10 Things I’ve Learned from Writing a Book

One of my biggest goals in life….writing a book!  I have spent the second half of this year writing a book, researching how to publish it, and then spent this month pitching it to editors in New York City.  Here is what I have learned from this adventure.  I hope it helps if writing a book is a dream of yours too.

Just Freaking Start the Damn Thing – JUST. START. NOW!  Write.  Stare at a blank Word doc until you go cross-eyed and then type some words.  You have to type even if all the words suck.  It will suck at first for sure.  You may never even use those words.  You just have to start.  You cannot wait one more day.  You cannot waste any more time researching applications to write it in or what computer or device would be the best to write it on or the font style or the font size you should use or if you should do single space or double space.  JUST FREAKING START! (I’ll save you some time – use Word, type it on the device you use the most, 12 point Times New Roman is what an editor wants, double space and indent your paragraphs.  You’re welcome.)

Go to New York – Fly to New York and go to the New York Writers Workshop (they have one for Fiction and one for Non-Fiction).  You will never be ready but you will learn so much valuable information.  You will be scared and nervous and it will be expensive, but do it.  There’s a huge difference between sitting alone at home or your favorite coffee shop and writing words or being in a room full of authors who are sharing their ideas and giving you the push you need to write with a little more edge.

YouTube is Free Learning – I have watched countless hours worth of agent and editor panels on YouTube.  Whether you’re looking to publish a book or you have another dream you’re chasing, stop watching reality TV or scanning Facebook and replace that time with watching videos on YouTube that apply to what you’re going after.  This is where I learned the difference between traditional publishing, self-publishing, the role of an agent, the role of an editor, publications to submit essays to, etc.  Literally, any question I had about writing a book….down to how to format a manuscript….were all answered by watching YouTube videos.

Dream Big…and then Go Bigger – I honestly had pretty much settled for the fact that I’d probably end up self publishing any book I wrote.  That still may happen.  But, by continuing to go outside of my comfort zone this month, I have an editor at one of the largest publishing houses who has requested my work.  Just go big.  Don’t sell yourself short before you even try.  Whatever you’re dreaming of, just take it one step further.  You’ll impress yourself!  And if it doesn’t work out….it makes for great stories!

The Time Will Pass Anyway – I read a quote earlier in the month that says “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it.  The Time Will Pass Anyway.”  It’s true.  A  year will go by, and then another year, and then another year.  A goal like writing a book can take SO long to accomplish between writing, pitching, editing, etc, BUT the time will pass anyway.  You might as well start chipping away at your big goals one day at a time so that someday you’ll look up and you will have achieved what you set out to do.  I have wanted to throw the towel in so many times on this simply because it takes what feels like a lifetime.  But what else am I doing?  Who cares if it takes forever.  Who cares if 3 more birthdays go by before I’m holding my published book in my hand.  At least I’m doing it.

Writing is Personal – In my day job, if I get feedback on something, it’s really just a matter of changing a chart, graph, powerpoint slide, email communication, etc.  I don’t really take any of that too personal because it’s just business and you do what ya gotta do.  But writing….oh boy.  See, I sit down at my computer and type all my secrets and feelings and jokes and thoughts, and then you, you sit down and judge it.  Ugh.  I’m still working on the part where people give you feedback other than “This is great! You’re the best writer in the whole wide world!”  That’s my heart on that paper, people!

Free Spirit Meets Schedule – So you can be the creative-type, creating new things (books, artwork, music, etc) whenever inspiration strikes you, or you can be the scheduled business person, following deadlines and checklists and completing everything by the end of the day.  If you’re writing a book, leave a lot of disconnected time for the wave of inspiration, but if you don’t surrender and put some sort of schedule or general plan in place…..that book may never see the light of day.

You Call the Shots (kinda*) – The most freeing thing about writing is, you call the shots.  You start with a blank page, you come up with the stories, and you share whatever words you want to use to communicate that story.  You can do whatever you want.  You’re the boss.  What you say goes.  *Unless you publish through a large publishing house in which case I think they have a little bit of say too.

Writing a Book is a Piece of Art – I’ve always loved words….talking and writing.  But I always approached writing with a semi-academic mindset.  I may not use perfect punctuation or grammar when I blog, but in general, I at least capitalize the first letter of every sentence and try not to end any sentences with the word “for” or “at.”  About a month into writing my book, I watched a YouTube video where someone referred to published books as a piece of art.  I’ve never really looked at it like that but it made me so much more excited at the thought of it all.  I could approach writing with a more creative mindset and less in a “I have to type 10,000 words” mindset.  I started day dreaming about book covers and fonts and witty comments I’d include in my acknowledgements section.  Admittedly, I’ve never been a huge reader in the past, but let’s just say I have a whole new outlook on a book these days.  I’m starting to notice things about books I’ve never noticed before.  They really are like little pieces of art.

Look Up – If you’ve moved past “just freaking start the damn thing” mode and you’re into heads down writing mode….take a minute to look up.  It feels like a manuscript is never really done.  There’s always edits to be made.  All the chapters start to get old because you’ve lived them, written them, edited them, and stared at them for months….possibly years.  It’s so easy to just stir around in it.  Sometimes you just have to look up and give yourself some credit for all the work you’ve done.

I did it!

Since this was such a big goal and it’s still in progress, here’s the gory details of what will happen next:

What’s next for my book? 

I am currently editing the 13-ish stories I have written (shooting for around 20, I think, the number changes daily).  On December 15, I will be sending all of the stories I have done (I don’t have to have all 20 done) and edited (I am self-editing and have talked my bestie into editing them too) to the editor at Penguin Random House who requested a copy of my work.  She will either want to publish it, not want to publish it, or it will go into a black hole and I’ll never hear back (which I have hopes of the last one not happening because the editor seemed too cool to not respond to emails).  It could take weeks or months to hear back on the verdict.

What will I do while I wait to hear back?

Bite my nails and eat too many carbs.  After December 15, I will be doing 2 things:  1.  Trying to find an agent.  I will need one even if the editor referenced above wants to publish my book because they would negotiate the deal for me.  They will also pitch my work to other editors while we wait to hear back from Penguin Random House in case others have an interest.  2.  I will be continuing to write more stories to get the book officially done on my end.

When will I post about writing a book again?

When I get an agent, when I hear back from the editor, or when I complete the book!  I will be sharing those updates on Facebook and Instagram when they happen (well, I’m positive if/when any of those things happen I’ll probably just dedicate a full blog post to the event, of course), but until then, I’ll be pushing pause on blogging about my book writing experiences even though it will still be consuming a lot of me, and I will continue blogging about my goal of the month.  Spoiler alert:  Angela and I have decided to continue Gals With Goals for 1 more year (::cheers::), so it’s highly likely one of my goals for the beginning part of 2016 will be focused on getting an agent or something of the like.