There are a number of components to creating a book, and I’ll admit I hadn’t realised just how much was involved when I set to write my first one. Which has still not been published, by the way, it was truly terrible. You’re welcome.
A writer begins with the germ of an idea, a creative spark, just a little something that falls into the imagination from the ether and says, ‘Hey, you know what would be a good story? This…’ It’s hard to say where inspiration comes from. It’s the first question people always ask me: ‘Where do you get your ideas?’
And it’s almost impossible to answer that, because ideas or inspiration can come from so many, many varied sources, and are often a kind of amalgamation of a number of different threads that come together seemingly from nowhere. I wrote a blog post about this a while ago. If you’d like to read it, you can follow this link:
After the germ or spark, comes the ‘mulling things over’ phase. You begin to add more and more to your idea, like the layers of an onion. You test it to see if your initial thought will work in practice. You begin to think of snatches of dialogue, or scenes or names or any number of little details that add the colour and richness to your bare bones. At this point I usually have to start making notes, a bit worried I’ll forget something – I know what I’m like!
Then comes the beginning of the writing. For me, this usually happens quite quickly – I feel very excited, I write as fast as I can in an actual paper notebook, I’m not one of those people who creates a first draft on a computer or who uses a special app. This is the honeymoon phase that I never want to end. It is joyful and fun.
Then comes the dark night of the soul, the ‘I can’t write for toffee’ phase, imposter syndrome raises its ugly head, and I am consumed with doubts about myself, my ability and my work. At this point all I can do is to dig deep and become really stubborn and tell myself I WILL do this. I push on, writing even though I’m pretty much convinced that it’s a waste of time. I didn’t realise until just a few years ago that almost everyone feels like this about their work, whatever it is. It’s taken me many years to realise that persistence is my most valuable tool. Another thing I’ve blogged about before!
Finally my first draft is complete. I let myself and my story rest for a few weeks or several months. I take a break to enjoy doing other things, like cooking or gardening, I read loads, sometimes do a bit of editing or proofreading. I blog, of course, and dip in and out of social media. Or dare I say it – I might go out – (we are able to do that now in the UK, not sure if that will all change again, it still seems a bit naughty to go out of the house for anything other than the bare essentials).
There’s till loads to do on the book. A first draft does not a book make, and I will need to revise, edit, polish, revise, edit and polish several times over before it’s ready to be ‘properly’ edited, have a final proofread, then released on an unsuspecting world. At this stage, I need to let go of my favourites – not necessarily in a ‘kill your darlings’ kind of way, but just letting go of scenes or phrases and being honest with myself if they just don’t work.
Then my technical – or lack of – skills come into play. These were the things that provided the biggest learning curve for me as a new self-published writer some years ago. I didn’t have the money to pay someone to do all this for me, and I wasn’t with a traditional publishing house who do so much for their authors. So I had to learn how to create a reasonable book cover, (Canva, I love you so much), how to format my eBooks and paperback books, and how to make marketing materials. I had to learn what metadata was, and how to use advertising. I had to learn to negotiate the online world to publish and market my books. People were very kind and there are loads of helpful sites and books if you get stuck or don’t know how to do something, but you have to be determined to work your socks off and learn a ton of new skills, even if you are not a techy kind of person.
But finally, the big day dawns and your book – or my book, in this case – is out there is the big wide world. It’s a bit scary, doesn’t seem real, and is hard to believe you actually made it from that first little spark of an idea months or sometimes years earlier. The book writer’s journey has often been compared to pregnancy and the birth of a child. I think that’s a pretty good analogy, especially when it comes to the ‘don’t you ever come near me again’ part of the process, and the shouting, swearing and throwing things. Certainly I’m not raring to get writing another book as soon as the first one has come out. I need my recovery time of a month or two before I’m ready to start all over again.