Any author will tell you: Writing is a long and arduous process. After you have brainstormed ideas for your subject matter and then completed your detailed outline, it’s time to begin your prose. You know what you planned to talk about, and you want your articulation, punctuation, rhythm, and descriptions to be perfect. But this can be intimidating. You might find yourself writing and rewriting your first chapter or even your first few paragraphs over and over again. You might find yourself stuck.
When you first decided you wanted to write a book, you probably pictured it flowing freely from you, the muse speaking through you about your particular topic of expertise. In a perfect world, this would be the case. Unfortunately, and more realistically, this “muse approach” rarely works. Writing a book is difficult—even for the most experienced of authors. A strong outline can be one of the most useful tools you can use to get you through the writing process. Unlike the muse, who can be a tad fickle, your outline will always be there.
You did it! You’re a published author. It was a long road, full of twists and turns and the unexpected, but you came out the other side and can now find your book among the other titles you’ve admired for years. There are things you probably wish you’d known at the beginning of this process that you know now. Some advice from your future, published self to your past, unpublished self might include the following:
- Your book will not be what you envisioned; it will be better.
- The publishing process will take longer than you think.
- There are more moving parts to the process than you imagine.
If you’ve found a publisher for your book (or think you may soon have one), you may be wondering what your responsibilities will look like once your manuscript is with your editor. After all, now that the book is in the hands of experts, the author's work is done, right? In truth, this is where the real fun begins.
Stephen King once wrote, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” This is advice often given to writers. It means you should get rid of your most cherished and self-indulgent passages for the good of your prose. But maybe that’s a bit extreme. Maybe you don’t have to kill your darlings; maybe they just need to be turned into responsible adults.
Once your manuscript is complete, you may find yourself reading and rereading it, constantly making tweaks or rearranging small pieces of the text or rewording your never-quite-right prose. It may seem like it will never be perfect. Guess what. It won’t. But it’ll never be done either unless you let it go.
Hundreds of books are published every day in a seemingly endless variety of formats and platforms, so it is essential that you find ways to make your book stand out from the crowd—whether that crowd is in the airport, the bookstore, or online. The good news is that readers are always on the lookout for something new. Differentiating your book from the competition will help ensure that your book doesn’t get lost among the other books in its genre.
Once you’ve determined why you want to write a book and have found your ideal target audience, your next step is to ensure that your book is useful to that audience. You’ll determine your reader’s pain points and how you’ll address them. This is your unique contribution, the selling point of your book, but it has to be presented in a way that lets your reader absorb it effectively. As you write your book, keep in mind that for your message to connect with your audience, it must be readable, digestible, and actionable.