There’s a simple answer to this question. I get asked it a lot.
The answer is this: You write.
Then there is the question: What do I write about?
The answer: Whatever you want to write about.
Basically what people want to know is what is the next step?
1) The next step is actually writing.
Just write. As you keep writing you will figure out whether it’s just easier for you to write on paper or on the screen, in bed or at a desk, indoors or outdoors.
You might also find that what you thought you wanted to write about is very different to what you actually do want to write about. Good thing you found out now rather than later – imagine telling your publisher you’re changing tack halfway through?
Don’t worry about whether it’s enough for book form, whether it’s something people to know about and so on.
First comes the writing. First comes the message, the content. At this point the ideas are coming together.
Then comes the bashing of the content into something people can read and make use of. And you’re a long long long way from that point right now.
2) When you’re comfortable enough (and this can be from one second later to twenty years later) show it to a writer/editor. Preferably let them run riot with a red pen.
If you’re cringing at the idea of someone murdering your darlings (ie: cutting out your best bits) you’re not ready to show it to someone yet. Sometimes your darlings belong in another place or on their own, not overshadowed by something else.
Accepting positive and valuable feedback and criticism is vital to moving on in the process. I still cringe too but I do it anyway. Distinguishing between useful feedback and crappy feedback is also vital which is why I say to show it to an editor/writer. Like me for instance.
And generally showing it to family members results in “It’s good.” which is not useful which is why I bully people into giving me details. Why is it good? Who do you love in it? Why? Who do you hate and why? And so on.
Applying this process to most things you learn by practice is probably a good idea too, FYI.
3) All this is notes stuff so far. Practicing. Depending on what form you’re going for, you might derive a few short pieces or some poetry. Or a good opening line for a book. Something like that. So now what?
Well by this point, through the writing and the feedback, you have (by some weird kind of osmosis) developed a sense for what works and language and so on. You should have developed the habit of objectively critiquing your writing as well by which I mean looking at it and saying “That doesn’t sound right in that spot.” rather than “Oh God, this is cheesy.” I have to say that there will be moments where you cannot dispute the cheesiness of your efforts and at this point it really helps to be honest about the cheesiness but still see what you learnt from the process.
So, create a few things. Short pieces. Manageable stuff. Use what you have learned.
4) Open it up for a wider audience.
Join a writing group, start a blog (have you seen the lovely Janine Ripper’s at http://reflectionsfromaredhead.wordpress.com/ ?), stand at the Speaker’s Corner in the Hay St Mall and declaim loudly – whatever floats your boat.
Yes you can post it here too. We want to see what you have written.
Whatever you do, open it up for comments. You need more than one perspective to catch all the mistakes or all the tweaks that are needed. You do need to sell more than one copy of your book, right?
I wouldn’t advocate posting novel/book chapters online though you can read it out in a writing group. It’s too easy to get it nicked and there might be an issue of copyright when publishing time comes around so please keep that in mind. Try snippets in an online closed forum to which you invite particular people only.
This is where you start thinking about where you want to go with writing. Blogging? Journalism? A book? And so on.
Which leads us to the steps in the process of writing a book and getting published which is another post altogether.
I hope this one helped though. When in doubt, do what Janine Ripper does.
- How to write a book: Part 1: Introduction
- How to write a book: Part 2: And the number one secret for writing a book…
- How to write a book: Part 3: Myths about writing
- How to write a book: Part 4: Inspiration (or is there a muse?)
- How to write a book, part 10: Research. Or why I need a travelling library.
- How to write a book: Part 5: Structure (or Chapter and verse)
- How to write a book: Part 6: How do I get started?
- How to write a book: Part 7: The writing process, step by step
- How to write a book: Post 8: Why you shouldn’t let your muse get drunk on champagne/how to braintrain your muse
- How to write a book: Part 9: Copyright issues
- How to write a book: Part 11: Motivation
- How to write a book: Part 12: Time & expectation management
- How to write a book: Part 13: It’s kind of crowded in here…