From Aspiring Writer to Published: My Experiences & Advice

“So you’ve written one book… big deal.” This is my latest accusing voice. It pops up when I think of giving people advice, or having the audacity to label myself as an author. We all have an accusing voice. Here’s how to shut them up.

A small disclaimer, up-front.  I chose to self-publish (initially), and you may be looking for “more” – like a ten book deal with Random House – so you may consider what I have to say irrelevant to your situation and goals.  Honestly, give it a read anyway and then see what you feel about it.

“So you’ve written one book… big deal.”

This is the latest accusing voice in my life.  It pops up when I think of giving people advice, or having the audacity to label myself as an author on my profiles or website.  We all have an accusing voice.

Before you begin to pursue writing, it might say something like “What do you know?” or “Why would anyone care what you have to say??”  Then during the process of doing your first or second draft, this evolves into “You’ll never get it done.  Don’t bother.  Look how many times you’ve failed and disappointed others already.”

“Don’t quit your day job… whatever that is!”

Yes, I’ve completed only one book.  That’s still more than most people manage, and I know because I’ve talked to a lot of people who have or had the dream of writing a book at some point.

So my first advice?  Tell that voice to go suck a lemon, then pick up your pen, open MS Office or whatever you’re most at home writing with, and start gittin ‘r done.

It gets easier.

It’s hard to emphasize this enough.  Working up the confidence to put out your first product, the one which might make or break your entire career or at least any further aspirations as a writer, is a tough, tough thing.  Once you’ve done it though, and received even a small amount of good feedback, there is really no reason not to write, unless you yourself have no further interest in it.

Focus on that.  Focus on your own interest and passion, and don’t lose sight of that.  You are passionate about it, aren’t you?  This isn’t just some money-making scheme, is it? Anyway, momentum is itself a valuable thing.  If you can maintain it in some form, you’re far more likely to succeed.  So yes, it does get easier after the first one.  It’s hardly been a month since I finished book number one, which took two years of writing and editing, three if you count the research, and 16 years if you count it from the first day that I kind of thought I wanted to write a book.  But now in one month, I’ve got a considerable amount done on the next one, plus a few more on the back-burner even.

That’s because there are several things I’ve developed a passion for and developed my voice regarding.  I think the single biggest thing that’s going to determine anyone’s long-term success as an author, or anything else for that matter, is their passion.  Not only for the writing, but what they’re writing about.

If you simply want to write but don’t yet fully know what to say, then as tough a pill as this might be to swallow, it’s probably the wrong time.  Not necessarily the wrong time to write, but the wrong time to approach it like you’re on the verge of a best-selling epic.  I had my magnum opus floating around in my head already when the Y2K bug was considered a thing.  Here we are in 2016; is it raking in millions for me?  Have I sold the film rights?  Does anyone even know it exists?  Nope, nope, and… nope.

In 2000, I didn’t know much of anything about the world, writing, or even myself.  I thought I did, and like a typical twenty-something, wanted to shortcut my way to success.  You know, so I’d have 50 good years ahead of me to build my empire, and all this grandiose kind of cocky thinking.  A little confidence is good, but if you want to be taken seriously by anyone, get over yourself and all these things you were told as a child like “you’re going to do something super special!”  Maybe you will, but that’s not the point.  The point is that raw talent, instinct and such is only a small part of the equation.  If you rely on them alone, you will fail more than you need to.

Perhaps you have enough passion and enough experience and work ethic to write the book that you’re agonizing over right now.  Perhaps you just lack the confidence, or you’re a perfectionist, maybe you do have a day job and other responsibilities… transitioning to doing something as a whole career is tough.  I’m not really there yet myself, but I’ve taken step one.

This brings me to publishing.  I think that for most of us today, unless there is a really, really good reason to go with a traditional publisher, to attempt to do so is probably a waste of time.  It’s an unnecessary obstacle in today’s landscape.  Now, maybe you’re terrible with marketing, and don’t have very many social connections or an already interested audience. If that’s the case, these might be good reasons to publish traditionally.  But you’re going to have to be prepared for a lot of rejection, and a lot of waiting.  Be prepared for lower royalties, a lack of control, and much more oversight.

Honestly, the self-publishing options out there are great and very professional.  From my point of view, when there are no huge waiting times, no financial barriers, and distribution is basically taken care of for you, then you have one very simple variable between you and success… yourself.

And that’s something that I fully believe every one of us can get under control.

Henrik is author of Inger: Father & Son – out now in Paperback and Kindle on Amazon.

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