When you first decide to write a book to promote your business, you probably won’t be thinking about the details of how you’re going to get it done. At this stage it’s still an exciting idea – and you can’t wait to get started. But when you do sit down to put fingers to keyboard, it can often be harder than you think.
If you start to feel daunted by the enormity of the task, it can be tempting to buy into received ‘wisdom’ about the loneliness of the long-distance writer, but consider the value of teamwork. As Flannery O’Connor wrote in Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (1957), the myth of the ‘lonely writer’ is pernicious and untruthful: ‘The myth that writing is a lonely occupation, involving much suffering because, supposedly, the writer exists in a state of sensitivity which cuts him off, or raises him above, or casts him below the community around him… is a common cliché.’
William Faulkner argued that there’s a difference between loneliness and solitude and that writing is a solitary job in that no one can help you with it. While it’s true that you’re responsible for writing the book, it’s false that you have to do it all by yourself. Yes, you’re the author – but you can also be part of a team that includes (among others) a developmental editor, a copy editor and a proofreader, all of whom can help you achieve your goal.
In his excellent and highly recommended book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000), Stephen King says that no writer will take all of his or her editor’s advice but that ‘to write is human, to edit is divine’. As a developmental editor myself, I tend to agree! But King also believes that large numbers of people have at least some talent as writers and that those talents can be strengthened and sharpened by working with an editor.
However, after your first enthusiastic dive into the writing process, you may feel out of your depth. You may look at a blank Word document and feel as if you’re drowning in a sea of white. Fear not. This is where your support team comes in – especially if you’ve recruited a book coach, who will act as your lifeguard and throw you a flotation device. Even if you don’t have a coach, an editor will keep you in your lane and on schedule. At the very least you should recruit a trusted reader who can act as an accountability partner and give you feedback and encouragement when you need it.
Another way of avoiding that feeling of isolation is to team up with other writers. For example, here at The Right Book Company we run groups of Right Book Buddies – small, hand-picked cohorts of professional people who, just like you, dream of becoming published authors. It's a really smart, simple way to get closer to reaching your writing goals. New groups start regularly, so contact RBC if you think this might be for you.
However, there will be times when you are on your own, doing your best to capture what’s in your mind and heart. In these circumstances, Stephen King’s idea of the writer’s toolbox can come in handy. The top layer, what he calls the ‘bread of writing’, is vocabulary. This means deciding what kind of vocabulary is appropriate for your target audience. Once you’ve made that decision there’s no need to keep checking the thesaurus for long or clever words.
Grammar is also on the top layer of the toolbox. In my experience, many first-time authors worry that they don’t know enough about grammar because they didn’t pay attention to it at school. But again, fear not – you have probably retained more information than you think and an editor will help you with this anyway.
The next layer of your toolbox contains the elements of style that go hand in hand with good grammar. Here at The Right Book Company we provide authors with a clear and straightforward style guide to give them extra support while they’re writing.
I would add another layer to King’s toolbox, which contains tools such as momentum, self-belief and writing strategies. Even when you’re not feeling particularly inspired, commit to writing little and often. Remind yourself that you have overcome bigger challenges than this – and come up with a set of writing strategies you can refer to when the going gets tough, for example:
writing at different times of the day (or night)
setting up a special writing area with objects that make you feel good
affirmations that will help you get unstuck
reminders of the higher purpose behind writing your book.
With all of these resources – human and otherwise – at your disposal, you’ll never need to play the archetypal lonely writer, suffering in silence.
Far from it – you mean business!
Beverley Glick is The Right Book Company’s editorial project manager. She works closely with a team of editors to help authors write, shape and structure the best possible manuscript. She has been a professional writer and editor since the early Eighties and has worked for several national newspapers in a variety of writing and editing roles. She is also a leadership communications coach and trainer, specialising in TED-style speaking and storytelling. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.