PLOT. WRITE. SELL.
Why would anyone want to write a book?
Time and again I get asked ‘how do you write a book?’ How hard could it be people say? ‘I could just write a book, sell it, make a fortune and retire to sit in the sunshine all day every day.’ Of course, there are people who do just that. But there are plenty more who don’t. I did. I understand how hard it is to write every day, how difficult it is to make the plot of your book interesting and how terrifying it is to hand your book over to an editor who will effectively pull it to pieces, trash most of what you’ve done and then help you turn it into something saleable.
The aim of this book is to ensure you become one of the few people who actually finish a book. Plot. Write. Sell will also help you find the tools that will help you produce your book if you intend to self-publish, or to sell to traditional publishers. I also aim to show you the pitfalls that trip up writers and how to avoid them.
People often seem to think there is a magic formula which will turn a hazy idea into a fully-fledged novel at the drop of a hat. There isn’t. Writing a book sounds simple but sorry – it doesn’t happen like that. 230
The reality of a writer’s life
The internet and media abounds with stories about authors who have made their fortunes from writing a book. There are some, but they are few and far between. Most authors don’t cover the time they spend researching and writing and many self-publishing authors don’t cover the expense of paying for the professional services that are needed to produce a book. The only way to write a book is perseverance. What lies ahead is a hard slog. Long lonely days when your fingers move over the keyboard and your mind tells you repeatedly, what are you doing this for? This is rubbish? Go and watch television/enjoy life. Anything has to be better than this. It can take months, even years to write a book if you are juggling family and business life. If you already have a full time job writing a book is going to involve making an extra hour in your day so you can write. Make sure your motivations are valid, if you are intending on spending such a large chunk of your life in such a solitary occupation. Honestly there are more lucrative ways to spend your time than writing a book. You had better find it interesting and fun and have a burning desire to see your book become a reality rather than just thinking it is a fast way to make a buck. 234
A Burning idea
Often though an idea will come along, it won’t matter about the money, or the time, the idea just demands to be told.
Ideas can pop into our minds at any time, once you are open to them inspiration will strike at any time. It’s only in the act of making an idea real that we can pin ideas down long enough to discover what they will be of any use to us as an author. Many will crumble. Some will disappoint. Some might need to linger for weeks or years. Some may be short stories or plays rather than novels. The wonderful thing about ideas is that there are always more. You lose nothing by an attempt at turning them into reality. If your idea fades there will be others. You’ll find them in situations during the day, in snatches of conversation, in something you read, everywhere.
Often people find they are bombarded with ideas and the hard part is to distinguish between what will be a viable book idea and what needs to be discarded. Sometimes it is hard to tell this until you start writing, the story can grow legs and start to run, taking you the writer with it, sometimes it will stumble and fall. Some people who have magical stories to tell will keep asking others if they think the story is good enough to be written down, with the net result that often nothing is ever written. What a shame. Don’t ask for permission to tell your story. You don’t need anyone to tell you that it is worthy of being written. Just start writing and get it out of your soul and into reality. Whether anyone else will ever read it is a sales problem not a writing problem. 296
Its hard to write and expensive too
Writing is a thankless task. It is hard to stay motivated. No one who expresses a desire to write should be envied, instead they need pity – what lies ahead is long hours of solitary effort, scepticism from everyone you meet and a constant voice in your imagination that says in no uncertain terms you are writing rubbish. No wonder people give up.
Often writers come up with an idea for a book and begin to write with no idea of where the story is going. Three quarters of the way through they realise the story doesn’t work. Work before you start writing will help ensure you finish writing with a completed book.
The constant slog, fighting the procrastination which will undoubtedly strike giving you lots of tempting options rather than sit down at the computer and write. Lots of authors talk of the appeal of cleaning our cupboards, or scrubbing the dustbins. Anything rather than be alone with that horrific, daunting blank page.
Equally, if you decide to self publish you will need to ensure your book is as professionally produced as one from a traditional publishing company. That means employing the services of editors, proof readers, typesetters, cover designers and the like who understandably demand a good fee for their skills. One thing that is important to understand as a writer, if you are considering self-publishing. The title does not mean you’ve done everything yourself, or that you should even consider this as an option. It merely means you have chosen to produce the book independently. Unless you are a professional book cover designer, don’t even consider doing this yourself. The professional production of your book is vital, for current and future sales. 284
If the idea won’t go away
But if that desire to write keeps nudging at you the only way to deal with it is to write and keep writing, even when procrastination seems to be your constant ally. It is amazing the things authors do to avoid writing, cleaning out cabinets, volunteering to do anything that will keep their fingers well and truly away from the keyboard. I’ve carried ideas around with me for years before finally getting the chance to start them. If you are blessed with ideas for novels popping into your imagination but seriously haven’t the time to write, make sure you write them down. Jot down brief book ideas, character sketches, things that spark your interest. If you’re meant to write the ideas will keep nudging at you until you pay them attention and give them the life they need. There is a skill as a writer in recognising what is a short story, what should be a poem, what a play. Equally as a novelist, there is a skill in knowing what can be a single novel and what deserves to be a series. This knowledge comes by writing and keeping writing. Write whatever takes your fancy, the more you do the more you’ll learn, the better you’ll become and the more skilled at making those crucial decisions.
