What would I tell a new author?
Updated: Jan 25, 2021
Have you ever thought of writing a book? If so, do it! What’s the worst that could happen? No one will read it? No one will like it? Well, then you can write a second one, because the quality of one’s writing gets better with practice, like playing tennis. Or other physical activities.
When working on a book using an electronic device, I recommend you save your work often. When I’m editing, I save every edit as I complete it. I have lost a lot of important material over the years and had to start over, a daunting task. Once I lost 17 chapters! In fact, when writing the answer to this question, I accidentally lost all my writing from the Goodreads website. So this is my second draft, which I created using a word file on my computer. Understandably I click “save” every few minutes.
I find it vital to keep paper and pencil handy at all times (or for those under the age of 12 or electronic geniuses, one can use a tablet) to save whatever words, ideas, and thoughts come up at any given place or time. If I don’t write down that brilliant jewel that pops into my head, it disappears into a black hole of memory, never to be spotted again. My other author friends tell me the same thing happens to them, even the younger authors.
Do you know that Mnemosyne was the Greek goddess of memory and remembrance and the inventor of language and words? She was also the goddess of time and the mother of the Muses. You want to have Mnemosyne and her kin in your corner. Record your words so she can keep them safe for you.
Often when I’m working on a book project, ideas keep churning when I’m trying to sleep. I assure you I won’t remember any of it in the morning unless I save it on paper (tablet!). I have to turn on the lamp and put on my glasses. I’m too fussy for contacts and too young for cataract surgery. Then I write down bits and pieces, or else lose them forever. Sometimes a whole string of ideas keep pressuring me. I turn the lamp off, lay down and try to sleep again. Another piece jumps out at me, requiring my further attention. On and off goes the lamp and the glasses. I often need a handwriting expert the next morning to decipher what I’ve written in my dreamy state. But at least I have saved my words.
Some say that the periods just before sleep and immediately after arising are the most fruitful times to acquire information. Maybe that’s when the Muses are most active.
Sometimes I get new ideas when I’m working on other ideas. It’s a contest to get all of them written down before some escape into that black hole. Often a word or two is sufficient to jog Mnemosyne and her kids into action.
I find creative new writing more challenging than to edit what I’ve already written. Editing, in my opinion, is easy. I can edit when bogged down, when I’m too tired to create, when I just want to work on my book and not have to think much. Editing can also prime the creative pump for me, as it often stimulates new thought processes.
Therefore I encourage authors to practice what is called “stream of consciousness” writing. That is, write whatever comes to your mind when it comes. Ignore spelling, grammar, syntax errors and incorrect words. Just keep writing and writing and writing as fast as you can until the consciousness tap runs dry – or you get tired. An hour is a goodly amount of time, but I’ve been known to do this kind of writing for hours. I can type almost as fast as I think, if I don’t stop to pay attention to errors.
Please don’t try to edit your work in your head or as you’re creating. Editing that way dams up the luscious flow of creative thought. I’ve known people who even edit their words as they have conversations. Can you imagine?
I’ve done this stream of consciousness method working with a co-author as well. She talked. I typed as long as I could keep up or until I fell headfirst onto my keyboard in exhaustion. Then later I -- or we – edited leisurely and effectively, without losing precious information.
Ten famous writers who used stream of consciousness writing are: Dorothy Richardson, William Faulkner, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, Jack Kerouac, José Saramago, Samuel Beckett, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Toni Morrison.
Editing is an essential process to writing. For me, editing is like eating popcorn. It’s hard to stop. I love editing. I edit dozens, even hundreds of times. Each time the writing improves. A brilliant, finished first draft isn’t necessary. Unless you’re Mozart.
Writing is like art. At some point you need to declare that your book is done, finito, complete. And let it go. Stop editing. Unless you create a 2nd edition. But that’s later.
An important question is – do you like your book? That’s imperative. To write something that you appreciate, like, and love is like eating 70% chocolate with a decaf latte and gluten-free pretzels while watching your favorite movie on Netflix (or fill in the blank). Cool! If you don’t like your book, who will?
When you finish your book (I said when, not if) for heaven’s sake, get it published. Publishing is so easy and inexpensive nowadays. I’ve been to a few writers’ groups over the years. No one had published their work. They didn’t think their writing was good enough. For what? I don’t claim to be Stephen King or one of the Bronte sisters, but what I write is mine. I love my books as dear children. Better than children. I don’t have to potty-train books.
Speaking of potty, I find that when I’m working on an article or book, when I take a bathroom break, creative thoughts instantly spring into my head. The Muses wait for quiet moments to inspire.
I surrender a finished book over to the universe and then publish the book on Amazon, Kindle and Smashwords with help from my two brilliant friends, formatters and designers, Steph and Sue. I send information of my published book into the cosmos of the internet, my website (you can get a free website from Wix), my tolerant friends, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and book signings.
I find that putting my published book (or books) on a table or counter in my home where I and others can see them often, is immensely stimulating. Encourages me. Inspires me. Gives me a good feeling about myself and my work whenever I see the books. My friends are impressed as well. Often a friend will buy one or more of them just by seeing them.
I’ve been told it’s good to keep one or more of my books and my business cards with me wherever I go, in case I talk to someone at the grocery store -- or while getting my taxes done -- a true story. You can order inexpensive, high quality business cards from Vistaprint and other card companies on the internet.
I find that if I write wearing my jammies or sweats, I’m not as diligent, directed, professional, skilled, or articulate as when I dress my best sitting at my computer. Today I’m wearing pearls and earrings too. For you guys out there, get out your best jeans or pants and dressy shirt, maybe even a tie. This idea may sound silly to you but I’ve found it works. My body believes I’m at “work,” which of course I am, and wanting to make an impact on the “boss.”
I also dress up every time I go out in public, including the library and the grocery store, just in case I meet someone with whom I can discuss my books. I want to make a good impression on an individual, who will then dash to the nearest computer to buy my books – or at least google me.
You are welcome to contact me in writing to ask any questions or to ask for support. It’s a ferocious jungle of books out there. We all need support to thrash our way through the wild vegetation with our electronic machetes -- and kindness from others is helpful.