Oh, the dreaded list of New Year’s resolutions. It’s not uncommon for these lists to be either too long or too ambitious for their makers to actually accomplish within twelve months, but that doesn’t seem to stop any of us from feeling the compulsive tug toward writing them–or from feeling miserable when we find ourselves running into a brick wall of complications.
For those of us who are authors, many of us will end up making at least one of our resolutions that of writing and publishing a book in 2016. But how might an author go from creating the goal of writing a book to actually getting it on paper and, finally, to publishing it? If you’ve resolved upon a similar goal, here area couple of ideas to get you started:
- Join a writer’s group.
While there are certainly plenty of online options available to you, through internet forums and listservs and Facebook groups and the like, the best kind of feedback a writer can receive is the kind that is delivered in face-to-face conversation with people who have held your manuscript in their hands and feel some sort of personal stake in delivering detailed high-quality responses to the questions that you pose. This is why, above all other things, I recommend you look to join a writer’s group in 2016.
But where to look? I recommend stealing a page of or Lorena Knapp’s playbook over at the Write Life blog. She recommends researching a variety of options before committing to any one writer’s group; you might start with local writing centers and then move on to conferences, bulletin boards, writing associations, your personal network, online networking sites like Meetup.com, and then as a last resort turn to social media and so on. In my personal experience, conferences can be overwhelming (a case study in overstimulation), bulletin boards are rarely up-to-date, and online networking sites lead to as many “misses” as “hits.” I found out about my local writing association after attending an event at my local library, which often plays host to local authors–many of whom are self-published. You can’t go wrong by asking a librarian!
- Join a book club.
The library also happens to be a great place to begin your hunt for a local book club, since most libraries directly or indirectly sponsor these sorts of events, and can point you to the right people or resources to set up your own book club if there isn’t one already geared toward your interests. You can also check online at the Reader’s Circle, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting readers with each other, to see if there are otherwise off-the-grid book clubs meeting in your area.
But why should a writer join a book club? The answer isn’t as simple or the dots as easy to connect as with writing circles and writer’s groups, where writing is the common theme. But as Evan Maloney wrote for The Guardian back in 2010, reading and reading well is actually the most fundamental of skills for a writer to practice:
As well as a large vocabulary, novels give writers a sense of how it is done. They offer templates that can be borrowed and adapted; they teach a writer how to create narrative structures and characters, how to develop tension, write dialogue, and maintain a consistent tone and pitch. Novels also trigger memories from a reader’s personal experience, and these give writers ideas for their own stories.
Best of all, writes Maloney, “whenever writing gets too painful, when each word and idea seems to be dragged from the mind like the limb of an aborted camel, reading offers a writer a lovely escape into a fantasy world where stories are revealed with simple ease and order on the page.” Sometimes, that’s exactly what we need.
- Work with a ghostwriter, or if that’s not quite your speed, with an editor.
With a book club feeding you inspiration and a writer’s group providing you support and feedback as you write, the next best step is to find your voice. If you’re struggling to find the time or cultivate the skills you think necessary to capturing your story, it may be time to look for a ghostwriter–someone who can sit down with you, hash out all of the relevant details, and then serve as architect and project manager for your book–all rolled into one. We often associate ghostwriters with the traditional publishing model, since most of the ghostwritten books we see hit shelves are celebrity autobiographies–but you can be a self-publishing author and develop a healthy rapport with a ghostwriter, too! Hybrid self-publishing companies like mine–Outskirts Press–often offer ghostwriting and editorial services as several of many tools to put in your toolbox. The differences between ghostwriting and editing is significant–the former will take on a large part of the “generative” process, while the latter will help shape or reshape material you have already created–but the general impulse is the same: these services exist to help you get stuff done. Don’t underestimate the power of a good edit!
- Cultivate new and sustainable writing habits.
Here’s where things get a bit hazy. Every author has individual writing habits developed over years of hard work and necessity, so what a “good writing day” looks like to you will most likely differ from everyone else you meet. We can look to our heroes for inspiration, sure, but ultimately I find comparison a toxic, toxic beast. The best way to succeed at adopting new and useful writing habits is to do so slowly and sustainably–by making incremental changes and sticking with them over the long term.
There’s a reason NaNoWriMo proves so difficult for authors to just “pick up” and do: it’s such an intense process that it requires writers to make enormous changes to their daily schedules just to fit it in. A much better course might be to adopt more manageable alterations–boosting the time you spend writing every morning by five minutes a day for a week, perhaps, or by restricting your self-editing to only five minutes a day–and to evaluate their efficacy regularly, discarding the useless ones and keeping the useful ones. As my grandmother used to say, “trim the fat!” Keep the things that help you, and shed the weight of those which don’t.
And always remember: you are not alone. ♣︎
|ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.|