5 Book Writing Myths Dispelled for First Time Authors

book writing myths meme
Photo by Nonsap Visuals on Unsplash

Many first-time authors make assumptions about the book writing and publishing process, so I’ve created a quick resource to help dispel some of those myths. If you are writing a book, or considering it, congratulations – there are few things in life that will be so hard or rewarding as having put in the work to create a tangible book of which you can be proud.

Myth 1: All I need to do is write

While writing is the primary task of the writer, it is not the only one.

The book must have a form/structure, direction, a certain command of the English language, and offer some level of value to the intended reader. Without that, it is simply words and not marketable, nor readable, in many cases. Be sure to learn about the craft of writing, whether on your own or with a book coach. So, now you are probably facing the question: “But, isn’t it the editor’s job to clean up my mistakes?”

Myth 2: It’s my editor’s job to fix all my mistakes

An editor’s role is to polish the very best you can send them. They don’t write your book for you. Let me give you an example: If I’m sitting at the table with a friend and tell her an idea for a story and write it all out on a paper napkin, that is not a book. It is a book when I take that story and create characters, plot, conflict, and resolution and weave them all together. It is only a book when I take my command of the written word and make it the best it can be.

Asking my editor to take what I’ve written on a paper napkin (basically an undeveloped concept) is asking them to write my book. When I submit a first draft to my editor, that is, frankly, lazy, or at best, ignorant. And, it will end up being very expensive. That is, if the editor decides to even take it on.

Your editor is not going to fix your lack of research, your problems with flow, or structure. They will likely reject your manuscript or send it back with so much red ink – and a big fat invoice to match it – that you will want to give up.

As a writing coach, it is my goal to help you get the cleanest manuscript to your editor as possible. This will save you money and heartache. I have spent years getting critiqued, edited, and even downright attacked for the words I’ve put on paper. I’ve grown a thick skin and have vowed to help my clients never feel the pain of the red ink rejection.

Myth 3: I need an editor right away

No, you may need a writing coach right away, but your editor doesn’t come into play until your manuscript is COMPLETE. Complete means you have written it, self-edited it, and maybe even already had a peer review of it. Do not send your manuscript to the editor until you feel it is in its best shape.

I had one client (who I had to fire) send the manuscript to the editor and to several peer readers (aka beta readers) at the same time. She then changed the manuscript based on the peer reviewer’s comments, which forced the editor to start over (which costs more money). Consider your editor as the final polisher and last step in your manuscript process.

Myth 4: I need a book cover right away

Nope. You may want to get some front cover images for pre-promotion purposes, but your true book cover can not be created until you have a page count – which means your book will have had to be edited and formatted first. In addition to front graphics, your cover will need a spine width, publishing logo, ISBN, back blurb, author photo, etc. You can start working on your cover while your book is being edited if you’d like, but it can’t be complete until your manuscript is.

Myth 5: Writing a book doesn’t cost anything

This is another myth I hear very often. Authors believe they simply write a book and start earning royalties. They believe a publishing house is eagerly awaiting their creation and will pick them up and start sending them checks. This is not the case. In today’s world there are several publishing options available and they offer different costs, benefits, and downsides.

While I believe very strongly that your book sales should offset the costs of book production, it is not automatic – it takes time and effort to sell your book. And, if someone offers to split costs with you, be sure you know what you are getting into as you will likely be paying them on the back end, which is a legal contract and will be like a divorce to get out of.

 

Overall, writing a book is a process and should be treated as such. There is a lot of hype in this industry – from people telling you that you can write a book in 10 days, be a best seller in 30 days, need to spend thousands of dollars to get published – and this is crap. Yes, there are great programs out there but I just say, buyer beware. I offer a free consultation to answer your questions about the industry and find you honest answers. I’m a writer too and believe together we can watch each other’s backs and become more successful than ever.

Additional Costs to Writing a Fiction Book or Memoir

You may be surprised to know that many people I meet with who have an interest in writing a book aren’t aware of the costs involved. They believe they simply need to belt out their best-selling book and it will start bringing in royalty checks. Of course, that is an over-simplified statement, but is still somewhere within the recesses of most first-time authors’ minds.

The Costs to Writing a Fiction Book or Memoir

I address this topic in more detail in my e-book: How to Write Your Book: A Short Guide for First Time Authors. I want to quickly cover some basics here you, which may or may not apply to your specific

Learning. Many writers, especially those in the fiction and memoir categories, tend to take classes, workshops, retreats, online courses, and more. They are working to build their skill set. Learning is a life-long process and those who see writing as a primary hobby or career direction should be consistently adding to their knowledge base.

