From Idea to Print: Here’s How You Can Start Writing Your Book
If there is a story, a character, or an idea that haunts you from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, it is worth putting down in its entirety. The story you want the world to know deserves to be marked on the page. The task of writing a book is daunting enough without the added prospect of its publication. It can be a lonely process, writing a book and getting it published. But you do not have to be alone throughout it, especially not in terms of the guidance you need in order to successfully advance your book from idea to print. There is a simple checklist that you can keep in mind so that you can make the process less daunting for yourself.
- Get an idea. What is the idea that you want to sit with? What are the characters that you want to spend time developing? Remember, your writing process will find you in proximity to your story and your characters. You need to believe in the purpose of your story and its characters being out in the world. If you are someone who notes down short pieces of writing on whatever akin to paper you can find with you, begin collating them. If you are someone who waits until you can get back to your laptop, start noting down things as they come to you. Carry a small notebook. Make sure that, at the end of the day, you put down all your titbits in the form of writing that you envision for your book. Writing can be fun, but it is also a task requiring discipline.
- Bench editing. Out of all the skills that you need to hustle on the field, editing must not be one of them. Sure, you might decide to rephrase a line or paragraph the morning after. But the task of going over all that you have written down to see if it reads the way you want it to in finality is not for the time being. Focus first on putting down your story completely. Let there be plot holes but make sure your characters attain the roundness that will ultimately make your story. The idea is to remember that your first draft will not and cannot be your final draft.
- Gather early feedback. Feedback during the process of your writing is important because it will allow you to be more open with your vision for your book. While waiting until it is finished to show others might be a fair desire, it will also hinder any new creative paths that you may come upon. Moreover, it is good to get clarity on what people think of the way your story is developing and what they make of how you are setting your story up. Turn to friends, trusted colleagues, in-person writing groups and online writing communities for feedback. Reddit and Instagram are a couple of popular but foolproof spaces to share, especially if you already have an established community. Share excerpts from your writing on your social media platforms to get a feel of how your writing is being received.
- Prepare for submission. Once you have your story down, it is time to ready your manuscript for submission. First, get to editing. Edit your manuscript yourself, or take the help of anyone you trust within your social circles and online communities. Second, come up with a title that is apt for your book. Stray away from cliches. Third, write out a description of your book that perfectly sums up what it is about. This is what an editor will look towards before reading through the excerpt of your manuscript. Be concise and make sure you put your best points forward from the get-go without wanting to “save them for later.”
- Choose a publishing route. Today, there are several ways to get your book published. Broadly, there is traditional publishing and self-publishing. What you must focus on is which route gives your book the support and attention it requires to be a substantial read in the market. Factors like exposure, distribution, budget, and royalty among others help you decide which route might work best for you, especially as a debut author.
If you choose to go for traditional publishing, then you must prepare yourself to circulate your manuscript to your desired publishers, or publishers who work with the genre or age group that you are writing for. If it is self-publishing that you pick, you can either look into working with companies that provide paid self-publishing services, or self-publishing platforms like Pencil, Kindle Direct Publishing, and Notion Press that allow you to self-publish for free.
- Circulate your manuscript. If you have decided to get your book published by a traditional trade or independent publisher, you must start compiling a list of publishers that you can send your manuscript to. Not all publishers are open to manuscripts, or manuscripts without an agent, and not all of them publish the kind of stories that yours may be. Narrow your options down to where you think there may be a chance of an editor going over your manuscript. Use email to send publishers an excerpt from your manuscript along with a description of your book.
- Publish! Finding the right publisher for your work entails making sure the royalties are in your favour, and that your book is able to be distributed to a wider readership. Once you have found the publisher that can do this for you, you can publish! But your work is not yet done. You cannot expect to be shot to fame immediately. You have to wait patiently for your book to find its way to the right readership so that it may be valued in the best sense.
- Promote. While your publisher, or your agent if you manage to get one, will do the job of promoting your book for you, the larger part of the promotion falls to you as the author. Turn to your writing and reading communities. Having an established readership online will help the consumption of your book by readers who already know what they are in for. Reach out to writers you may know from your circles and ask for reviews on your book. Push for magazines and authors that you follow to get quotes on your work which will help your credibility. Hold reading sessions in local bookstores and among readings groups in colleges or at cultural centres where you will be able to attract new readership for your book.
Haruki Murakami, Maya Angelou, Khaled Hosseini, and Ernest Hemingway are known for their strict writing schedules. You can check out some writing tips by some of your favourite authors here. This is because writing is serious business. You have to set work hours for yourself and get down to writing every day. And you have to balance out writing with other tasks like reading, running, meditating or any other physical activity that will help you wind down. Focus on that part of the process that you are in at any moment rather than worrying about all the tasks that are yet to come before you can finish publishing your book.
There are more guides to look toward when you have to get down to each aspect of the writing and publishing process. But what this checklist does is help you outline the phases that you will have to go through to take your book from idea to print.