Thursday, April 4, 2013

Anyone Can Write a Book, But Should They?

I get asked a lot of questions by aspiring writers.  Just last week I had a man ask me how important setting is to a story.  "Why can't they just imagine where they are?"  Which is a very good question.  Maybe he'll be the first author to write a story with no setting and do it well, who knows.  But for me, setting is how I get lost in the story and escape to another world, so I highly recommend it myself.

But last Sunday I had someone say that the publishing world had changed so that anyone can write a book and make enough income to get out of debt.  A few people looked over at me for my reaction and the first thing out of my mouth was, "Sure, anyone can write a book, but you still have to have a sellable product and know how to market it."  

Amazon has changed the publishing market to be sure.  There are thousands of self-published authors appearing almost daily it seems, and they don't have any clue what they're doing.  I've seen some books that had no formatting, some that were all one long paragraph, and others that didn't really make sense.  Authors are rushing the publishing process before they even have something publishable.  So here are two tips for you, if you are thinking of self-publishing.

Do not publish your first draft.  You might want to because of all the good feelings that come with finishing something, but don't do it.  Get some beta readers to read it over and point out the plot holes or places that don't make sense or where you have characterization issues.  Then read it out loud to yourself---you'd be surprised at how many errors you can find that way.  Step away from it for a few days, then come back with fresh eyes.  Use a scene chart like we talked about last week to make sure you've balanced plot/characterization/setting.  Know and use grammar and punctuation rules and DO NOT rely on spell check.  

Once you've gone through several drafts and made revisions to your story, get an editor.  I know everyone says they're too expensive, but if you look, you can find one in your price range.  I've known people to barter for editorial services, but whatever you have to do, it is worth it.  An editor polishes your work so that it shines and make people want to buy your book.  And your next book.  And your next.  If you have a poorly edited book out there, it is highly unlikely people will buy from you again because you have a reputation for not being well-edited and believe me, readers hate a ton of typos and bad grammar. Please, use an editor if at all possible.  

To sum up, revise and polish.  More than once.  Make your manuscript the very best it can be before you hit that publish button.  If you're not sure how to make your plot stronger or your characters more realistic, there are tons of great writing books out there.  Read some.  There are so many resources for newer authors. Use them.  Jordan McCollum's free PDFs are great and there are lots of things like that out there.  They aren't hard to find and will only help you as you work toward making your manuscript shine.

Writing is an art and not everyone sees things the same, but there is a framework to work in if you want to make money on it.  I have heard several authors wonder why they're not selling, but when I download a sample I can see from the first pages why they're not selling.  They haven't polished their product and the readers know it.  Do the work beforehand so you can reap the benefits.  

So, yes, anyone can write a book, but not everyone can write it well.  Do your homework and make your book the very best it can be before you share it with the world.  Then you can reap the benefits.


Debra Erfert said...

I remember back when I first started writing I would pick up a book and think "I can write a better story than this', and I wasn't just being flippant. That was back when I didn't know all the rules of writing, either. And there are rules!

I, too, have read some very, very bad self-published books, and I've become wary of buying self-pubs without reading samples first. Or I might go with authors that I know, or who I want to support whether they write a fabulous product or not. But I can't, in good conscience, give reviews to those same books. I'd rather not say anything than give a bad review. And I'd rather not talk someone else into buying a book I don't think is worth their money. Did that make sense?

But, Julie, I don't think I agree with you--that anybody can write a book. Writing a whole book takes great patience, and most people don't have that patience. I know quite a few people who "have started a book, but lost interest". But you are totally on target about honing their skill and to learn the rules. If that person is really a writer at heart, that desire to be better is within their being. I know it was with me.

Emily Gray Clawson said...

Everyone can write a book just like everyone can paint a picture. The difference in writing a book and crafting a beautifully written story is the same contrast between slapping pain on canvas and creating a work of art. Anyone who thinks its easy hasn't actually done it themselves.

Jon Spell said...

I agree with Debra's point (against you or the someone from Sunday)

I'm a good candidate to write a book. I've read a lot of books over my life, I'm smart, and I have a creative mind, and yes, I might use too many commas. I have yet to complete a manuscript, though.

I do agree with you on some of the self-published crap on Amazon. I paid for a couple that had really good information but poor presentation. Desperately Seeking Some Editing.

Robert M Starr said...

My key reason for seeking beta readers and editors is the need for a second set of eyes. Because I know what I intended to write, I often 'read' what I intended to write rather than what I actually typed. I'm much better at seeing mistakes in another writer's manuscript than I am in finding those in my own.