I just opened a new text file. The idea for a book has taken hold. The blank page invites me to express that idea. Oh, this is daunting. What writer has not faced that blank page with dread. And then I realize…that blank page is freedom. Nothing will be there unless I write it.
So, how to start a book without freezing at the prospect of creating something from nothing? Remember I have the freedom to do whatever I want with the page. There are no rules, except those I apply. No expectations, except my own. And failure? I am the only judge, because it is my page, my idea.
If I fail myself, my expectations, I can erase the page. So, why not start? Why not go forward on this adventure, which can lead anywhere I choose.
Poof! There goes writer’s block. You are welcome to borrow my self-talk, if it helps.
I’ll report back and let you know how things are going.
Most people who write don’t enjoy the business aspect of their work. I know that’s true for me. Unfortunately, once a book is done, it’s simply a journal until it finds an audience. Carole P. Roman’s “Navigating Indieworld: A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing and Marketing Your Paperback” is designed to help writers find that audience.
This book is not a quick read, and if you do read it quickly you’re cheating yourself. I began one afternoon and eagerly went through the pages until I had to stop from sheer exhaustion. There is so much to absorb.
Ms. Roman addresses her book to two kinds of authors: those who are willing to invest money upfront and those who are operating on a shoe-string budget. It seems that the greater reward comes with greater investment, but of course there is also the risk of investing and getting little in return. That’s a calculus each author has to make.
There is an operating principle in Ms. Roman’s recommendations and she readily applies it to herself: “What can I say? I have no shame,” she declares. If you are a newbie author, and self-published, your book is not likely to find its way into readers’ hands unless you’re willing to shamelessly and relentlessly present it to them. Ms. Roman tells us how to do that. She cites names and resources, but the bottom line is, the author has to be willing to do the work.
I fully believe that if writers follow the recommendations put forth in “Navigating Indieworld”, their books will sell. Of course, it all starts with the book, and that is where Ms. Roman begins her recommendations. Before promoting a book, make sure it’s worthwhile. Only trust friends and family to critique your work if they are both savvy and willing to be brutal. And be prepared to take a machete to your art, if necessary, to bring it up to snuff.
Once you’ve got a product worthy of promotion, then go through Ms. Roman’s suggestions. Look up her books on Amazon, if you doubt the reliability of her system. She has managed to publish a successful series of entertaining and educational books. More than this review, use that record as proof that she has mastered both the craft of book writing, and skill of book promotion.
You’re probably reading this essay because you want to improve your writing skills. That is the first and most important step on the path to good writing. The next step is easier. Pick up your instrument of choice–a pen, a pencil, a keyboard–and start writing.
Writing is like speaking. At first, when you begin–whether it’s a foreign language or your native language in the early years of life–speaking requires great effort. You struggle for the correct phrase. You stumble and make mistakes. After a while, as you practice and use language on a daily basis, your speech becomes smoother. You think less about how you say something and more about what you want to say. This is fluency.
Fluency is the goal in writing and is achieved in exactly the same way that it is accomplished in speech: practice. The more frequently you write, the more fluent your writing becomes. Once fluency is achieved, certain techniques and rules will help to make the writing more effective. These rules and techniques are easily mastered, but they won’t work unless you have something to use them on. So write–anything. Write what you’d like to say. Worry about correctness later.
Organization, grammar, style–these will come with time. Think of the pieces you write as blocks of clay. Each time you start out there is no shape, no form to the clay. As you begin to mold you have an idea of what you would like to see at the end of your sculpting. After the first cuts, the lump of clay won’t look like anything. After a while, as you shape a crude form, you can go back with your chisel and refine your art.
That’s exactly what happens in most writing.
Of course, there are exceptions. There are brilliant masters who have a touch of genius. Words pour from them as water does from a fountain. Most of us don’t have that gift. Most of us will settle for communicating effectively. If that is your goal, then form an idea, sit in front of a blank page and begin to express your idea. Once you have words on a page, once you have the rough clay crudely formed, you can use basic techniques to fashion a finished product. Logic, grammar, style–these are just carefully targeted cuts in the clay. They can be added and adjusted as the piece takes shape.
The more often you engage in the process of writing, the more fluent you will become. If you doubt this, think about the way you learned to speak. You’ll realize that the separation between the spoken word and the written word is merely a matter of perspective and familiarity. Both of these are in your control and really present no barrier at all.