I’ve been meaning to do this post for a while :D, but I thought I’d get a little back-in-a-day-job time before I put words to blog, as all of my main writing has occurred whilst out of work, and, as I suspected, it’s a big change of pace.
In my few years as a ‘serious’ writer, I’ve met people with grand ideas and people with little books ‘nearly’ ready to go and many more with a book they’ve been working on for years. It is surprising how many budding authors there are out there.
Given the number of ’em, I was, but now am not, surprised when I ask about their publication. There are two broad categories of answers: the ‘investigated (at length)/got all the supporting bits but haven’t written anything’ bucket, and the ‘working on the book’ bucket – the latter being a nebulous thing of scribbled notes, more-in-head-than-on-paper and a lot of talking about it. In both cases, a common lament is that it seems that life conspires to steal the ‘free’ time that they could spend writing.
Now, you know where I stand on a lot of this. But, for my new readers: just write. It’s all irrelevant until you have something for people to read. Start small, think big, justify it however you like to yourself and your family and friends, but FFS, just write the damn thing. No more excuses. No more using your nebulous writing as the only thing to differentiate you from the rest of the crowd or something to make you look ‘clever’ at work. Because more folk than you realise are doing just the same as you… Prevaricating.
Okay, so what I’ve just said doesn’t apply to you because you’ve written something? Marvellous. Read on.
Think it’s good enough for publication? Has anyone except you or family members ‘reviewed’ your work? If the answer is no, then it is not ready for publication.
I don’t care about Aunt Hilda’s previous career as an English teacher. Nor do I care about your brother’s degree in English Lit. With very few exceptions, they will go easy on you. And the moment you consider publishing, anyone who might choose being polite over being truthful is poisonous for you.
Watch the early rounds of any televised talent show. All those sad cases with no singing talent or ability? Every one of them has family and ‘friends’ who let them do that. Who supported them even though they were appalling, because it’s “what they dreamed of”. So instead of being schooled in the realities of lack-of-ability versus aspiration in a home environment, they get it in the face from strangers – and it may be so bad they make it on to national television or even go viral on the ‘net.
You need proof readers and editors – preferably folk who know your view on things. But they also have to be fussy to the point of OCD (and not scared of your tantrums in the least). They should question everything. It may drive you crazy, but one of those questions might make you think “just a moment, that’s something I hadn’t considered” and that is the thing that grammar checking software just cannot give you.
Make no mistake: a good proof reading review should upset you. It should offend you. It should make you question your reasons, your sanity and your ability. Then it should make you look back on the work you’ve just corrected and realise that what you had is inferior to what you have, and, most importantly, know that you couldn’t have got there yourself.
I am lucky enough to have half a dozen proof readers and two editors who are also friends, and, in the best possible way, utter bastards. I can rely on them to give my writing a proper going over, and to take me to task over general quality as well as the details.
Every book I publish is better as a direct result of their input. What I created was good. What they helped me make of it is better. I still have doubts about every book. I will worry more when I don’t have them.
But, back to the point.
Just write. Stop making excuses, especially to yourself. Here, let me ask the question many of your friends and family are too polite to ask:
ARE YOU GOING TO FINISH THAT OR ARE YOU JUST PRETENDING?
Speech and excuses don’t count from here on. To answer the question, I want to see your book. They deserve to see your book. People who are desperately looking for something to read that fits their outlook are quite possibly waiting for your work and they don’t even know it.
Yes, I know it’s scary. It should be.
But it’s fun. :)
Getting the damn thing out to the world is a different game, but here’s the thing: until you have a book, it’s irrelevant. So I’ll not be touching on that here.
I will mention a book called ‘Becoming a Writer‘ by Dorothea Brande. It’s not a book about writing or how to write. It’s a book about how to be a writer. It is very, very good, and is the only book on the writer’s craft I consider worthy of your time.
Now go and rearrange your schedule so you can spend a little while writing each day.
Just write. It really is that simple.