Updated: Jul 29
There is more to writing a book than just telling a story. Understanding yourself, who you are, and your motivations are key. Self-awareness is vital. Confidence in who you are and what makes you unique is what gets you noticed and helps sell books. And ultimately, realizing your message and why you want to share it are necessary. Most people do not think about these things when deciding to write their first novel. However, the reader is not just buying your book; they are buying a piece of YOU!
Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, before you start working on your characters and outline (even if that main character is you), the first step in writing should be, "Am I ready for this?" If you are not sure, ask yourself the following questions:
· Am I where I want to be in my life right now?
· Are there obstacles in my life preventing me from realizing my dreams?
· Am I able to sell my ideas with confidence?
· Is time and money going to interfere with my writing schedule?
· Do I understand the subject matter enough to write about it?
If your answers to these questions suggest you are not ready, that is ok. This article is about getting you ready. In this article, I will introduce you to methods and techniques that will change your mindset, put you in the driver’s seat of your life, and help you manifest your dreams. If that sounds like a big promise, well, it is! Nothing, of course, comes without putting in the work. One of the services I am looking at providing to writers is accountability partners. Not all of us are built with enough ego to recognize and celebrate when we write well. Building confidence in your writing is something that can be practised by receiving feedback from your peers, a friend, or a stranger. Self-awareness and understanding yourself and your motivations can be achieved through journaling, meditation, and finding your core truths. Understanding why you want to tell your story is as important as writing it.
Am I where I want to be in my life right now?
The truth is, not many of us are where we want to be at this moment. That is why we dream, have goals, and make plans—we are on our way to somewhere bigger. Unfortunately, this may make us feel inadequate, not ready, or not good enough. You may think, "If I am unsuccessful right now, then why would someone want to read my story?" Here is the kicker: where you are right now in your life is exactly where you need to be to start on your writing endeavour. Your writing is part of the journey to where you want to be. And it can and will help you get there. Once you realize that and accept where you are in your life’s journey as important, you then become aware that, "Yes, I am where I need to be in my life right now to start writing my novel." Believing that might be a little hard at first, and switching that mindset may not be as easy as just saying those words. But believe in yourself; it can be done. Since this is such an important element in the first steps of writing your novel, I am including it in my workbook series to help writers realize the importance of where they are in this moment and how to use it in their publishing journey. Subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of this page so you don't miss its release.
Are there obstacles in my life preventing me from realizing my dreams?
Most of us have some kind of obstacle that we perceive as a hindrance to realizing our dreams. For the most part, it is usually about a routine in your life that you can’t seem to escape, whether that routine prevents you from having enough time, money, or other challenges such as your emotional wellbeing. Stress, fear, and mental health can definitely stifle dreams.
Emotional well-being, or wellness, is the capacity to manage stress and adjust to change and challenging circumstances successfully. Many ways to enhance emotional well-being include creating supportive social networks, caring for one’s physical and mental health, reframing negative thoughts, and engaging in activities that make YOU happy. You may often think, "If only I could... then I would..." The thing is, you CAN. You are just stuck with a limited view of what your life looks like. I think of it as a circle of vision. You are in the center of the circle, and as you look around the circle, you can only see so far. Your vision is limited. But with a pair of binoculars, for example, you can see much further. You can see what the universe can see where obstacles do not exist. Where opportunity, new adventures, and creativity spawn.
Perhaps your emotional well-being isn’t an issue, but being a perfectionist is. Those writers who need to have everything just right might fall victim to becoming perfectionists, which can prevent them from achieving their self-publishing goals. You need to let go of the fact that everything needs to be perfect and know that no manuscript is ever perfect. Even those writers you admire, those you deem successful, and those who inspire you have mistakes in their writing. Perfectionism can often lead to unfinished projects, as all of your time is spent rewriting, editing, and even starting over.
With that being said, I think emotional well-being is the primary obstacle for most people on their journey to realizing their dreams, because often enough, that is what keeps us in a routine that we truly want to escape. It is the fear of failure, the fear of something new, or not knowing ‘how’ to make ends meet outside of your routine that often holds you back. So, we keep on keeping on, on the treadmill of life, just to get by without realizing where we want to be instead. Stuck in that circle of limited vision, unable to manifest anything different in your life.
The good news is that most obstacles are imaginary and can be overcome by changing one's mindset.
Am I able to sell my ideas with confidence?
