Is my dream your dream? They say nearly everyone secretly longs to write a book, myself included. Sadly, only an intrepid few ever see that ambition through. Moreover, the number who don’t merely finish a manuscript, but go on to hold their published book in their hands is even smaller. Yet, if you’re reading this, I suspect you aspire to be one of the “few,” not the “most.” I know I do.
Naturally, completing a manuscript is not the end of the story. Publishing is. While many writers these days are content to self publish or use a vanity press, the majority still long for a traditional publisher to value and produce their book. However, traditional publishers are unyielding. You must submit your very best work to even be considered.
As daunting as that reality is, don’t give up. If you wish to see the fruit of your labors in bookstores, to watch a child’s eyes light up when they pull your newly-published chapter book down off the library shelf, then read on.
Make no mistake. Writing is hard—exceptionally hard—and writing an entire novel is even harder. The word “grueling” would not go amiss to describe the task ahead of you. But here’s the good news. Education, preparation, determination, a compelling premise, at least one captivating character, and a whole lot of brainstorming are all you need to get started.
You may question why I am the person to advise you. After all, I am an unpublished aspiring author, just like you. However, I am not untried or unskilled. I have been pursuing my goal for eight years, writing nearly every day. Who better to empower you than someone who has been where you are. I can anticipate your questions, doubts, and fears, because I have lived them. I’m no expert, but you can be sure I’m far wiser than I was when I started. And you will be too.
Now, before I pass on a few insights, let me relate my story of how I became a storyteller.
A nose for prose, a flair for witty dialogue, and a love of character-driven stories were all I had eight years ago when I first began plotting my Christian futuristic family saga. Today, as I draw near to finishing my first book in the series, I think back to the summer of 2010 when the germ of an idea first sprouted and grew into the tale I felt born to tell.
I began my writing project with all the hope and zeal of an explorer setting out to discover a new world—toiling night and day, pressing on through good times and bad, taking one step forward and three steps back—only to realize years later that somewhere along the line I had made a right royal mess of it.
I knew so little about crafting a story back then, and I groan when I think about how many butt-stupid blunders I made along the way. I jumped blindly into world building, research, and writing with no concept of story structure, premise, genre, word count, literary agents, reader demographics, or the publishing industry. I didn’t even know what a protagonist was! (Duh…told you I was newb!)
Nevertheless, I did have an unshakable belief in my story—in its humor, its depth, its heart. That confidence was enough to carry me onward when I began to hit one road block after another. Despite potholes and landslides, good times and really ratty times, I journey on toward that day I will hold my published book in my hands.
If you share that dream, I implore you. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Although it’s possible to get back on track after many months of plotting and writing, you run the risk of becoming overwhelmed and giving up entirely if your story veers off course. You can avoid traveling that bumpy road altogether if you know what to do or not do before you start.
Accordingly, this is my foremost piece of advice, gleaned from experience:
Study the craft of storytelling before you begin that story.
Learn the publishing industry. Learn to write. Learn the difference between a premise and a plot. Learn how to plan and structure a story. In other words, do your homework, honey! After all, be honest with yourself. Do you merely want to write a book or a well-crafted, page-turning, bestselling book? I thought so.
So put down that pen. Move away from the keyboard. You heard me! Trust me—the studying and gleaning time will do you good. Mastering the art cannot be rushed. Humbly resolve to learn from those who have come before you. Read every reputable book and blog you can find on writing, story structure, and publishing, even this one. You’ll never be certain this career is for you, unless you learn what writing and publishing are all about.
Allocate several months of study beforehand, and soon you’ll be back on the “write” path—focused, armed, and ready to write your book right.
Now I’d like to hear from YOU:
Do you have that special story in you? What makes you want to write it? Have you taken the time to master the craft, and how has that study time improved your writing and storytelling? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.