Over a year ago, I told myself to man-up and do something with the story that had been festering in my head for years. I attempted a few times to flesh it out. Each time, I’d end up with something less than a story I would ever read. Then again, I’m a banker. I’ve never studied creative writing or ventured further than the basic required English courses. So is it really my fault that I didn’t draft War & Peace on my first attempt? Certainly not. But I knew for years that I had a story stuck in me, multiple stories in fact. So what is an aspiring writer to do? Here is my advice from one novice to another.
First and foremost, trust yourself. Start by outlining your thoughts or just let them dribble out on paper freely. Do whatever makes you feel the sweet release of unburdening your soul. Trust me that’s how it feels. Get it out. I can say when I mustered the bravery to begin my first draft, the feeling was exhilarating. I sat at my computer for hours. I carried my tablet around with me everywhere to jot down thoughts as they popped in my head. I still do. I even slacked off at work, hidden in the sanctity of my office where no one could catch me writing mid-day. I’ve discontinued the latter practice, which I’m sure my mortgage lender appreciates. Please don’t risk your steady paycheck just yet. The bottom line is this, get it out. You’ll feel empowered by your ability to magically piece your story together.
Next, do yourself a favor. Conduct some due diligence. The internet is teeming with free resources and references for aspiring writers. There are some great websites out there offering education on formatting, snow-flake techniques, and blogs galore of fellow aspiring and successful writers. These multitudes of resources can really boost your confidence. Google subjects such as “how to tighten up your writing” read through top ten lists on how to hone your skills. If and when you’re ready to share, think about finding a professional editor. There are several sites and companies out there to choose from. Finding positive reinforcement and constructive criticism is thought to be a rare thing in the realm of publishing. If you find someone who can offer you both, you’re on the right path. Join some writers’ associations. Mingle with your brethren. There are tons of us out there looking to support each other.
Read your electronic versions. Print them out and red-line the hell out of them. Your words always look different on actual paper. When you’re bold enough, test your writing with trusted friends and family. They may very well spoon feed you accolades just to save your fragile feelings. Make sure you choose your friends wisely. Choose someone who is no bull. Choose someone you know you can trust to give an honest opinion. If you find yourself mixed in with an association of writers, offer up some beta skills in exchange for the same.
Above all, whether criticism comes from friends, family, or professionals, learn to find the positive in it. It will likely take a few go-arounds with your story and some thick skin. Take some breathers. Read other authors. Just because you’re not published – yet – doesn’t mean you’re not entitled your opinion. Criticize other works. Find inspiration and learn to recognize your style. After a while, you’re confidence will grow. You may even find the courage to submit your story to publishers.
Now the disclaimer, you have every right to tell me I’m full of it. I’m not published – yet. But I’ve followed the above steps and I feel more confident in my writing than I did a year ago. I’ve found my circuit of beta readers. I’ve been lucky to find people who tolerate my newbie mistakes and offer constructive criticisms. Keyword being: constructive. I’ve read good books. I’ve read some really bad ones. Everyone deserves the chance for their voice to be heard.
So I did the following: 1. I manned-up; 2. I did my due diligence; 3. I found professional resources and associations; 4. I found trusted beta readers; 5. (the most important step) I believe in myself. I have a voice and I will be heard.
I would talk about social media and building a platform, but that’s a blog for another day. This is about having the balls to get your story out there. You as the author…to be continued…