Life is moving swiftly along. A few people have asked me how one gets a book published, so this seems a good format to share with you how it happened to me. Two and a half years ago, I asked myself the question “where do I go from here?” We had returned from my stillborn daughter’s funeral; my son was in and out of the hospital. How could I sustain a Life Coaching business with my schedule consistently unpredictable and my heart drained of its resources to help others?
I threw my weight into writing and have not looked back since.
For those who love to write, the most important step above every other step is this: write. Just write.
Do not write for an audience. Write for your heart. Some advise aspirants to write daily. The most important thing is that writing is a regular part of your life. Some begin writing with a blog in mind and bog those creative tunnels down with questions about audience, topics, titles, and reach…but all of this comes later. To write well, you must write, period.
There is an element of gift in it. Many published authors share the story of how they have been writing since they were children: short stories, long journal entries, dreams of seeing their names paired with titles on the library shelf. This is because writing was a functional way for those individuals to process their thoughts. It seemed nothing else would work. Writing as an act of expressing is the first part. The second part is the skill, the craft. This can and should be learned. That is why the second step is:
To learn about the craft of writing.
I had those meager lessons in 30-student classrooms filled with adolescents who hated writing. There were better lessons in college with willing professors who either aspired to teach us great things or could not themselves stomach our lack of writing skill. Either way, I soaked up the lessons and knew early on that to be able to transition between registers or styles of writing was a skill in itself. I ought not to complain that academic writing stifled my “voice.” The more versatile we are, the better. Being out of school without the possibility of earning another degree at this time, I followed the rabbit hole of book recommendations from A Million Little Ways to The Memoir Project to Gwynne’s Grammar to The Business of Being a Writer to Mystery and Manners. The list goes on. As I read, I learned and put into practice what I learned because I was writing regularly, for you, here in this column.
The third step is to read.
Read long and often. In The Letters of Flannery O’Connor and Caroline Gordon Gordon advises O’Connor to study the writing in novels by Henry James and Gustave Flaubert. Reading great literature exposes you to extensive vocabulary, the art of sentence structure, perspective, voice, and character development. The classics stretch our mind to see worlds beyond the one we are used to, to sympathize with points of view we might find abhorrent in a modern-day mind, and to engage with deep ideas of humanity and love.
The fourth step is to connect.
I joined a writers’ communities called the Catholic Writers Guild and Hope*Writers, along with informal Facebook groups interested in writing and literature. Hope* Writers became an invaluable resource where the founders provide opportunities to learn from experts in the field about the craft and business of writing. From there, I learned the rest of the steps.
I connected, I wrote, I edited extensively, I submitted, I accepted suggestions and changed plans. I kept going even when evaluation of my work felt frightful. It is not an impossible dream, but unlike a wish, it takes work to get there. All that for the desire to publish.
But if you want to write, just write. Everyone has a story to share, and every story is worth putting pen to paper, no matter what happens to it from there. If you have more questions about the process, please feel free to ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously published at the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.
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