I started working on my first book in January of 2017, shortly after we expanded our family with two puppies.
The puppies needed constant supervision and attention, so I moved my laptop from my backyard sanctuary to the kitchen. Not only was I quickly reminded how energetic and demanding puppies are, but I also learned three key things as a first-time author.
Writing the original puke-on-paper version took less time than I thought. Getting everything out that I wanted to say was only the beginning. The next step – editing it into something that made sense – was the challenge I hadn’t anticipated.
Since I didn’t know much about writing books, I relied on my mentor and publishing coach and owner of The Stay at Home Nurse, Deanna, for guidance, and then there were a lot of things on which I happened to stumble in the dark, out of sheer ignorance and luck.
The first dumb thing I did was send the finished, but unedited copy to another author I knew in the same genre and topic. He agreed to read over it and tell me what he thought. This led to lesson number one, through dumb luck.
1. Seek Tough & Honest Critics
Get as many critical eyes on your manuscript as possible, and you absolutely MUST find critics who will be tough and honest.
Criticism, though it may hurt the ego, is key. Whether they know the topic or not, they can read it and see if it makes sense to them, or if they think it’s something they’d recommend to anyone else to read.
The response I got from this person was nothing like what I expected. Over an hour-long phone call, he ripped it apart. He said I had a lot of good ideas, but it sounded angry, had not clearly articulated my goals for the book, or made it clear who the audience was. He asked me how many people had read it.
Since he’d already been through the process with his book, and I respect his knowledge of the subject matter, I listened, even though it was like being repeatedly punched in the gut. I staggered away from that phone call, ego-shattered, but knowing he was absolutely right if I ever wanted to have something that wouldn’t be a laughing stock.
In this case, I sent it out too early, but that turned out to be a good thing, as I got critical input that helped me focus.
Lesson number one naturally led to lesson number two:
2. Get a Great Editor
A great editor is essential! I was so lucky in this regard. Deanna recommended someone who I corresponded with over email and she made the process of writing my first book mush less stressful! It was pure trust, but I sent her hundreds of pages of my puke on paper and she turned it into a streamlined, coherent, sensical version. My editor was the most wonderful part of this entire project. She was easy to work with, but relentless in taking things out that really didn’t need to be in there. I had to learn to let go at first, but she was always right.
3. Create Ample Time & Space
Deanna was absolutely right when she said whatever you think it will take, expect it to take longer.
It will take more time, money, and space in your life, (especially time) than you envision when you’re first starting. So be sure not to set too strict of a time goal for finishing. You can’t expect to be “on” all the time, either. It will take concentration and focus, and you’ll be thinking about many things in addition to just writing the material. Life happens. Sometimes, you have a bad brain day. Get out and do something else, don’t stress over it. Your creativity will come back. Fortunately, I had two puppies. When the words weren’t flowing, we went for a hike.
There are some costs to publish a book. I had to hire an attorney for contracts with people I’d interviewed, and for filing a copyright to protect my intellectual property. Editing and formatting cost money, and you’ll want to negotiate this ahead of time. When doing so, keep in mind that it will always be more than you thought.
Finally, make space for it in your world. Do the people and animals in your life understand this is a major undertaking? That you might wake up at 2 am with a terrific idea and run downstairs in your pajamas to write it down before it escapes you?
I missed writing “for fun”. My blogs, which had always been my outlet for verbal creativity and rants, got pushed aside. The book took precedence over everything. And once it’s done, there’s marketing…
Now that it’s all said and done I highly recommend you write that book you always wanted to write! Just make sure you clear a big space for it in your life, warn everyone around you, and be prepared for it to take over. The reward of holding the finished product in your hands will make up for everything!
Find my book on Amazon, Navigating the C: A nurse charts the course for cancer survivorship care.