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6 Things I’ve Learned as a New Writer

At the beginning….

 

I haven’t written in large volume, consistently, for a very long time. I’m just starting out, actually. I’m writing my very first novel. But like with some new adventures, there are things you learn right off the bat; things that become glaringly obvious in the first few steps. Don’t stick your arm out of the shark cage. Fasten your seat belt on a roller coaster. (Seriously). Make sure the car is in reverse if you want to go in reverse. (Don’t ask.)

I’ve turned a new chapter in my life, and I’m pursuing a writing career. Whether I make it or not is still up in the hair, but with a lot of hard work, I think I’ll get there. I’ve only been at this for a short while, but I’ve already learned some key things.

 

Take it with a grain of salt, as this is just my personal experience, but here’s 6 things I’ve learned as a new writer:

 

  1. Outlines change. – Even if you don’t outline, things change. Even if your plot is ironed out in your head, it’ll probably still change. That cool plot you thought you had? It will totally shift and change and become practically unrecognizable toward the end. New ideas will sprout as you write, and it’s okay to change stuff. Keep a record, and/or write down your ideas. Play mix and match. Find out what you like and what you don’t. Everything can be changed. (Well, most things can be changed… the important stuff kinda has to stick.) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed chapter 7. If you’ve spoken with me in the last week or so, you know how much I hate chapter 7.
  2. Listen to your characters – They, at some point, WILL speak to you. It may sound a little creepy, but they will – you’re basically playing god with people you’ve created. You know their inner most thoughts and motivations, and you hold their destiny in your hands. Listen to them! If someone or something seems off, re-write it. Get in their heads, and theirs shoes, and let them write themselves. Do some character exploration if you have to.
  3. There will be days you’ll hate writing – I call these ‘burn out days’. It’s okay to take a break once in a while, but be careful that a break doesn’t become infinite. Clear your mind if you’re getting frustrated, but always come back and write some more. Some days that’ll be really hard. Some days it won’t. Keep going, no matter what.
  4. If you’re doing this as a potential career, treat it as such – Set a schedule; you have no idea how much they’ve helped me. Go ‘to work’ at no later than x time, and schedule breaks and a lunch. Decide when you want to be done for the day. If you don’t get a whole day off very often, give yourself ‘split shifts’. Basically, carve out a set time to write, and stick to it. If you don’t ‘show up for work’, your book will ‘fire you’. For me, I usually get up sometime between when my fiance leaves for work (6:30am) and when it’s too late for me and I feel guilty about sleeping in (9am). It’s not a concrete wake up time, but I ‘get into work’ no later than 9:30 no matter what. I write until noon, and then break for lunch. Then I write until 4pm when my fiance comes home. Sometimes I write into the evening, but I like to spend time with my loved ones, so I don’t feel quite that guilty. Just do whatever works best for you, but again, keep going, no matter what.
  5. Having a writing buddy is INVALUABLE – This is just my opinion, and it may not work for everyone, but I absolutely ADORE having someone to pick at ideas with. My best friend Maegan is also writing her book, and we spend more time than we probably should on Skype, tossing ideas back and forth, and helping each other when we get stuck. My fiance Kevin is also a valuable ally as I tackle the monster named ‘Novelzilla’. He’s my muse. Find your muse! Find someone who’s creative brain inspires you. Check out the author’s section of Kindleboards. Maybe a professor? If you’re stuck on something pitch some ideas to them as a reader; see how they react. One or two extra brains are nifty.
  6. Never, EVER even THINK about giving up – At some point, and I can attest to this, you’ll have the ‘big moment of self doubt’. You might have more than one. You’re entire process might be riddled with them. You might even go straight to publishing with one. These moments of doubt are basically just moments when you beat yourself up. You think your writing isn’t good enough, or your idea is stupid and no one would ever want to read it. You think, well, if I suck so bad, maybe I should just quit. DON’T. DON’T. NO. STOP IT. DON’T MAKE ME SMACK YOU. If you love writing, even on the worst days, and it’s all you want to do, persue that bitch! Write like there’s no tomorrow! Write like you mean it! Write because it’s inside you and you want to get it out! Don’t stop writing, if it’s something you genuinely enjoy. You have the next big thing in there somewhere. You won’t know until you try.

 

This might change in the future. I’m still at the beginning of things. I’m still new! This is just what I’ve taken away from my experiences so far. This is whats working for me. I’m not claiming to have all the answers and suddenly be some writing guru, but this is just what I know so far.

 

Take with a grain of salt. Hopefully, that grain of salt is on a margarita glass sitting on a coaster next to your laptop as you clickity clack away on your book. That’s where mine was, anyway.

