Navigating the Rough Seas of Authorship

It is often said that everyone has a book in them. But few of us have the discipline to get it out! Technically speaking, anybody could be a writer. There is no formal education needed. All it takes is a computer or even just pen and paper, as well as an idea. However, that’s in theory. In reality, it takes much more to truly call yourself an author. Writing your own book does have its perks and promises, but the road to success is also plastered with many unexpected turns, pitfalls and sudden roadblocks.

Creating a personal roadmap

If you could ask your favourite authors for some advice, they would probably tell you that the single most important thing for aspiring writers is to just start writing, and that the second most importing thing is to keep writing, day after day, week after week. This may sound obvious and superfluous, but if you have even the slightest bit of experience as a writer, you will probably appreciate the gist of this advice: all those great ideas inside your mind are basically worthless, unless you sit down and put them into writing. It’s a philosophy that is beautifully summed up in ‘Bird by Bird’, Ann Lammott’s much loved guide to being a writer.

Routine is essential for writers as well. Schedule fixed times throughout the week which will be entirely devoted to working on your book, without any exceptions. No matter how busy you are, only strict self-discipline will help you to actually finish your project in the end.

Self-publishing vs. traditional publishing

Before typing a single word, you should think about your goals and come up with a game plan. The choice between traditional publishing and self-publishing is a major one that every author has to make. Nowadays, printing a book via a site such as print24 is a fairly easy process. You don’t have to wait for a publisher to offer you a book contract, you keep the creative control over your work and receive bigger financial rewards in the end.

Yet self-publishing is not always your best course of action. True, the traditional way of submitting proposals or manuscripts to agents and editors in the hope of being rewarded with a contract is a gruelling process that requires a lot of patience and very thick skin. It does, however, have some important advantages:

  • It allows for a much wider distribution of your work
  • It is much easier to be noticed by readers and critics (and land new deals)
  • It provides you with professional guidance and expertise

Nevertheless, depending on the type of book you are writing, you may not even want nor need those things. If you write for a niche audience that you are already familiar with and have access to, you might be able to take care of distribution yourself. It is also not uncommon for books to be published as mere marketing tools in order to promote a business. If this is the case for you, self-publishing your book may be the best option to choose.

Overcoming writer’s block

For authors, one of the most dreaded pitfalls is a writer’s block. If you feel unable to keep going and have a hard time filling even a single page, the last thing you should do is get angry with yourself. It will lead you nowhere.

Instead, it can be a good idea to take a break and do something completely different in order to take your mind off work and reduce the pressure. Ironically though, the only real action plan for overcoming a case of writer’s block is to write. Keep in mind that you can always go back and revise, so your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect.

In order to keep the risk of writer’s block at bay, it is imperative to set yourself goals that you are actually capable of reaching. There is no point in imposing unrealistic workloads that you have no chance of accomplishing. The only thing this does is lead to frustration and cause anxiety – which constitute the perfect breeding ground for writer’s block.

Get support

Writing is inherently isolating. It can help to connect with like minds. The annual NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month) event each November could get you connected and provide the rocket fuel to really get moving. With NaNoWriMo you pledge to write your book during the month, there are fabulous resources to tap into and most importantly, local and online meetups and write-ins to attend. The resulting missive may not be great, but you will have got started and can spend the rest of the year doing the essential finessing.

Like any important journey, writing a book starts with a single step. When are you going to take yours?

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