Saturday, March 7, 2015

Is Writing a Book All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

It seems most beginning writers want to write a book. Some of them start out doing that without ever having written anything else for publication. Why is that? It could be that “authors” seem to get the most exposure. When was the last time you remember the name of the writer of an article or short story?  Probably never. But readers tend to remember and talk about those who write books. Remember, not all writers are authors but all authors are writers.

Perhaps it’s the title of author that seems to get more respect. Have you ever been at an event where someone asked you what you did? If you said that you’re a writer, they probably asked what you’ve written. If you only had written a short article on tips for winterizing your home, they probably wouldn’t be impressed. But turn that into a book on whole house maintenance and their ears will probably perk up.

So before you dive into writing your first book, think about the mistakes lots of beginning writers make.

First and foremost, don’t start out writing a book. It’s a huge project that will use every once of writing skill you have. Start out small writing articles or short stories. Get used to writing, itself, and improve your writing and thinking skills. Remember, an average non-fiction book equals perhaps 10-25 articles. A novel equals even more short stories. A book is so big that you may forget the beginning before you get to the end. So you’ve got to develop your planning skills as well.

Some people say not to tell anyone about your book. That’s rubbish. Discuss your idea with close friends or family members. Listen to what they have to say about it, but don’t necessarily take their advice. What you decide to do is totally up to you. However, too many beginning writers think that if they talk about what they’re doing, someone will steal their idea. As a writer, you should have lots of ideas and variations on them. But your friends and family aren’t about to steal them. Talking about your book idea may firm it up in your mind, but don’t talk about it to strangers.

Stay objective while working on your book. This is hard to do. Some writers fall in love with parts of their book. This doesn’t help when it comes to editing later on. And editing doesn’t just mean looking out for mistakes in grammar and such. Editing for continuity and length is an important part of the process. If you’re objective, you’ll be able to delete parts that don’t belong.

If you haven’t done any writing for publication before starting your book, you’re in for a big surprise. Beginning writers often think that the words will just pour out and the book will write itself. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

No matter what kind of book you’re going to write, you must set some realistic goals. Writing a book takes months of hard work, beginning with thinking about it, then intensive research, planning it out, writing the first draft, revising and re-writing, and finally editing. The idea of writing a book in a month, itself is unrealistic. So don’t follow the crowd in NaNoWriMo and plan to write your book come November.

You need to set some long-term goals for your book project and some short-term ones. Know where you want to be on the project in say six months. For short-term goals, set them to write each chapter. Consider each chapter a unit by itself. Also, set time goals. Figure how much time you’ll have to write each day and plan to write for that amount of time, no matter how many words you put down. Even if you write a little each day, it will all add up. Above all, don’t go on writing binges and work for hours on end. Limit the time you write.

Get organized from the start. Create a folder for your book in your computer, then create subfolders for each of the chapters within that. You’ll also need folders for your research within the main folder. Number your drafts to keep them separate from each other. And save your work often. Some word processors, such as Corel WordPerfect, automatically save your work after a certain number of minutes, say 10, that you specify. That means that even if your program crashes, your work is backed up. Otherwise, set a timer to go off on your smartphone every so often to remind you to save your work. At the end of each writing session, also save your book draft on a thumb or external hard drive or to the Cloud if you have that available.

Writing a book is hard work, so make sure you enjoy doing it. Pick an idea that you love and really get into it. Remind yourself why you why you decided to write a book in the first place.

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