Don't Be Afraid of the Big Bad Book Monster
Starting something new like writing a book can be scary, but so is staying in the same place. Don’t be scared of the big, bad, book monster. Take the chance. Exit your comfort zone. It’s hard, but difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Write the story that’s been renting space in your head. You can do it.
Think about when you first learned to ride a bicycle. You had no experience except perhaps with training wheels. You saw others riding their bikes. They road with glee. Some performed tricks and stunts, others crashed and bled. You may have felt unsure or nervous about falling and getting hurt, but that bike called your name. Training wheels off, adrenaline up, it’s your turn to ride. Jump on and go or let fear win. Lucky you, someone you trust holds you steady and runs along with you before they let go.
Writing a book is like riding a bike. It’s something you desire, something that’s calling you, but you may be unsure how to proceed. Wordy is here to lend a hand. We'll help hold your pen steady and keep your fingers sharp while you jump on the book-writing journey and travel on the road to publication. Check out Blueprint for Aspiring Authors, Book Must-Haves, and Craft An Amazing Book, to get started.
Though you may be freaking out about putting yourself out there, both on social media and perhaps to an agent or editor, roar like a lion and take the leap. This is a stumbling block for many, but one that can be successfully navigated, especially as you gain confidence as a writer. You might be shaking in your writing boots at the prospect of receiving negative feedback, many aspiring authors and even established authors experience trepidation about this issue. Hit that fear right between the eyes. Your boots were made for writing and that's just what you'll do. Learn what constructive feedback is and how you can lean into it for the greater good of your manuscript.
Some aspiring authors are stressed about the possibility of others stealing their ideas. I get it. The truth is, no one can have a monopoly on an idea, so copyright laws do not protect ideas. The good news is, though ideas, facts, and concepts cannot be copyrighted, the expression of those ideas, facts, and concepts are protectable. Think, descriptions, explanations, or illustrations.
There are no guarantees, but reputable agents, publishers, and editors are in the business of marketing and selling books to turn a profit. If they are reputable, they are likely professional and not out to pilfer the work of those submitting to them.
I too have felt uneasy about these things, but the desire to tell a story bulldozed right over my concerns. For reals! If I can take constructive feedback on the chin, you can too.
Understanding your rights as an author is a positive step to combatting your fear of story theft. Saving your work in Microsoft is helpful because it creates a timestamp for your WIP. So, plow straight ahead to the finish line.
What’s the best way to begin? Take a read on the wild side. What books have you read and enjoyed? You know, the ones that kept you up all night, turning pages. Think about what set those books apart from others you may have put down due to tedious writing, a boring story premise, or confusing plot. Use the winning novels in your favorites pile as a starting point for how to proceed.
Mark what worked in the storylines and what caught your eye. Ask yourself why the characters were memorable. Why were you drawn to the protagonist or antihero? How does the author introduce minor characters and incorporate them into the story? Keep your eyes peeled for when the author presents the main character’s stakes. Carefully mark how conflict works in the story. Note how the author handles scenes and dialogue, sentences and paragraphs, how he/she shows instead of tells, and how they wrap things up in a neat little bow to satisfy readers. Keep these things in the back of your mind as you set out on your writing path.
Brainstorm book ideas and borrow snippets from your dreams or nightmares. Inspiration is everywhere. Grab some from nature, conversations, songs, TV shows, the grocery store. Capture snapshots of scenes when you’re out in the wild and store them in your head. Once you’ve narrowed down your idea, put your brave hat on and start planning.
Spin that concept into a unique premise and figure out what genre it falls into. Create a rough outline accounting for a beginning, middle, and end to your story. Consider your protagonist and how he/she fits into the storyline. Focus on setting, time period, tense, and POV. Find a way to make your story relatable then add twists and turns, surprises, interesting and concise dialogue, and more characters.
When I began drafting my first fiction novel, I practiced the JK Rowling method of using baskets to sort out information and the thoughts swirling around my brain. Learn about this technique and other tricks and tips in the article, My Writing Bag of Tricks. You’ll find out what’s in my writing arsenal and the methods I use to help organize my stories.
Phew! Okay, now, get in the writing zone. Write like no one is reading your work but you. Don’t concentrate so much on word choice and sentence structure at this point. Let that story flow organically from mind to fingers and type, type, type. If you’re old school then write, write, write it longhand. First drafts are meant to be a sloppy mess so don’t fret.
Once the nitty-gritty is down on paper you can move onto shaping your story, through research, patching up plot holes, building characters with depth and backstory, trimming paragraphs, sentences, and dialogue, fixing grammar mistakes, word confusion, punctuation and spelling errors.
When you begin to feel a bit more confident, take a deep breath and go back and fill in the story gaps. Structure your chapters so each one has a little somethin’, somethin’ in the middle, and an ending that contains a reason for readers to move on to the next chapter. That could be a smoking-hot surprise, an OMG cliffhanger, or a resolution with an a-ha moment.
Are you getting in the groove yet? Terrific. As your story comes together it will be easier to pay attention to details, like your opening sentence. It needs to shine and grab interest. Your first chapter, comes next and it must contain a meet-and-greet with your main character, setting, overall plot, and POV. Don’t forget to check for the dreaded head-hopping. While it’s possible to tell your story from more than one point of view, noting when the POV switches is essential. Hopping heads within a paragraph is a big no-no. Alert the reader to the change and have it make sense.
One approach for switching POV is to do this with a new chapter. George R.R. Martin does this beautifully in his epic fantasy novels, A Song of Ice and Fire, adapted into the Emmy Award-winning HBO series Game of Thrones.
Finally, your ending must satisfy readers, not leave them irritated. Make it count.
Take a break. Walk away. Let your manuscript marinate in a drawer somewhere. Relax, recharge, rejuvenate. Wine glasses up. (A glass of milk for under 21s) Celebrate your accomplishment. You’ve done something extraordinary. Most never reach the finish line, but if you’ve progressed to this stage, you’ve done it, my darling. Ta-da! Yay, you!
Come back refreshed with new eyes and a hunger to polish and self-edit. You may go through numerous drafts before you’re comfortable enough to let others read your work. I suggest starting with someone you trust then moving on to alpha and beta readers. Don’t rule out a professional edit, but do your research to find an editor with good reviews and reputation.
Exhale and get ready. Believe it or not, the easy part is over. Writing the book was a piece of cake. Let the games begin. The daunting process of publishing is front and center. If seeking traditional publication your next step will be to write a query letter and synopsis.
Say what? What fresh hell is this? Haven’t I done enough? No, there’s more. Your pitch matters. You’ve come this far, get it done. Reach out to agents, reel them in with your writing voice, style, and distinctive story premise.
But, but I’m self-publishing, you say. I got you. Find a professional company or hybrid publisher to help with your book cover design, blurbs, editing, formatting, etc., but be prepared to shell out some Benjamins.
You’re a badass writing warrior who can do it all yourself. Yes? Okay, let’s get cracking. Learn how to be the marketing department, graphic designer, editor, promotor, and formatter of your book. Plenty of indie authors do just that and some are successful. Others, not so much. Amazon is a great place to start.
Another option is, retain the title of CEO and hire a few savvy humans to do the grunt work. You’ll still shell out some bucks but you'll skip the terrifying slush pile, get your book into the hands of readers lickety-split, and reap all the profits.
I hope I haven’t scared you away from crossing off writing a book from your bucket list. Wordy has you covered. Find info, inspiration, and support on our website and social media pages. Remember what I said in the beginning of this article. writing a book is scary, but so is staying in the same place. Move along now, grab your laptop, and get those fingers working it.