Coaching. Many non-fiction writers see writing as a secondary function to their careers and will use a coach to keep them on track towards specific goals. As a short-term strategy to complete a book, a coach is ideal for feedback/critique/editing and accountability for all authors. But, for fiction and memoir writers I’d suggest group coaching as a long-term strategy.

Ghostwriting. Ghostwriting is an optional solution for getting a book written – you basically hire a writer to write a book and you put your name on it. This is an ideal option for fiction and memoir writers where English is a second language or when they are lacking necessary writing skills due to a cognitive or intellectual disability.

Sometimes, a hybrid of coaching and ghostwriting can be used as well. This creates a collaborative effort between the writer and the author-to-be which allows for a greater skill set, less need for content to already exist, and usually at a lower cost.

Project Management. A project manager or assistant may be used to help an author with a variety of tasks around the production and distribution of their book. These tasks can include finding vendors for editing, cover design, layout, publishing, reviews, contests, distribution channels, book signings, author events, media/PR, marketing options, and more. Not only would you pay for the support staff, but there would be costs associated with any of the options you employ.

Your Required Completion Team. I consider the following to be requirements of publishing:

Editor. You will be given a price quote up-front but expect to spend a few thousand dollars on editing, depending on the condition of your manuscript (whether or not you used a writing coach) and the length. The editing process is usually several weeks to several months. Expect a developmental editor (not needed if you use a coach), line editor and proofreader.

Cover Designer. Again, you will be quoted up-front, usually a flat fee, for this graphic design work. Be sure you understand what is and isn’t included, such as ISBN, number of changes, number of options, etc. The cover design is usually only a week long process as long as you have all the elements together. (These elements can include the back of the book blurb, author photo, publishing logo, etc.) You will need a cover for both your print book (includes front, spine and back), as well as an e-book cover (front only).

Interior Designer. This person formats your book for printing to prevent misalignment issues when it goes to print. They also help with fonts, widow/orphan protection (random words or alone on a page), indenting, pagination and more. Like the cover, you will need one for print and a separate one for an e-book. Your e-book may or may not have other changes such as table of contents, link-able content, and back cover information being formatted into the content.

Need more info on the costs to writing a fiction book or memoir?

I’d love to hear more about what you are working on, and what kind of help you may want or need to get your book finished and/or published. If you want to learn more about the costs to writing a book, let’s chat about your specific book and I can point you in the right direction.

Contact me for a free discovery session today.

My Big Fat Opinion: You Must Create an Outline

create an outline image of lightbulb with ideas coming off it

Whenever I meet with a new client, whether they have anything written or not, I ask them for an outline. For many people, the thought of creating an outline brings them back to the horror of high school English class. They experience either the perfectionist desire to get it right or the rebelliousness to state they don’t do outlines.

There are several quotes that I think relate to why an outline is important. And yes, while some relate to goal setting, they are still relevant:

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll

“If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?” – Yogi Berra

“Knowing where you are going is the first step to getting there.” – Ken Blanchard

(all quotes taken from azquotes.com)

To me, writing a book (or even long content) without an outline is a surefire way to get lost, be less effective, and even possibly lose your reader. For writers who aren’t very experienced, an outline should be used for anything longer than a paragraph that takes the reader to a desired end point.

The Content of an Outline

For me, I don’t ask my clients to follow one specific form. Instead, I tell them to do what works best for them. After all, this isn’t English class – there is no exam, no grade to earn, no red ink. I want my clients to create an outline simply for the sake of:

  • Knowing the key points to make
  • Keeping us on track for content creation/writing
  • Inspiration when stuck about what to write, and
  • Knowing what we want the reader to walk away with

To accomplish this, the outline can look like:

  • Traditional structure such as an A, B, C; 1, 2, 3; a, b, c, etc. format
  • Mind mapping
  • A synopsis in paragraph or multi-paragraph form

For More Resources

An outline, in my opinion, is one of the first steps in writing your book. For more writing resources, check out my home page at www.skaowlpress.com.

There you can access:

  • Your FREE Essential Checklist for First Time Authors
  • Your FREE 30-page e-book titled, “How to Write a Book”, and
  • Your FREE course: “What to Write in Your Memoir”

As always, if I can help you further, Contact Me for a free 30-minute consultation.

What to Write in a Memoir (Part 2)

what not to write in a memoir
image of open photo album with graphic: what to write in a memoir part 2

 

In my last blog post, What to Write in a Memoir (Part 1), I touched on some of the mistakes memoir writers make, as well as what to include in your life story to make it compelling and valuable.

In this post, I am going to share what to EXCLUDE in a book about your life. After all, there is a lot at risk – your reputation, your relationships, and even your livelihood should you be sued.

What NOT to Write in Your Memoir

The most common mistakes I see in memoir include:

Assumptions

Telling stories about others that the writer may not have permission to share. There is a saying that there are three sides to every story: Person 1’s perspective, Person 2’s perspective, and the truth.

