First Draft To A Book: The Journey of an Idea
“Cogito, ergo sum” or, “I think, therefore I am” was the evergreen wisdom shared by philosopher René Descartes. It is safe to assume that Descartes was correct to make that statement since ideas and thoughts form the very essence of an individual. Human beings are a part of a system and are a product of their surroundings. We are constantly taking in and observing the magnificence of life and the world. While you are at it, we know that every now and then an idea pops up that holds a special place. You know that this idea has the potential to materialise into a book. However, more often than never, we get discouraged or demotivated to take the idea to its first draft. Through the course of this blog, we will explore some ideas that could help you to turn your idea into a book.
What? Why? Who?
The three big W’s will help you in laying the foundation for your book. In order to explore an idea, it is important to ask these questions while conceiving it. WHAT does your idea aim to achieve? WHY is it relevant or important? WHO is your audience? While answering these questions, keep in mind to back each answer with research or stats. This is particularly important when you are defining your target audience. Analyse the current market for your genre and check the audience demand for the existing topics. Another way to go about the same is to conduct surveys amongst your expected future audience. This will also help you achieve a clearer answer to why your idea is relevant. Additionally, this will aid your demographics and psychographics: two important parts of data that dictates the value of your book. Once you have a clear answer to these questions you can start moving forward.
It is no surprise that everyone at some point has been a victim of “writer’s block.” Whenever you are feeling stuck on an idea, one way to move forward is using the ‘so what?’ method. It isexactly what it sounds like. While dwelling on an idea keep asking yourself ‘so what?’ For example, if you are writing a book on economics and your statement is “GDP is declining.” Instead of merely presenting statements, try and dive into the idea deeper. GDP is declining (so what?), you move on to mention the repercussions (so what?), then you predict the future impact. Similarly, if you are writing a fiction novel, get into your character’s psyche and answer the so what’s like your character. This will help you develop a more believable character. This process will also help you to identify the motive behind your writing.
A book is essentially a form of communication between the author and a reader. A writer is presenting their thoughts and ideas to an audience. It could be beneficial to have real-life conversations with people over the themes or ideas you are exploring. This will help the writer to understand and formulate their ideas better. Conversations often lead to one getting more than one perspective on the same idea. This will help you to look at your idea from all angles and will bring in some kind of objectivity. However, only follow this if you are comfortable with a discourse on your brainchild. If you are someone who gets confused or discouraged easily by others, then you should probably avoid this method. Similarly, consuming content on other platforms will also provide perspective. Attending webinars or workshops are highly recommended since they will facilitate growth. Checking out movies, art, or music that falls under the topic of your book will allow you to see the conception of your idea in different forms. As an extension of this, you will have a holistic picture of your idea and how it has been received so far by people. The basic principle is to step out of your box and grasp what is happening around with respect to your view of the world.
This is the most academic and unavoidable part of the writing process. It is important to understand that research is paramount. This the ‘behind the scenes’ that brings credibility to your work. If you are writing a non-fiction novel, it is imperative to fact check everything that you quote. While fact-checking and working on your bibliography, it is important to use legitimate sources to do the same. For example, one cannot just use Wikipedia as a fact-checker. Consulting professionals and advisors are valuable in the process. Data and surveys are your best-friends while working on non-fiction. Everything that you quote requires to be backed by academic research or your personal valid experience. One cannot compromise on the legitimacy of the data stated.
In case you are working on a fiction novel, then it is important to study the backdrop where the story is taking place. Even though a fiction novel is based on an author’s view and discretion, the characters of the book are still required to be authentic. For example, if you are writing a love story set during a pandemic, you cannot show the protagonist traveling around the world. You truly need to study the event in order to justify your character’s behavior in the story. A female protagonist before the Women’s suffrage movement would behave differently as compared to one after the suffrage movement. Hence, it is imperative to pay attention to detail. Similarly, if your fictional story includes topics like slavery or partition then you have the responsibility to deal with them with utmost sensitivity and care. Both of which will only come through a thorough study on the subject. One cannot simply compromise on this process. If you are passionate about your idea, this step will be excruciating as well as fun for you.
Actually sit down to write!