Once the idea is there and won’t leave you and you feel you must start to write, make notes, think about the characters, plan the book, there are chapters dedicated to this in the book which will ensure you have all the help you need to set yourself up for success rather than failure. 271
Promoting a business
There are reasons to write other than having a story which needs to be told. If you run a business or are a professional a book can show your knowledge to a wide audience and increase your customer base. You may have specialist knowledge or may have a theory you want to share with the world. One of the great things about writing in todays market is that you can attract a world-wide audience. You can find readers all over the world to share your story and knowledge.
A book is a vital marketing tool for todays business, enhancing your professional status, giving you another income string from book sale and possibly equally from talking to other people about your book and work.
With this type of book of course you are more likely to self publish – or publish independently and if this is going to be used to promote your business or service it is vital it is professionally produced. E-books of your book can be used as giveaways on your website to persuade clients to let you have their email address, vital for marketing. However, if this is filled with spelling mistakes and is badly produced it will do nothing but harm. If you are going to take the time to produce a book, make sure it is done correctly and professionally so it shows you and your business in the best possible light. Make sure, if you have done all the work that it can then go on to do the work you need it to and ensure it will bring you more clients. 267
What you need as a writer – motivation, time, perseverance
Don’t wait for permission from anyone else, asking for everyone’s approval is just a way of procrastinating, putting off the actual moment of making the idea a reality. Just make a start and see where it takes you – there’s nothing at stake, you aren’t learning how to save lives.
No one has to see the book but you – why be afraid of yourself? Your idea is good enough – because it’s yours. Who cares about grammar and structure that’s just nuts and bolts. Just write!
It’s only through effort that we learn what a good idea really is and if our passion for it will last or if it will fizzle out. There is no shame in failure – everyone who tries will fail at some stage. But it’s hard to respect someone who never tries, even once, to do something with a good idea that is always on their mind. If you’re worried about how good your idea is, you’re worrying about the wrong thing. Stop worrying and start writing.
If in the end if only one other person enjoys reading what you have written, that alone justifies your efforts. That person might be a close friend, a distant stranger, or possibly even yourself, years later, when you rediscover the fabulous story you have told. Your book idea is good because it’s yours. Lots of great ideas just don’t go on to become bestselling books, but the best way to make sure your book does become one of the greats is to write it – and write it well. .Regardless of what the story is about you are the only person in the world capable of telling it in the way you have it in your imagination. Maybe it’s not terribly original, but what the hell – the last 2000 or so years of literature have been retelling the writings of Sophocles and Shakespeare
The only way to know if an idea for a book is any good is to do something with it. If you write it and others don’t like it; you’re in good company. There isn’t a writer in existence who has written something everyone likes.
Make a start. It’s the only way. You may fail – but who knows – you might also succeed.
The aim of this book is to help you identify what is a good idea for a book and how to develop that idea into a workable plot. It is, sorry if this is being repeated, but it is hard to write a book. Hours of thankless labour will go into it. Because of that, your time is vital, there are better ways to spend it than messing about with a book that will be rubbish, which won’t find a place in the market, won’t sell, or even worse won’t even get finished in the first place.
We want to ensure that won’t happen to you. We want to ensure you will finish your book that the story will be good enough to become a novel, that it will grow legs and run. But we also want to make sure you understand how vital it is that the book is as good as it can be. We want to help ensure you understand how important re-writing is, how important it is to get the best editors and proof readers and cover designers and other producers if you decide to publish independently. We also want to make sure you have the best chance possible of selling your novel to traditional publishers if that is the route you want to take.
It is an incredible gift to be given the germ of a story idea. Not everyone has that gift. It is important that it is used properly and to the fullest extent possible. Only by proper planning and the understanding of your motivation for writing and how to avoid the pitfalls that trip up so many writers will you get this book finished. The road is going to be long and hard, there will be many times when cleaning out the toilets with a toothbrush will seem far more appealing than sitting at a computer trying to show a reader what is going on in your mind. But this book will give you the important tools which will help you succeed. There really isn’t anything to beat the feeling when everyone has told you not to bother, what are you doing in the spare room for hours on end, when you’ve battled trying to make sense of the characters that are going on in your imagination, Finally when the book is complete, when you write the magical words The End at the bottom of the page, there is nothing to beat the feeling. Yet there is nothing harder to achieve, there are many hurdles in the way, not least that your own mind will put in front of you let alone those your work colleagues, family will throw at you. But you can beat these, you can get to those magical two words. Focus on that when you write and know that every single writer who has sold millions of copies of their book have gone through the same process. They’ve all had to struggle with procrastination, the disinterest of family and have stuck at it, and finally written. The End. And you can too.