You’ve been dreaming of hosting your own book signing and holding your own words in your hands for as long as you can remember. Not to mention, you’ve been a fan of your genre for years, and you can talk cliff hangers and genre benders for hours. So, if you’ve decided that this new decade is finally the era for the world to refer to you as “author,” now’s the time to get working on your book.
As an author, book editor and literary agent, I have seen all the signs of a new writer in the making and have worked with dozens of them including editing books in all genres, working with authors such as MSNBC political analyst Zerlina Maxwell and YA Fantasy author Alexandra Overy.
If writing a book is on your list of resolutions for 2020 here are some things to help get you in the mindset to execute the vision:
Pantser vs. Plotter
There are two camps of writers these days, known as pantsers and plotters. Pantsers tend to “fly by the seat of their pants” and write as they go without having a set plot in mind, while plotters tend to outline their book before starting to write anything at all. Decide which one you are by thinking about how either pantsing or plotting can work for your writing style. Are you the kind of writer who feels restricted by rules and is bored to tears at the thought of writing an outline? Then pantsing may be for you. But if you’re the kind of writer who is more comfortable following a set narrative arc with well-thought-out plot points, then plotting will likely be the way for you to go. Once you’re comfortable in your chosen style, you’re well on your way to writing that book you’ve been envisioning.
Don’t get intimidated.
Just start writing. One thing I’ve learned about writing is that you have to keep writing, even when you think what’s spewing out is absolute crap. Don’t stop; push through those moments, because those moments come for every writer. Keep going, keep going, because it’s all about keeping up the momentum. Even though your tap water starts out cold, it always heats up.
Don’t get caught up in editing your book.
First-time writers often fall victim to worrying more about editing their books as they go than they do about the imagination and world-building involved in cranking out that book baby. As you’re getting settled into the flow of writing and the world your characters live in, just let your creative process be your guide, and don’t worry about nitpicking your manuscript with minute edits that will interrupt that flow. Leave the editing to the end—or, at least, until you’re well into the flow of your book to the point of no return. “Write first, edit last.”
Consider whether self-publishing or traditional publishing is for you.
It’s not hard to get engulfed in the social media noise around self-publishing versus traditional publishing. Tune all of that out and decide what’s best for you, your book and your expectations for your writing career. Either method can work well; it’s just a matter of whether you’d rather dedicate your time to marketing your book with self-publishing or to pitching your book to agents with traditional publishing. Either way requires an investment of your time and effort, and each method requires you to make sure that your manuscript is as cleanly edited and polished as it can be.
As you’re deciding, keep this in mind: Self-publishing allows you to be the boss of your book’s destiny. You can market it and write it the way that you want, but you’ll have to become your own publicist or hire one, which can be time consuming or expensive.
Traditional publishing increases your distribution options and can get you into the hands of mainstream readers, but you may lose some creative license of your book, and the writing standards for getting past the “gate keepers” tends to be much higher, so you’ll have to make sure that your manuscript is well edited before pitching it to agents who can represent your interests. Most publishers only work with agented authors.
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