Writing may seem a romantic affair to many. You sit in a cafe, gazing out of the window awaiting inspiration, and then write an amazing magical story of intrigue and adventure. Well, for self-help writers or those in the non-fiction arena it can be a tad different.
Many people may have an idea already forming, a well structured list of chapters, what goes where and off you go! My writing journey was not like this at all.
I researched a little on book-writing beforehand, but I just wanted to write. I was not sure what I was going to write; I just knew I had to write. Looking back I can see things I would do differently next time and I highly recommend it for first time authors. I will make a bullet check-list for you near the end of this post.
So you see in the photo to the left my manuscript. This was me in a cafe, trying to appear romantic and all 'writer-like' (grin), but it was not romantic. It was empowering but not romantic or idealistic. It was work, often work I did not want to do.
If you love to write, you probably do not want to edit. You probably would rather someone else took care of editing, the formatting of the book, and the whole entire marketing admin side of things, and if you have the luxury of the resources to do this, DO IT! But if you do not, like me, you may get an awful lot of self-empowerment to think, 'HEY! I pretty much did it all myself! And I spent hardly a cent to do so!'.
Motivation To Write
So where does motivation to write come from? And how do you keep going?
I had a weirdly strange motivation to write. My motivation came from 'If not now, it's never going to happen!' and I used the fuel of frustration and jealousy to be not only part of the art-form of my work, but also the driving force to keep on going. This is where chapters in my book 'When Everyone Shines But You' speak about using difficult emotions and how we compare to others, to become a great fire in our belly in our entire writing process, especially if you are writing inspirational work or self help.
My motivation came from a deep inner desire to know myself. I wanted to know not only who I was but also why life challenges and emotions like fear, anxiety, rage, envy and sadness affected me so much. I wanted to know why it appeared that other people were having an easier ride of this life than me, and I wanted to know how to experience a more peaceful and joy-full life.
So from December 2013 I switched on my computer and every day I wrote for as long as I felt words were flowing through my fingertips. My one main tip for writing motivation if you have had a lengthy experience of self-doubt in your life, is to not put a time limit on writing. Do not say 'today I will write for an hour' or 'today I will write 1000 words', I discovered in the previous year when I joined the Nanowrimo challenge, while I finished a book in a month (unedited might I add), it was not as inspired or flowing as allowing my inner self to flow through me without self-pressures. If you are using writing as a healing practice and have potential perfectionist tendencies like me, you may really need to go easy on yourself. Yes, commit to the writing but be flexible in how you motivate yourself to write.
So, I wrote almost every day until the end of January 2014. Yes, it did not take too long (the writing side of it), but I understand why it differs from person to person. It all depends on what you are writing. If it's self-help and coming from within it may flow more easily. If it's non-fiction where you need to gather data or facts to present as part of your material, this is obviously going to take longer to write.
Where Does The Inspiration Come From?
I gazed out of my window a lot. Sometimes I sat at the keyboard struggling with what to write. I sometimes did not sense my intuition for some time. So I gazed out of the window and all I did each day to begin the writing process was ask myself 'What do I need to know today?' and often there was some hefty inner turmoil going on, like challenges with relationships, money, fear, anger... lots of emotions were arising, so I used all of them as fuel for my writing flame.
I asked myself 'Why do other people have it easier than me? - It's so unfair!' I allowed myself to be human and accepted this through my writing. And I allowed my spirit, my intuition, to offer me a new way of experiencing the world around me and within me and this is where my inspiration came from, my life-force itself.
And as I asked these questions, nature outside my window inspired me greatly. The bird on the branch, the wind blowing the trees, the rain, the butterflies outside... nature was a great inspiration for me. And you will discover your own and what works for you as you begin to write.
One last thing. Don't publish an autobiography or a story of your life - unless you are using it to inspire others and give them guidance and support. In all honesty they are good for healing, but for selling? Most people will buy autobiographies from well known people, celebrities, long term authors, teachers, gurus etc.. but the emphasis is on well-known. I know this sucks big time if you really had your heart set on this, but think about it logically too, would you buy an autobiography from an unknown talking about their childhood?
There are however exceptions to the rule, people like Iyanla Vanzant in 'One Day My Soul Opened Up' highlighted her traumatic childhood and life, but also showed the resilience and strength she carried herself with as her journey went on. Also 'A Child Called It' by Dave Pelzer, a major story of his childhood and abuse. So if your life story has taken you to awakening or revelation, that is when it is time to write your autobiography in my honest opinion, or unless you feel very much intuitively guided to write it and publish it.
Get A Good Editor Or Make Sure Are Able To Edit Yourself
I read on so many writing sites, get a good editor and proof-reader, pay someone to design the cover of your book... everything involved parting with cash I did not have. I was however blessed to have a friend who is an aficionado when it comes to grammar and editing.
So Mike, my saviour (to the right), was amazing for my writing. He not only helped me with the editing of the book, he also helped me prepare it for self-publishing on Createspace, readying it for Kindle and e-readers too. He was extremely patient with me even when I was uneasy hearing my words read back to me when the 'not good enough-itis' arose (this makes me laugh now considering what my book is about, but hey, Rome was not built in a day and he was encouraging when I was not wanting to go through the draft for fourth time).
Mike now offers a service for budding self-publishers, so if you are wanting help he will help, for a fee of course, (but it's well worth it as he probably spent far more time with me than any other editor would). He will talk with you over Skype also, as he finds reading out-loud is a big yes when editing anything. Check out his site HERE.
It may seem a really boring part of the process, but if your book is poorly edited, poorly formatted, it will look amateur and self-published. Even though I self-published I wanted my book to be as professional as possible.
Formatting Sucks! No, It's Not Fun, But It Needs To Be Done
So one of those things as a new writer I wish I had known before writing was how important formatting is (I will add that summary soon I promise). As a blogger I just wrote, wrote and wrote some more. With writing a book for publication there is so much more involved.
If you are uploading to sites like Createspace or Lulu where you can self-publish for free (they simply get a cut of your royalties), you need to decide on the perfect size for your book. Bear in mind that if there are not many pages you will not get a spine that allows a title on it. Margins and pages need to be perfected to the publisher's guidelines and with non-fiction you need a contents page, preface, introduction etc etc... to look professional. I have to emphasise that to sell you need to look professional.
And if you are using Word to format the book, there can be all kinds of quirks it throws up. For example with each save, Word can sometimes change the changes you have just made. I would put in indents and go back to it and the indents had reverted back again. So you need patience, but please don't let this put you off writing a book. Just remember that during the editing phase you may need to meditate daily, have a coffee on hand, have at least one good encouraging friend/editor and the patience of a saint (haha! No! I did not have this but I jest).
There are some great websites on-line that offer so much more good advice on the formatting process, so I am just going to share my favourite helpful ones at the end of this post for you to peruse to your heart's content.
So, what do you need to know prior to writing if you do not want to go through the challenging formatting process I did my first time?
As you go through the process of formatting and editing, which you may have to do many times till you get it just right, try to release the inner perfectionist.
I have major perfectionist tendencies and sometimes you can format and edit it into the ground where you no longer think its a) Any good or b) Worth publishing. This is the time to stop editing and start the uploading process.
So that is the writing process. In my next post I will write about uploading it for publication, creating a cover on a zero or shoestring budget and more.
Here are the top sites I recommend you get started with when researching writing your first book. There are countless others online, but these are really good. And breathe.. you do this... just take one day at a time.
Author of 'When Everyone Shines But You'. Passionate about helping others remember who they are. Manager of an editorial & publishing support business and social media whizz.