Just Write

The key to self publishing is to write. Often, this can be a difficult feat, much harder than it first sounds. For instance, I have four children. Fitting any writing in around them can be a challenge. I am also a full-time student, writing papers and essays for classes. Finding time to write is hard, writing uninterrupted for any length of time almost impossible.

However, last semester I finished a novella, wrote a short story, and started another. You can write on a limited time budget, it just takes a little more effort. I wrote longhand on paper in my class breaks, and on the computer after the kids went to bed. This morning, I am writing in between interruptions from my seven year old son.

Once you begin to write, there are a few things you shouldn’t do. The one thing you should do is learn how to write even when you are being interrupted, metaphorically having your elbow joggled (or in my case, literally, when my son decides he’s going to sit on the arm of my desk chair), or under everyday stresses.

While you are writing, don’t worry about editing. If you are constantly stopping and going back over what you have written you will destroy the flow of your story. Only when you have completed a short story, or a story arc in a longer work, should you go back over it, and even then, you should only be checking for continuity and research inconsistencies.

Don’t worry whether you have a name for your characters, one of my writing group was wondering if he should be naming his characters at the fifteen chapter mark, and I pointed out that either his characters would tell him what they wanted to be known as, or he could put a pin in a baby book when he was done and name them that way. You can go back later, and like an artist with a painting, add layers of details and descriptions that will bring your story to life.

One of my mentors, Dave Freer, points out that what separates the pros from the amateurs in this business is how we treat our writing. Is it something we only do when the muse strikes us? (I don’t know about you, but there are time I feel like mine uses a baseball bat to strike me) Or do you write every day, setting a word goal and trying to hit it at least most of the time? If you are going to succeed at self-publishing, you will need to produce a lot of stories in order to make a steady income. Write every day. If all you can come up with is something that looks to you like trash, write it anyway. For a while, concentrate on quantity over quality, until you get in the habit.

Which brings me to the last point for the day. You may write for love, or for money. But if you are self-publishing, you should be putting together a package that will sell. I’m willing to bet that if you love to write, you also love to read. Keep this in mind as you write. If you don’t want to read it, chances are your readers won’t want to either. If you don’t feel like you can judge your own work, (and you can’t, so don’t try!) then you should find beta readers who can give you an objective take on what you have written. You are thus freed up to write, not to critique yourself as you are writing, which leads to paralysis in many young authors. Yes, I mean that in terms of experience, not actual age. I know more than one beginner who has a lovely head of silver hair.

To re-cap… no, that takes too long, I sum up… In order to self-publish one must first write. Then edit, send to beta readers, and then the real fun (er, work) begins. What are you waiting for? Go write! Tell me how you’ve done in the comments and there might be cookies next week.

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8 Comments

  1. Like exercise, writing becomes more fluid and easier to do as we do it more and more often. I tell beginners all the time to not stress about editing, just write. If you don't, you run the risk of freezing in fear and never making progress.

  2. Phil, I do plan to use that as a topic sometime soon. I have a weekly post, so I am sure I will run out of ideas, and they are appreciated. As for marketing, that's a whole 'nother topic as well. I'll be addressing both, and exploring some of my theories. I may jsut be talking out of my hat, too, who knows?

  3. Cedar, this is good for the actual writing side of the job. If you are self-publishing, you must also identify one or more audience(s) and market to it/them. (E.g. I would never have read your short story had you not mentioned it on FB.) Do you plan to post about this topic as well? I'd post but I'd be talking out of my hat, just using reason and guesswork.

    –Phil

  4. The advice "just write" is so crucial and so basic that it should be on a post-it next to everyone's screen. There's a time to be focused on goals (like finishing a book) and a time to be focused on process (actually writing it). I'd say success in writing is about 90% focusing on process and 10% (at most) focusing on goals.

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