Since I started publishing books, which is around six years ago now, many women have asked me how they can make a living through their own fiction. In fact, people I never knew were writers have approached me and told me of their own dreams of seeing their work in print. I want to encourage more people to write, so I thought it would make good sense to do a post about how to get started. This won’t cover self-publishing or marketing. It’s really just the first rung on the ladder, so settle in with a coffee or whatever your personal beverage of choice is and we’ll take a look at how to prepare yourself to become a writer!
Ignore the Nagging Doubt
The first thing people struggle with is confidence. Who am I to think I can be a writer? I know how to read and write, but that doesn’t mean I can write a book, does it? I’m not famous and don’t have any contacts, so how do I get published? I don’t have a university education, so am I qualified to write a book? Please, put these thoughts out of your head. Agents, publishers and dare I say it, Kindle Direct Publishing, don’t care who you are or what your background is. The only time they’ll be interested in who you are is if you have a high level of fame or notoriety. For example, I have a lot of social media followers, but publishers don’t care about that because I’m not a household name.
All agents and publishers care about is whether you can write well and to a publishable standard, and also whether they can sell your book. Let’s not forget, they are in the publishing business and they’re trying to make money out of your work. They need to know that they can sell it.
Also, it’s worth noting that many successful writers don’t have a university education. Lots of them make typos that need to be cleaned up by professional editors. So long as you have a good imagination and you’re prepared to work your butt off, this is entirely within your reach.
I Don’t Know How To Write A Whole Novel
You might be concerned that you don’t have the necessary skills required to write a book. That’s fine. Nobody did when they were starting out. Not one person has ever come out of the womb with a completed manuscript in their hands. Imagine that did happen though! *makes a note for future bizarro short story* We have all been at the beginning and had to learn our craft and work our way up. The best way to do this is to take a course if you can. There are lots available so choose carefully.
When I started writing back in 2002, I sought advice from The Writers Bureau who can not only train you to write well, but specialise in getting your work into print. You can also take the Open University’s creative writing course, which is what I am doing this year, but this is more expensive and I can tell you from personal experience that it’s very formulaic. There isn’t a lot of creative freedom involved, but what it will do is focus on polishing the techniques used. There is also a wealth of information available online and don’t forget the “For Dummies” series does a book called Creative Writing For Dummies. I’ve read it. It’s good and has a very positive and encouraging tone and I’d recommend it if you can’t afford a course.
Be prepared to work hard. I can’t stress how important it is to realise early on that it is very difficult and unglamorous. You will spend a long time writing, even longer editing and proofreading and the knock-on effect is that you’ll spend less time socialising. There was a very lengthy period when I didn’t watch television and I was constantly tired. You’ll end up with more knots in your shoulders than a masseuse can tackle in one appointment and don’t get me started on the back problems from all the sitting. However, the effort you put into writing and publishing will show in the results you get. The harder I worked, the more books I produced and the better my bank balance looked. I have taken an extended break and so have the royalties. That’s all I can say on that topic.
Throw Away The Map And Go Wandering
One of the most important things to remember is that you will find yourself writing things you had no idea you ever wanted to write, so keep an open mind. I wanted to write chick-lit and girly beach reads. I only ever wanted to write novels. Instead, in my inexplicably varied career, I have ended up writing cat sleuth novellas, fairy tales, gadget blogs, French-language rap music reviews and a series of short stories about sexually active breakfast foods. Yes, I’m serious. I even started blogging about how to make money from old shoes.
Starting a writing career can be one of the most exciting and challenging treasure hunts you’ll ever take and you may not find the pot of gold you’re looking for, but you’ll discover precious gems along the way that will make it worthwhile throwing away the treasure map and compass and going exploring on your own.
If You Want To Be A Writer Just Get Writing
The only way to get to where you want to be as a writer is to write. It’s no use complaining that you don’t have the time. We all have twenty-four hours in a day. I had to sacrifice a lot of leisure time in order to work full time, look after a child and write my books. My poor husband spent a lot of time alone! Don’t say that you don’t feel inspired. You also don’t feel like going to your day job every day, or getting up at four in the morning to breastfeed or leaving really great parties to go home, but you do.
It’s important to realise that you won’t always feel like writing and you won’t always be inspired. Prepare yourself for that and keep going even when it’s difficult. Writing is a job and it requires a huge level of commitment. And again, the more effort you put in, the better the results will be. And one of my favourite quotes sums it up perfectly, although I don’t know who said it. I will fully give them credit if I find out.
“The worst thing you write will always be better than the best thing you don’t write.”
Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day
Understand that it will take time. There are stories about people who have written multiple books in a short space of time and there are people like me who have, at one time, released several books a year. You might find that those books were written years in advance, the books aren’t novel-length or that they have given up work to write (spoiler alert: it’s a huge gamble, don’t do it unless you have millions in the bank. I didn’t. Trust me, it’s not worth it). Many books take years to write. I mean, literally years. They take an equal amount of time to edit and then depending on the route you take for publication, it could take even more time to secure an agent/publisher or to get it ready for self-publishing. Be patient and look at it each book as a long-term project.
Sort The Good Advice From The Bad
This is probably the most important little nugget of advice I can pass on. Be careful whose advice you take. At the start of my fiction career I befriended someone whose partner was a writer and he took on a sort of mentoring role to me. He seemed very knowledgeable and spoke with such authority that I trusted him. And his partner was having huge success with her books, which seemed incredible to me since I had read her early works and while they were awful, I would never have bet on her being a hugely successful writer.
It turned out his partner’s success wasn’t down to his awesome marketing skills and her writing ability, but to plagiarism. She was a plagiarist who had stolen someone else’s work, changed character names and a few other details and basically copied everything in a series of novels, claiming the plot, characters and situations were her own creation.
Next, I’m going to work on a post about the next step which is when and where you should write. Are you someone who has always wanted to be a writer but hasn’t taken that step? Tell me what’s holding you back!