This is a big one, especially for us introverts. It is one thing to write the book, but can you sell the idea to others so they read it? You need confidence for this. You need to believe in yourself and your ideas. Confidence is earned through small successes over time. But it is also gained by knowing your subject matter thoroughly. With work, confidence can be achieved by expanding your knowledge base, reading more on your subject matter, and getting positive feedback from your peers. Tomorrow, you might not be able to get on stage and speak to hundreds of people about your book topic. But tomorrow, you might be able to have a Zoom call with three others and start the process of speaking on your topic. So it is through steps that we get where we need to be. There's no need to think about the big picture just yet. Just think about the next step.
This idea often brings me back to the movie What About Bob? with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. Psychotherapist Leo Marvin (played by Dreyfuss) encourages his patient Bob Wiley (played by Bill Murray) to take baby steps in overcoming his many phobias. Although this movie portrays an extreme example, we should all take lessons from it. Baby steps, one step at a time, are how we achieve our goals.
It is also important to acknowledge the confidence suckers in our lives. These are people who often criticize too much, hold you back, and suck the positive energy out of your get-up-and-go. They often leave you feeling bad inside, even though you can’t pinpoint the reason why. If these people are family, it is even harder to escape. The first step is acknowledging who these people are and then having a plan on how to escape their confidence-draining drama. This might look like moving your workspace to another location, finding new friends in your dream field, or doing something unique that works for you.
Can you sell your idea without confidence? I am sure it has been done. There are many people who can hide their lack of confidence with panache, but at the end of the day, that feeling of not being whole might eat at them.
Is time and money going to interfere with my writing schedule?
Writing a novel is an investment in your future, and that investment takes time and money. Not all of us can take a six-month sabbatical to write. And novice writers almost never receive an advance from a publisher. (Advances against royalties are one-time payments made to authors by some publishers prior to the publication of the authors’ work.) If you are a published author with a publishing house, you are probably not reading this article. This article is meant for first-time authors who have the dream of being published and are starting their journey by self-publishing their first book. Perhaps a publishing house will come later down the line, but right now, you don’t need that kind of rejection! You are not looking to sell a million copies. You want to write your first novel and perhaps sell hundreds of books to loyal followers. That is all you really need to find success in your first writing project.
For all of us who work full-time, even if writing is your full-time job, finding time for a specific writing project might be difficult. I have a novel in progress that I wish I had more time for. I have made plans and then had to scrap those plans. I have made goals and had to rewrite those goals, and I have failed at finding time for ME and my writing. So, I know the struggle is real. But slowly, I have begun to figure out what works for me. Finding the sweet spot of time for creativity when your schedule is hectic can be done. Holding yourself accountable to your plan is crucial. Having an accountability partner is certainly a bonus.
Now that you have found time to write and it is not interfering with your regular, paying job, what about the costs involved in self-publishing? Some first-time writers do believe they can do it all without help, and there are some that can. But most of us need a hand with things like editing, typesetting, cover design, or perhaps just feedback.
In my work, I have come across many new authors who believe they can skip the editing process, which can be one of the most expensive parts of their writing journey. As much as AI-based software like Grammarly or Microsoft Editor might seem helpful, it can never replace a real person editing your work. Editing software is not at the point of understanding all contexts, and it frequently makes incorrect suggestions. These programs will never replace a proofreader or copy editor. Although they might help bring your attention to a certain word or sentence, the ultimate decision on corrections needs to be made by a professional.
A copy editor checks for clarity; they address spelling, grammar, capitalization, punctuation, and sentence structure. This edit should be followed by a proofread or done by a separate proofreader. Your copy should be edited at least twice, preferably three times (with the proof) before being published. I am always bemused by the fact that new authors want to skip these steps to save money. Don’t do it.
In addition to a copy editor, some may find they need help telling their story. This is where a developmental editor comes in. This should be done before a copy editor even sees the manuscript. My good friend Rusti Lehay is a writing coach and developmental editor who can work directly with her clients through collaborative immersion editing. If you need help with writing, I recommend her services.
The most important thing to remember when considering your book project's budget is that you are investing in yourself and your future.
Do I understand the subject matter enough to write about it?
Lastly, in this article on being ready to write your first novel, we need to address one of the most important elements: Do you understand the subject matter of what you are writing about? You may have heard the saying, "Write what you know," and you should. However, that doesn’t limit you from learning more so that you know more. Research is essential when compiling information for your book. Reading, travelling, and experiencing should all be part of your writing process, and certainly a lifestyle that most may find intriguing. Implementing changes to your life and routine to learn more about the world around you will not only help your writing but also improve your confidence and give you a more fulfilling life—which includes a joyful journey towards your dream. Of course, the more technical or difficult the subject matter, the more time you will need to spend on it. Welcome that, indulge in it, and know that you are not only creating your masterpiece but also your new YOU!
- Teena Clipston