I know the longing that sits inside the hearts of so many — to write a book, have it published and touch as many readers as possible. I consider it one of the noblest longings, especially when we have a message to share or a talent that the world wants to discover. Our stories can change the lives of others, so go ahead and write your book.
But I see aspiring authors stumble over the same mistakes:
1. Thinking there’s nothing to it.
Even if we have the most riveting story in the world, have overcome the worst illnesses or suffering or have a never-before-been-done idea for a plot, a book isn’t finished until it’s written. So until you’ve sat in front of your computer until your eyeballs sweat, we can’t really have a conversation about getting published. We all have to pay our dues and put in those 10,000 hours. The time we spent actually putting words on the page is as important as the years we’ve invested in honing our craft, reading and working our words. Writing a book is a big job. Not everyone can pull it off.
2. Thinking it’s impossible.
On the other hand, believing you can’t do it before you’ve even given it a chance is equally self-defeating. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. The challenges along the way weed out the fainthearted and the opportunists. I truly believe that those who hold their passion and focus around their book will eventually get published. Don’t let fear of failure decide your fate.
3. Underestimating how much time it's going to take: some people can write a book in a few months.
Some people tell me they’ve written a book in a few weeks. I take two years to write a book — and that’s when I’m doing it full time. (My first novel took 10 years, but I was doing it as a hobby back then.) Give yourself time to write your book. It’s not a blog post. It’s a container for the depth, breadth and courage of all that you are expressed in words. The best books are richly conceived — the reader can feel the time, effort and thought that has gone into it.
4. Not getting feedback or investing in mentoring, workshops or manuscript assessments.
Our manuscripts need many eyes, many voices, many hands to help us get it over the final draft line. Invest in the best professional help you can.
5. Not understanding that a first draft is the toddler version of your final manuscript.
It has a long way to go, and it needs direction, education, love, support, nutrition, discipline and a lot of time to grow up. Find the best people to help you raise your book into adulthood.
6. Not breaking the immense task down into small-bite sized chunks.
You aren't a python, you don’t need to swallow the thing whole — you don’t need to know how your book ends, or even what will happen. You just need to start it. And keep working away at it, scene by scene, or chapter by chapter. Shawshank it. You can tunnel your way out of a maximum-security prison one pocketful of dirt at a time.