You can only speak for yourself. Don’t assume or read into other people’s thoughts, beliefs, emotions or motivations. Tell the story from your perspective and own it. Share your own feelings, and don’t assume you know what other’s feelings are.

Slander

Talking about people, places, or things in slanderous or inaccurate ways can get you into hot water. State facts and show examples rather than name calling or assuming information. Don’t be sloppy – do your research. Not telling the truth destroys your credibility.

The positive side of doing research and getting facts is that it builds rapport and credibility with your reader, and also helps them understand the setting or scene in a more compelling way. And, you won’t get hit with a slander lawsuit.

Overshare

Sometimes we feel compelled to share more information than we need to. Often this comes in the form of an “information dump” at the beginning of the story. This isn’t needed, nor appropriate. Good story tellers weave this information in and let it be discovered. Sometimes oversharing is a problem when information comes into the story when appropriate context hasn’t been built. Again, don’t be sloppy – build your story rather than dump information.

Oversharing can also include giving the reader too much detail or sharing information that is confusing or unnecessary for moving the story forward.

Undershare

On the flip side of oversharing is the opposite – not giving the reader enough background information or context. Sometimes this involves skipping over huge gaps of time without explanation, or being in a setting or scene that doesn’t make sense. Usually just a few sentences can fix this.

Another way this can show up in your writing is when you leave out how you feel or perceive a situation. Doing this assumes the reader thinks or feels the same way as you do, and that is not always the case. Connect the dots for the reader. Here are two examples to illustrate my point:

She walked into the room wearing red stilettos! I shook my head.

Did you shake your head in dismay or approval? Did you smirk or sigh at her boldness? Explain why you shook your head – there are too many things we can interpret here. Quick fix: …stilettos! I shook my head in disbelief that she’d show up so brass knowing the wrong she had done.

 

“Umm, boiled meat.”

Umm as in yum? Or umm as in disapproval? Share more about the beliefs behind this statement and what it means to you – don’t make assumptions that your reader know or believes the same as you. Quick fix: …meat. She snarled, curling up her vegetarian lips to me as though it was a bunny in the pot and not roast beef.

 

There are some unique techniques and “rules” specific to writing memoir. Knowing them and following the suggested actions makes the difference between a memoir that is compelling and well received, and a memoir that is bashed and trashed.

If you are considering writing a memoir, or a book with memoir components and feel you could use some help, schedule a free session with me to learn more about how I can help.

What to Write in a Memoir (Part 1)

what to write in a memoir

One of the most frequent questions I am asked in regarding to writing a memoir is what to include and what to exclude. I love getting this question, because often when I review a memoir manuscript where this wasn’t asked, I find some serious problems.

These problems include:

  • Telling stories about others that the writer may not have permission to share
  • Talking about people, places, or things in slanderous or inaccurate ways
  • Oversharing information that could cause more harm than good
  • Trying to tell too much that doesn’t move the story forward
  • Giving too much detail when it isn’t needed
  • Not giving enough information or background/context
  • Recounting information factually, rather than telling a compelling story
  • Leaving out feelings, or assuming the reader thinks and feels the same way the writer does

Why do any of these matter? Well, include the wrong thing and you open yourself up to a lot of potential pain: emotionally, if your friends or family are hurt by what you said; legally if you break confidentiality agreements or commit slander; and professionally, if you share something overly vulnerable. Bottom line, I have your backside and won’t let you expose your ass.

What To Write in Your Memoir

Remember than no one can write their entire life story. You likely don’t remember your birth and very early years, and while you can get that information from interviews, it isn’t always needed.

For example, I had one client who became blind during his birth due to an accident. This was critical for the story, so we shared it.

Another client was sharing about her adventures in her adult life, so writing about her birth had really no value. We briefly recapped some highlights of her childhood home life, but otherwise went right into her story.

Overall, consider what you want the reader to learn and walk away with.

 Include:

  • Stories that drive interest and help us understand the journey you are taking us on
  • Stories that show us certain traits or attributes about you as a person that come into play later in the book
  • Stories that introduce us to valuable characters and relevant settings
  • Stories that share your thoughts, feelings, beliefs

Your memoir isn’t just a chronological listing of events in your life. In fact, I often coach my clients to look to their outline for inspiration, but not follow a chronological path.

For most people, following themes makes more sense – but not always. It comes back to your end goal and what you want your audience to leave feeling and knowing after reading your book.

 

In the next blog, What to Write in a Memoir (Part 2), I will share about what to exclude or not talk about in your memoir, including examples of what I’ve seen in the past and why it is ineffective.

If you are considering writing a memoir, or a book with memoir components, and feel you could use some help, schedule a free session with me to learn more about how I can help.