Repost – Ten Tips for People Thinking about Writing a Book

I found this post, and I liked it so much, I decided to repost it. I don’t own anything, and the original page can be found here. Original article posted by Guy Kawasaki.

If you checked the list of what people want to do before they die, you’d see that many want to write a book. This is a good thing because the more people who write books, the more enlightened the world will become. It just so happens that technology has made the process of writing a book easier than ever. Still “easier than ever” is not the same thing as “easy.” I wrote a book called APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur to help you write your book. Here are my top ten tips.

1. Write for the right reasons. Writing is an art form, and a book is an end in itself—don’t write a book solely because it is a means to an end. The good reasons to write a book are the desire to enrich people’s lives, to further a cause, to achieve an intellectual milestone, and to get something off your chest. The bad reasons are to make a lot of money or to increase your consulting or speaking business.

2. Use Microsoft Word. It’s true that Word is a bazooka, and you may only need a fly swatter, but everyone in the industry uses a bazooka. You can save a few bucks and avoid the Microsoft hegemony when you’re in the writing stage, but when lots of people (editors, reviewers, designers and online resellers) need to use your file, you may regret using another word processor. Two fine points: first, save your Word documents in the .doc, not .docx, format so that people using old versions of Word can open your file. Second, format your entire book using Word’s “styles.” This will make layout and conversion much easier down the road.

3. Write every day. I’ve written twelve books. If you had asked me if I thought I would write twelve books back when I started, I would have told you that you were hallucinating. How did I do it? Writing a little bit every day. Don’t ask yourself, “How will I ever get to 60,000 words?” because it will make the task seem insurmountable. Just write something every day—even if it’s only a paragraph. One day you’ll wake up, and your book will be done. If you wait for that perfect time when the kids are asleep and making straight As, you may never start (much less finish).

4. Build your marketing platform. The hardest part of making a book successful may be marketing (not writing) it. Unless you have a great publicist with a powerful publisher, you are the “vice president of marketing” of your book. It takes a year to build a marketing platform, so get started at the same time as you’re writing. If you wait until your book is done, it’s too late. My recommendation is to spend two hours a day writing and one hour a day on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

5. Start with a Kindle ebook. First, Amazon’s Kindle service might amount to 80-90 percent of your sales. If your book is successful on Amazon, it will succeed elsewhere. If it’s not successful on Amazon, it probably won’t succeed elsewhere. Second, start with the ebook format. If it takes off, then you may want to go to print. But there’s little reason to go to print immediately unless you are writing, for example, a photography book.

6. Tap the crowd. The crowd is a beautiful thing. It’s full of people who know more than you do and are willing to give of themselves freely and unselfishly. They will provide content ideas, editing, and word-of-mouth marketing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many people will contribute to your efforts for the intrinsic joy of helping a writer. The crowd will help you finish your book, which is another reason to start building your platform immediately.

7. Hire a copyeditor. If you’re going to self-publish your book, the worst way to try to save money is by not hiring a professional copyeditor. Copyediting is a specialized and refined skill—to use a medical analogy, only a fool would self-diagnose and self-medicate in an emergency. The goal is to produce a book that is as good as, or better, than a book from a large traditional publisher. You cannot do this without a professional copyeditor.

8. Hire a cover designer. The second worst way to try to save money is by designing your book cover. Like copyediting, design is a special skill that takes years of training and practice. People are going to glance at a postage-stamp size image of your cover next to ten others on Amazon. You have less than a second to convince them to click on your book to learn more and read reviews. They won’t click unless your cover is effective.

9. Test your ebook. In a perfect world, what you upload from Word and what online resellers deliver as an ebook would match. Every page, image, line break, and font would be right. This isn’t a perfect world. The bugs and glitches that can appear because of the conversion process from manuscript to ebook will shock, depress, and enrage you. You need to test your ebook on every platform that people will read it on: computer, tablet, reader, Macintosh, Windows, Android, and iOS. Don’t assume that any conversion process is 100% accurate.

10. Never give up. There are qualities that every published author shares: first, they wanted to give it all up. Second, they didn’t give it all up. Writing a book is one of the most difficult tasks in life. Fortunately, or maybe because it’s so difficult, it is also one of the most rewarding tasks in life. When you feel like you can’t type another word, can’t re-read another draft, and can’t face another rejection, remember that every author goes through these phases. It’s only the successful ones who never give up.

Guy Kawasaki is the co-author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur–How to Publish a Book with Shawn Welch. The book’s thesis is powerful yet simple: filling the roles of author, publisher, and entrepreneur yields results that rival traditional publishing.

 

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