I decided to try something new with my latest book, Turn Your World Around in 80 Days, by hiring a professional editor. This particular project is near and dear to my heart, and I wanted it to be as good as it could possibly be. It took several weeks of research to find an editor that charged a reasonable price and possessed the expertise to do justice to my subject matter. I sent a sample of my manuscript and received such great feedback that I immediately moved to the next step.
The initial edit took about three weeks, then I used the track changes feature of Microsoft Word to accept or reject each of the edits made. The editor also included comments to help strengthen the structure of my writing and maintain a consistent style and tone. A large portion of the manuscript had to be rewritten, but the finished product was so much better than it would have been if I hadn't enlisted the help of an editor.
If you want to produce a quality book, I highly recommend engaging the services of a professional editor. Do your homework and find one who understands your genre and whose prices are within your budget.
A good outline can save you hundreds of hours of effort that would otherwise be spent rewriting. Knowing exactly how the individual pieces of your book fit together can give you clarity and direction, strengthening the final result.
Plot and structure problems should be resolved in the outlining phase, before the writing begins. Then you'll know exactly what to write about each time you work on your book, and after each successful session you can begin thinking about the next.
A non-fiction book is nothing more than a series of essays. A fiction book is nothing more than a series of scenes. The art of structure is found in learning to place them in logical order.
Your first outlines might be somewhat generic, but they'll get more detailed and useful with practice. For me, creating a good outline is the hardest part of writing a book, but it pays continual dividends and is ultimately well worth the effort. Houses begin with blueprints, and good books begin with good outlines.
Some artists remain undiscovered until after they die, yet they live prolifically creative lives. This can happen because they choose not to disclose their creative talents, as in the case of Emily Dickinson. It can also happen when an artist feels the call to create, yet is so bold and innovative in comparison with contemporary works that the public is unsure what to think. Vincent van Gogh and Gustav Mahler fall into this category. Their art was poorly received at first, but they were masters of their craft who created timeless works.
Every writer has his or her own reasons for writing. Some write for fame and fortune, while others write to make a statement or as a way to understand the world and themselves. Whatever your reasons for writing, sharing your work with others can provide a sense of purpose and meaning, even if it isn't well-received.
As an author, I would rather create authentic works that stand the test of time than write a bestselling book that quickly fades from memory. That's part of my value system, to make lasting and meaningful books.
Every writer must discover what fuels his or her creative engine. The only way to do this is to experiment and share the work you feel called to create, continually searching for the right mix of authenticity and purpose that meets your specific needs.
You have a unique story to tell about how and why you do what you do. There are no guarantees about how the journey will go, but you will know more after beginning than you do now.
Don't be afraid to create. Don't hesitate to share your work with others. Step into the arena and be seen.
Several years ago a good friend of mine decided to write a novel. I was excited when she showed me the first few chapters, but quite quickly her progress began to slow. She was making major revisions as she wrote, changing characters and key plot elements along the way. After several rounds of major changes, she lost steam and her novel remains half-finished.
To avoid a similar fate, when I started writing I used a technique I call "write forward" to create my rough draft. The idea of "write forward" is simple to understand, but it can be hard to do: only add new words to the end of the manuscript, saving the process of revising until after the rough draft is finished.
There are several benefits to this technique. First, it gives me an incentive to do a little more planning up front, which keeps me from writing sections or chapters that are later discarded. Second, it helps me get to the finish line more quickly. Staying focused on the goal allows me to separate writing and editing tasks, which makes sense since they each require a very different mindset.
A completed rough draft is a motivational tool for me. Although a lot of hard work still remains, I find it easier to massage existing words than to write new ones. Once I've made the effort to write a rough draft, I also find myself wanting to honor that effort by creating the final product.
Years ago, before I had the skill or will to write, ideas came to me only occasionally. They were fleeting things that I could rarely hold onto, and it was even more rare for me to take an idea and turn it into a finished product. I was dissatisfied with this state of things, so I decided to spend a year learning about creativity. The knowledge I gained through books and experiments gave me the courage to move forward, and ideas were soon flowing so quickly I couldn't keep up.
Creativity is found at the intersection of courage and ability. The more practice you get taking the ideas in your head and turning them into tangible products, the more you'll be able to recognize and utilize ideas that come to you. Facing your fears, which is really what my year of studying creativity was all about, will help you learn to share your authentic self more fully and more often.
Inspiration is a function of internal and external factors. A rich and beautiful external environment can foster the creation of art, but only if we are able to absorb, appreciate and activate the creative energy that lives inside us. By the same token, even the most ideal artistic mindset can be tarnished by a stubbornly pragmatic external environment. It requires persistence and tenacity to overcome such opposition.
Creativity is our natural state. When we peel back the layers of our fear, we can discover a world of infinite inspiration.
