Get That Book Off the Ground!
We’ve all been told that everyone has at least one book in them. The problem is, much like a friend that’s partied too hard the weekend before, that book doesn’t always want to come out! The very simple fact of the matter, I’m afraid to say, is that it’s usually down to hard work, perseverance and time. Three things that are very difficult to get in the same room at once! So if we accept that we need to work on these three factors, which is definitely possible, what else can we do to get this book out? Here are ten top tips on getting that book written!
Love of the Work
There really is no point in trying to get a book out that simply isn’t there. Just because we have books in us, doesn’t always mean we want it to come out. Why are you writing this story? Does it speak to you? Are you finding yourself getting bored of writing? Take a minute to change! Don’t be precious with the story, if it isn’t working leave it be and move onto something else. Don’t ditch what you’ve already written, you may find that comes in handy later on in your story. But if you aren’t enjoying the story you’re writing, chances are you won’t be the only one. Play around with introducing new ideas, new characters, or a random act that you weren’t expecting. See what can happen!
One of the most important parts of writing a story is making sure you are writing something you, and hopefully others want to read. If you haven’t seen what’s already out there you may just end up spending months of your time writing something that’s already been done! Or worse, something people aren’t reading. You don’t need to follow fashion and fads, but knowing what’s popular and what sells is really important to shaping and framing your work. Make sure you aren’t just writing for popularity though (unless that’s what you want!) as you may find you end up with a story you don’t like just because you think it’ll sell.
There’s a fabulous book about writing by Stephen King called “On Writing”. He talks about writing Carrie, his first full novel, on a child’s writing desk in a trailer caravan. He spent the day teaching, and then the evenings cramped into this tiny desk that belonged to one of his kids, writing this story. He originally even threw it away, and his wife retrieved it from the bin and said, well this is going somewhere! But he made sure that every day he wrote something. Find a space you like, a few minutes of peace and create an environment you are comfortable in. Even if you’re uncomfortable, like King, make it the same space each time, try and make it the same time and try and write to a certain amount of time. Don’t get hung up on word counts!
We aren’t talking small birds in creative desperation. Going to meet friends might have to wait a few days, you may need to watch your favourite TV show another time. You don’t need to become a recluse, but be aware that with daily chores and work, plus writing, you may not have all the spare time you normally have. Sacrifice half an hour to an hour a day writing, minimum, and make sure that if meeting up with friends is on the cards, you make up for that lost time later on. Don’t punish yourself, but try to stick to schedule.
An Open Mind
This needs to be throughout the whole process. You need to take criticism, absolutely! If someone, or a few people, tell you their honest opinion just thank them and take it on board. It’s hard as you’ll feel like someone is criticising your children, but you do need to hear what others have to say. You don’t always have to act on it, but make sure you listen and take it on board. These people are spending their time reading your work, so make sure you give them the respect of listening to them. Step away from the story as part of you and see it as its own person, ready to change and adapt if needed.
Leading on from that, if you have friends who understand why you can’t come out, who sit and read your story and give you honest feedback, you’re winning at life. Those friends are very valuable, and to be respected. They will see you through some of the hardest parts of your writing life, and will keep you going when you need it most. These people will help you get that book finished!
Target Audience/Someone to Write For
A lot of writers will write to get the story out. This is exactly what you should do, don’t pressurise yourself into a corner when you don’t like what you’re writing. However, if you are writing this story to be made into a book and sold, remember that you will need to know who it’s aimed at. Sometimes just choosing a target audience helps you to make creative decisions and focus the story when you feel a bit lost. For instance, a YA novel is hardly likely to include stories of teddy bears that are able to talk (although if yours does, make it work to that audience!), and children’s picture books aren’t likely to deal with teenagers falling in love and shoplifting. This also links to the topic of research, seeing what else is available in the genre and style you’re aiming for.
Simple really. Why do you want to write this? Any reason is good enough, you’ll know yours. When it gets tough, keep reminding yourself why you’re doing this. Keep on pushing on!
Some people like to be ready to go from the start, with illustrators or publishers lined up. This gives some people a deadline to work towards, so they know they have to have the story finished by X date. This can put some people under too much pressure to perform creatively, but that’s ok! Maybe a deadline of “by the end of the year” or “by next month” helps you. Perhaps even “I want this much done by the time I’m 40” is good enough for you. Just make sure you stick to it and make that deadline work, as when you set the deadline, you are much more inclined to be lenient with yourself…!
Remind Yourself it’s Worth Doing
JUST KEEP GOING! As with the “reason” above, you need to keep telling yourself this is happening for a reason and you are writing this for a purpose. If you find you’re getting blocked, or your way is getting a little out of focus, step back for a few hours. Try not to take too many days off when you’re feeling like this, but go for a walk or have a cup of tea and come back to it. The longer you step away, the harder it is to get back into it. So don’t, just take a few deep breaths, step away for an hour or so, then keep going. Even when you’re stuck, keep writing something. Doesn’t have to be the story – just something is enough!