.
Every good book should possess all human senses – see, hear, feel, touch.
What is that mean? It means that when you read a scene, you’re right there with the character. You see, feel, hear and sense everything that the character sees, feels, hears, and senses. Take a deep breath and as you read think of it as if you’re watching a movie. You want your book to feel real, your dialog to sound natural. Put yourself in the scene. If you feel the emotions your characters feel, your reader will too. Remember that your words are written in Microsoft Word, not in stone. You can make any changes you want. You can rewrite an entire scene if you don’t have a good feeling about it. You will need to do at least four rounds of editing.
Let your family or a good friend read your work. Though family and friends are not very reliable to give you an honest opinion, in the most part they make good ego-uplifting associates.
Professional editing. It’s a good idea to work with a professional editor, but keep in mind that not everyone who calls themselves professionals, are in fact professionals. Do your research, ask for references, and for the love of God, when your manuscript comes back from editing, don’t just take your editor’s word for it. Read it again, and ensure that you’re happy with the outcome. After all, you’re the one paying for the edits, and YOUR name will be printed on the cover of that book. If you can’t afford an editor, there are other ways to get your manuscript edited at zero cost to you.
Grammarly is a good editing tool but is not free.
Pro Writing Aid is free and pretty good. This is the link to them. http://prowritingaid.com/en/Analysis/Editor
Get as many people as you can, especially in your writing and critique groups to proof-read your story and give you feedback. Because let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter how good you think your grammar is, when you read your own work, you read what you think you wrote, not what you actually wrote. The more people read it, the more chances you’ll have to catch annoying mistakes. This is very important because readers will mark your book down if there are a lot of grammar mistakes. Well, there are a lot of grammar Nazis out there that will mark your book down even for a couple of mistakes but that topic is for another post.
Okay, so your book is back from editing, you’re happy with it, off it goes to publishing. By now you’ve probably decided if you’re going the traditional way –send your book to a publicist –or self-publish it yourself. Either way, I wish you much luck and keep your eyes open for my next article on writing and publishing.