Writing is both an art and a craft. The art is in the story you tell, and the craft is in the way you tell it. Learning to separate these two things can help you understand and accept any criticism you receive from an editor, whose ultimate goal is to improve the overall quality of your work.
Some authors are too close to their work to accept any kind of criticism. They take it far too personally, and suggesting ways to improve their writing is seen as an insult.
The best authors are able to separate their work from themselves. They see the value that a good editor can bring. They are able to acknowledge weaknesses in their writing and turn those weaknesses into strengths prior to publication.
Putting together a book can require enormous amounts of time and energy from a variety of people, as can be seen by reading the acknowledgments section of any traditionally published work. As a self-publisher, you may not have access to the number of experts involved in a traditional writing project, but you can select a core group of trusted and trained individuals and listen to the feedback they give you. This will strengthen your work and help you grow and develop as an author.
Perfectionism is a disease, not a virtue. It is ultimately rooted in fear and brings creative efforts to a halt. It has nothing at all to do with the pursuit of excellence or a desire to create a quality product.
When I am working on the rough draft for a new book, I do my best to suspend judgment so that I can focus on the task in front of me: creating my narrative and telling my story. The mindset required during this phase of a project involves trusting myself and my instincts, feeling completely free to create and not allowing myself to be held back by fears, inhibitions and unrealistic expectations. During this phase I only share my ideas with members of my inner circle who I know will encourage and validate my efforts.
Once my rough draft is complete, I can begin to evaluate and enhance the quality of my work. I can allow my inner critic to comment on the final result and get other trusted individuals involved who can constructively criticize and help me develop an exceptional (but imperfect) final product.
The best way I've found to hone my message is through repeated editing. I immerse myself completely in my words and carefully evaluate each sentence, making sure there is no waste or untruth. I've even been known to read my entire manuscript backwards, sentence by sentence, in an effort to see it from a new perspective. But eventually I need to stop editing and release my book, even though there are probably still a few errors in it. I never have and never will create a flawless book, but with patience and diligent effort I can write books that I'm proud to call my own.
Many people have grand ideas that never take tangible form. Their desires are disconnected from their actions, and their professed goals are never pursued.
You can avoid this trap by walking the talk. Don't wait for someone to give you permission to write by making an offer on your unfinished (or unstarted) novel. Give YOURSELF permission by writing daily, if you can, or as frequently as your schedule will allow. If you're not sure what to write about at first, describe the struggle to come up with good ideas.
Writing doesn't require elaborate rituals, perfectly organized workstations and large blocks of free time. All you need is a few spare minutes and a writing instrument or electronic device.
The best way to learn how to write is to just write. Let the work itself be your guide and your teacher.
You are an idea factory, turning raw materials into finished books through the power of your mind and hands. In order to successfully create, it's important to keep every aspect of this process functioning smoothly.
Every factory, and every writer, needs raw materials to work with. These raw materials are inputs to the creative process, and without them everything eventually slows to a complete stop. Your raw materials might include communing with nature, going to concerts and art museums and movies, reading, spending time with new people and visiting new places.
Transforming raw materials into finished products is a process of trial and error that eventually results in high levels of expertise. Be willing to continually reexamine both your methods and your results, and stay the course even when there is no immediate payoff.
Keep your idea factory full, with projects in various stages of development, so that when you finish one book you are ready to start the next. Capture ideas, review them regularly, experiment with them and don't be afraid to scrap the ones that aren't working. Over time, your idea factory will allow you to create a very satisfying body of work.
Successful book launches begin long before a book is released. They start in the conception process, when the idea first arrives. Authors who ask questions about the identity and needs of their audience BEFORE beginning to write are more likely to craft a message that resonates with readers.
During the writing process, social media can be used to generate excitement for your book in progress. It may feel a bit uncomfortable to talk about something that isn't yet complete, but a side-effect of these discussions is feeling an added pressure to finish what you've started. I've been involved in more than one writing project that I wouldn't have finished if I hadn't previously announced the release date.
Getting people involved in your writing project is one way to engage your audience. Find beta readers who are willing to give you feedback on your manuscript before it goes to print. Make your book available for pre-order. Post a chapter or two on your blog to promote interest. Tell the story of how you came up with the idea for your book, and talk about your writing journey.
If you are releasing an e-book, consider giving your book away free on its launch date to quickly build interest. If you've created a quality product, the money you lose by giving your book away free will be quickly made up (and then some) as people discover your work. There are a number of sites that allow you to post the dates your e-book will be available for free, and many of them don't charge for this service.
When the day of your book launch arrives, communicate prolifically! Post links, content snippets and videos, run ads, and send an announcement to your email list.
Once your book has launched, keep talking about it so it isn't forgotten. A sustained marketing campaign will be far more effective than an initial push with no follow-up.