***Update! This post inspired me to write a sequel: “What I Didn’t Know About Writing A Second Book”
This weekend, a friend of mine announced that she is going to GO FOR IT and FINALLY WRITE HER DAMN BOOK. To that I say,
She also asked if I had any blog posts to help her figure out the early days of the process…mostly, what I wished I’d known before I started mine. To begin, here’s a very unhelpful but very honest post about writing that book that’s kicking around inside your brain and heart.
I also wrote a piece that was a bit more helpful, but it’s in need of revision. With encouragement from my friend and sister-writer, I’ve included some things I wish I’d known before writing a book. I don’t know that any of this is helpful, but like the other two posts, it’s definitely honest.
1.) There will never be enough time to write.
Unless you’re independently wealthy, there are bills to pay, cats to feed, and lots of other reasons why writing should wait. You’ll never just up and have the time. You must create it. I learned that I write better at 5:00 in the morning than 7:00 at night. I had to train myself to get up early, but now I crave it. I wish I’d known that and started sooner instead of waiting for time that never came.
2.) Make writing a priority
You have to work. You have to eat and exercise. Your closest friends and parters need your time, too. But so does your writing. There will always be a party, dinner date, or other obligation that wants your writing time. Say no. I love my Tarot clients, friends, fellow Urban Ritualists, but it took me until way late in the writing game to say no to some of them and block off time for the book.
3.) Don’t pitch or submit the proposal before you and it are ready
I jumped the gun with my first book and pitched it well before it was ready to submit. The publishers wanted to see it which led to a rushed-job on my proposal. Granted, I still got the contract, but I would have saved myself enormous stress had I just waited until it was ready. With my new book, I’m diligently working on a proposal, but won’t send it until it’s ready–which I’ll know by hiring a professional copyeditor/professional colleague who knows my work, the work I’m writing on, and book work enough to tell me if the proposal is ready for submission.
4.) Writer’s block WILL happen and it’s not a reflection on your talent.
Sometimes we’re tired. Sometimes the words just won’t come. There are only two things to do–a.) get up and scrub the bathroom or go to the grocery store or b.) write through it even if what you write is “Fuck you, book! You suck crusty gym-ballz.” I actually took out 20 pages of me cursing my book out for being blocked. I really did. If I had known the block is just part of the process, I wouldn’t have let it freak me out so much.
5.) If you have an idea for a book, start writing it. Know that someone else out there has the same idea.
This has happened to me with several books…one of which even that the same title as mine! Our minds are not all that separated. If you are thinking of writing something, someone else is thinking of writing it, too. Don’t put it off until next year because you’re sure to see it at Powell’s or the Strand and you’ll hate yourself and the author and everyone around you–and they don’t deserve that.
6.) Don’t let #5 scare you into a rushed manuscript.
Because I’d waited and lost so many ideas, I wrote my first few attempts at my manuscript in a panic. This led to bad work and ultimately, lost time for re-writes. Know there is a clock out there for getting your idea out, but racing against invisible competitors is only going to make things worse. I keep this mentality with writing my new book: “If someone else gets this one, I have others in mind.”
7.) Love your material enough that failure won’t scare you.
One of my biggest fears with “Brigid” was that I was wasting my time. What would become of me if the years of research and writing were wasted if no one would publish it? Should I consider writing something else, something that would definitely sell? I couldn’t guarantee any of it, so I just kept going with it because I loved spending the time with the material.
8.) Build your readership as you write
Publishers buy books, but they are equally (if not more) interested in your readers. I heard one editor say, “We can ignore your typos if you can bring along your 5,000 Twitter followers.” I had to scramble to come up with some sort of readership before submitting. I’m currently in the process of building more readers so this next book will be even more enticing.
9.) Stop “being a writer” and start writing.
I spent a lot of time in the underground arts scene, trying to be a writer. One day, I realized I was spending far more time talking about writing (and drinking beer with people talking about writing) than I was actually writing. Two hours at my computer a day versus six hours out with the other writers is what made me a writer. It’s a practice like playing an instrument or developing muscle through fitness. If you want to be good and successful at it, you must practice every day. I think if I figured that out sooner, my first book would have come out years ago.
10.) Find your voice, but don’t cling to it.
One editor looked at my book and said my writing was uneven. Part of it sounded wise, the other sounded immature. I realized I was clinging to the way I used to write and my voice had shifted. By trying to cling to what I thought was authentic me, I was stifling the real me. If you write enough, your voice will be present and you won’t have to dig to make it “sound like you.” I really, really wish someone had told me that, before.
Top ten tips! That’s all I’ve got. I don’t know if these are right and there are certainly other writers out there who are stronger and more successful than I. Seek them out and get their thoughts, too. Your journey to writing will ultimately be your own and you’ll have better advice for yourself than I ever will.