5 Tips for the Writers Just Starting Out
Hello everyone and welcome to my very first blog post! If you are reading this, I am astounded and honoured and would like to say a very big thank you!
Firstly, I would just like to mention that I am no expert. I am, probably just like you, taking the very first baby steps towards becoming an author. I am still learning, still growing and still trying to figure out how the hell I turn the stories in my head into books that people will love. It seems like a task fit for only those illustrious beings known as 'authors'.
Not to worry, they were once just like us, and if they can do it, we can too!
Before I begin, I would like to point out that everyone is different, everyone is unique. You might have different things that help you follow your dream and that's okay. It's all about finding the process that works for you. But the most important thing is to just get started! So I have compiled a little list of the things that have helped me get on my way and I hope that maybe they can help you too!
Written by Anna Taylor @bookish.being
The 5 Tips I've Learnt For Writers Who Are Just Starting Out
1. Find your 'Why'
Why do you want to be an author? What would becoming an author mean to you?
Of course, you may have a few different answers, accomplishment, money, literary fame, a passion project. It doesn't matter which one it is. All that matters is that you recognise and acknowledge that part of your soul that needs you to put your story out in the world. All that matters is that your 'Why' is strong enough to carry you through the months, if not years of late nights, stress, self doubt, discomfort and hard work. Writing a book is going to be hard, and that's before you even get to the other side of hitting that publish button. Is your 'Why' strong enough to keep you going when you want to give up? I believe that everyone's 'Why' is enough, they just have to realise it.
My 'Why' is to free myself from the rat race that most people seem destined to be shackled to for the entirety of their lives. My mental health and happiness is incredibly important to me and so the thought of earning money at the detriment of my health and well-being seems crazy and if not a little depressing to me. Earning a good living whilst doing something I enjoy and doing it on my own terms? Bliss.
As a child my only passion, my only hobby, was reading. This continued on through my teenage years and into adulthood. I was ashamed of this for years, other people seemed to play sports or do activities whilst my greatest skill was delving into other worlds for hours at a time. But of course reading doesn't make you money, and there's no way little old me could ever write a book.
But why not? I began to ask myself, why can't you write a story? You make up stories all the time in your head, why not just write them down instead? And why do you have to be ashamed that you see the world in a magical way?
And so I found my 'Why'. That small burning ember deep in my soul that had been fed for years on heroes and heroines, witches and wizards, love stories, and stories of fantastical adventures. That ember that I fanned carefully into a steady flame. A flame that keeps me going as I strive to achieve what most think is near impossible.
2. Do your research.
All learning is good learning. A university counsellor once said this to me and it has stuck with me ever since. Don't ever consider learning or experiences as wasted time, you have something to gain from everything you see, read or hear.
Think about what you want to achieve with your book, and research accordingly. Do you want to write a best seller fantasy novel that has fans across the globe? Perhaps you want to make a lot of money or you want to win literary awards for your stunning prose. Research how best to make that happen. Study story structure, character development, plot development, grammar, the bones that are going to be the very foundation of your book. Then beyond that. In this current day, there are two widely recognised paths to follow, traditional publishing and self publishing. Both are valid choices but do your research and decide which one is going to work best for you.
A lot of authors these days are turning to self publishing as they enjoy the creative freedom, and sometimes, higher earnings. I myself have found that in order to reach my goals, self publishing seems to be the better option at this time. However, things may change and it's all about making sure you are well informed to make the decisions that are best for you.
And last but not least, just read. Read and read and read. Read like your life depends on it. Make sure you read works that have been written well and if you can, works that are of a similar style to what you are wanting to write. This will help develop your 'voice'. I found when writing I would often emulate the style of the book I'd been reading. I wasn't copying, but there were definite similarities!
3. Acknowledge that your writing will indeed suck... at first.
I know, I know, a bitter pill to swallow, but, a very valid point that I have heard over and over from all the authors who have now found success.
Your writing will be bad, it won't flow seamlessly from your head through your fingers and onto the page. Sometimes it will feel like you're extracting teeth, painfully. But what's important is to just, get, those, words, down. And don't read back over them! That's what the editing stage is for.
Do you think that best selling authors just had the story completely straight in their head and then they wrote it down flawlessly? No! Your ideas will grow and expand whilst you're writing. Are you going to go back and start again every time the story changes? No way, you'll never get it done! Leave notes for yourself as you go, maybe you need to add something, change something, delete something, but you can do it later. An unfinished story is not a book so get that first draft done!
4. Stay motivated and avoid getting overwhelmed - Surround yourself with positive influences.
It can be so easy to look at all the books that are currently in the market and feel that the adventure you're embarking on is a bit hopeless. It's understandable and can be so easy to lose your drive and feel overwhelmed by all that you have yet to do.
I had a period where I was not motivated and focused on other things in my life, but it was always in the back of my mind and I knew it was my dream, my passion and I needed to take steps to help myself be consistent in achieving my small goals. The way I do this is by gobbling up any and all information about writing, self publishing and making it as an indie author. My favourite way to do this is by listening to podcasts, (I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I've only recently discovered podcasts in the last few years), usually whilst I'm at work during the day. There is a wealth of information out there from people who have had this same journey and are now passing on their wisdom to those who wish to follow in their footsteps.
My absolute favourite podcasts are:
The Creative Penn by Joanna Penn (I love this woman, bit of a fan girl over here)
The Self Publishing Show by Mark Dawson and James Blatch
Six Figure Authors by Lindsay Buroker, Andrea Pearson and Jo Lallo
SPA Girls Podcast by Cheryl Phipps, Trudi Jaye, Shar Barratt and Wendy Vella
They are all so enjoyable to listen to and have really great information about writing craft, self publishing, marketing and more! I would definitely recommend going to check them out.
Another important aspect to avoiding overwhelm can have a lot to do with the people who you surround yourself with. It's so important to have people who support you in your dream and will be there to pick you up if you stumble or have times of self doubt (trust me, it will happen, a lot). If you're anything like me, your dream and passion is a private thing that you entrust only to those who are closest to you. It might be your partner, your mum, a sister, it doesn't matter if it's just one person, but find that person and let them be your biggest cheerleader. And if you feel like you don't have someone like that, get online! There are so many wonderful communities on Facebook, Instagram (the Bookstagram community is so supportive) and many more.
You don't have to shout to the world to be considered a 'real author'. If you think someone won't understand or even worse, ridicule your passion, you don't have to tell them. Let them find out when your books are being made into movies and you're off holidaying in the Maldives twice a year. Then guess who'll have the last laugh? That's right, you!
5. Start saving now.
Five dollars, ten dollars, a hundred dollars. Start putting something away now. Could you have one less coffee a week? Maybe you don't really need that cool top you saw online? It doesn't need to be much, but think of it as an investment in yourself, in your future. If you want to go the whole way and do well, it will require you to part with some hard earned funds. Editing, cover design, Beta readers, ARC readers, advertising, the list goes on.
Can you get away without these things? Yes, but wouldn't you want to make sure your story is at it's absolute best before you send it flying through the world into people's hands? If your answer is yes, then you have to be prepared to pay, especially if you have no prior experience (like myself). It will be a steep learning curve and you will need a lot of help. But, if you do your research (research is the best), you can find the best value people who will help you turn your work into a work of art.
Thank you so much for reading my very first blog post. You good reader, are a hero for making it this far. Of course again, I am by no means an expert on writing or self publishing but I wanted to share my thoughts so far on the things that have helped me get started. I hope in some small way, I helped someone who is also starting out their journey, and I wish you the best of luck and I hope to read your wonderful works someday.