It is an age-old complaint that most people cannot get themselves to physically sit and write. Many famous writers in the past have mentioned the resistance they face while sitting down to write. Here is the important thing that you as a writer need to remember. There are many many many (not exaggerating) great ideas floating around the world. What converts an idea into reality is the effort taken by the creator. Sitting down to write is the first effort you need to make towards making your book a reality. If you are an ordinary human being who is occasionally subjected to procrastination or resistance towards the writing process, it could be beneficial for you to introspect what is causing it. Most of the time, it is just the fear of failure or self-doubt. If faced with such a situation, you should go back to your three W’s to gain reassurance. In case you are a superhuman who does not struggle with sitting down to write, you can skip this part. It is important to treat your writing like a regular job that requires your attendance and undivided attention. One needs to practice discipline on a regular basis to make writing a habit. It is advisable to form your own routine around writing.
“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.”– Ernest Hemingway on Writing Routines
After pouring your heart out onto the paper, you are ready for the next step which is editing. It is advisable to give yourself some time after writing your first draft before editing it. There are mainly 5 stages of editing and they are the following:
1) Self-Edit: As the name suggests, this is where you edit your own copy. This could range from correcting spellings to changing narratives.
2) Beta Readers: Getting voluntary readers who can give you objective feedback is a great advantage. This will help you with the reader’s perspective. It is important to note that professional editors and beta readers are NOT interchangeable.
3) Developmental Editors: The main job of a developmental editor is to help the author with the structure of the book. They suggest what ideas need to be more highlighted or what needs to be cut down.
4) Copy Editors: A copy editor focuses on the language aspect of the book. They check grammar, spellings, punctuations, errors, and structure-breaks in the book.
5) Proofreading: This is the final stage of editing. By this time, one must assume that all the typos have already been caught. The job of the proof-reader is to pay attention to details and bring to notice any last-minute changes that may be required.
If you have made an effort to complete an entire book then you probably want to get it published. There are different options worth considering while going into the publishing process.
1) Traditional Publishing:
This method involves contacting a literary agent and drafting a book proposal stating why your book would make good sales in the market. Post this, contact publishers and decide on an offer that suits you. It is important to note that publishers take the onus to screen content and select the manuscript. A writer can also approach a publishing house directly without the help of an agent. However, a book proposal or manuscript is still important. The publishing house typically purchases the book’s rights from the author. In exchange, the author is paid royalties and an advance on future royalties which is decided by the company and the author. The publishing house takes care of editing, design, distribution, sales, and other important aspects involved.
2) Partnered Publishing:
Under partnered publishing, the author and the publisher essentially share the risk. As the name suggests the publishing house partners with the author and provides services like editing, designing, and marketing. However, unlike traditional publishing, the risk is shared between the author and the publisher. The contribution of a writer can either be in marketing and publishing of the book, or in the pre-press stages and media relations to promote the book. In most cases, the author is asked to purchase a pre-determined number of books for their own distribution. This method benefits both the author and the publishing house.
3) Supported Self-Publishing:
The writer now has the opportunity to publish their book by themselves. They can approach a publisher and pay for all the services involved. The author decides the number of copies printed and the price of the book. The author has full control of their book and has the advantage of receiving the majority of returns since they are investing the most.
4) DIY Self-Publishing:
The writer now has the opportunity to publish their book through self-publishing platforms. This gives the writer the freedom to create and manage their e-Book, paperback, and audiobooks without the help of an outside agency. This also allows the author to distribute their books worldwide.
5) Incubated and Accelerated Publishing
This type of publishing follows a pipeline method. There are essentially three steps when an author opts for Incubated and Accelerated Publishing. The first step deals with using the publisher’s platform to create, publish, and distribute a book. The next step, which is the incubation phase, provides the author with data curated by the platform on how the audience is responding to the book on its e-reader app. The final step, i.e., the acceleration phase works when the book adapts to the preferences of the readers and gains momentum in both sales and reader behavior.
Pencil’s Publishing platform is the first in the world to follow an incubated and accelerated publishing module. It is a free platform that caters to writers in their pursuit to create, publish, market, and distribute their book worldwide in both paperback and e-Book formats. This type of publishing is highly recommended for new and budding writers looking for guiding tools with respect to creative and professional growth.
Let it go
It is important to remember that you may struggle with letting the book go live for everyone to read it. This may be caused by anxiety or self-doubt. You may experience a last-minute compelling need to change some aspects of the book. In case you face any of the above-mentioned situations, try to remember how far you have come with your vision and trust your process. In the end, you have to let it go for the world to consume it. At the end of the day, in the wise words of Salman Rushdie, “A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it; or offer your own version in return.”