Erin Green Author - blog
Once upon a time, I was an aspiring author. My dream was to write a book and have others read my book. If the truth be told, I'd have done anything to spend time with a published author to know 'how they do what they do' but at the time pre-social media and such like - it was difficult to glean info. My only option was to read 'How to' books on the subject of writing. They were helpful in some respects but not entirely honest. They promised to help me become an author whilst taking my money. But the worst thing was their methods didn't feel like me, they felt like a 'painting by numbers' way of writing. As I read, I struggled to match my imagination with their instructions... the result is I have a shelf of 'How to books' about writing which I never refer to which sadly, didn't really teach me how to write a book.
Last week, I gave two library talks which coincided with the publication of my fourth book 'New Beginnings At Rose Cottage' and several members of the audience asked how I got started. I talked for 90 minutes non-stop - seriously, I did. I'm known for sharing details - I remember how difficult it was for me.
It took me six years to write my first book* - my last book took 108 days from blank page to submission to my editor of 95,000 words! I think you can safely say back then, I was doing it wrong! *This book remains unpublished but one day I'll rewrite it.
Three mistakes I was making back then:
I'd write chapter one then keep reading, rereading and editing it seeking perfection. Then I'd write chapter two and repeat - this isn't how you write a book. Or, it is if you want it to take six years.
I wrote only when the mood/muse inspired me - which means I might go three days without adding a single word to my manuscript - this isn't how you write a 95,000 word book.
I kept thinking that writing had to be some sort of struggle, pained process of creativity which tortured the soul - I'd learnt that detail from my 'How to books'. Yes, I was feeling frustrated flailing around in the darkness without a clear path on how to tackle writing a book but I wasn't tortured, pained and suffering for my art! I really don't think that is the way to write a book despite what the 'How to books' told me.
So, I joined a writing group. Surely there I would be given hints, tips and some direction on how to write a book and that is when a lightbulb moment occurred for me. I soon learnt that many aspiring authors want to write but don't actually write. Some of you may have just sat up and your nerves are bristling at what I've just written. So, I'll say it again just to get under your skin because it might be your lightbulb moment. Many aspiring authors want to write but don't actually write. They are going to write tomorrow, next week, the next free weekend they have, maybe in the holidays or when the kids grow up, when my retirement arrives, when the mortgage is paid or when the new kitchen is fitted... On many occasions, I was the only person who had written in recent weeks and had something to read aloud at the monthly meeting. I ask you, how can a writing group call itself a writing group if the members aren't writing? That would be like a band saying they were a band but they never play music. A dentist saying she is a dentist but never turning up for appointments since 1999! Seriously, my dentist turns up everyday at her dental surgery in order to sustain her job title of being a dentist!
That was my lightbulb moment. Hearing the stream of excuses each month for why members hadn't done the one thing that they were saying was their dream: to write!
It might seem really harsh pointing out the obvious but we all have busy lives, we all have family commitments, we all want to mong on the sofa and stare at the box, are all tired and are all feeling, dealing and coping with a plethora of things in this modern world in which we live. But, writers write! My dentist dentists (I know that isn't a word).
So my first big change was I would write everyday - which erased mistake number 2 (see above). I made it a rule in my life. I wanted to be a writer so I would write everyday. It didn't matter what I wrote, whether I wrote on computer or paper, for how long or how many words. The rule was simple: write everyday... and I still do. The knock on effect was that by the end of the week I had pages of written words, I'd clocked up lots of minutes being a writer and the best feeling in the world was I began to feel like a writer. I suspect my dentist feels like a dentist after doing dentistry all day.
I still didn't have a structured path or know what I was doing regards writing a complete book but, I was writing everyday!
I need to go and write now so, I'll publish this blog and explain how I addressed my other 'two writing mistakes' another day. But before I go, I do need to say that I was writing in secret. My writing was a secret because earlier in my 'dream of being an author' I'd chosen to share my dream with the wrong people. These people then constantly asked 'published yet?' when it was quite obvious that I wasn't as I'd have been dancing about and celebrating if that had occurred. My lesson here was that not everyone is going to support you and my inner writing goddess can do without the constant jibing, questioning and put downs. So, my second rule was to only share on 'a need to know' basis. In my world that came down to a tiny amount of people. I felt back then, and still do, the need to protect myself from any negativity be it comments, certain people, situations, even news clips and films scenes - it does us no favours in this world. Having now been published, I do realise that some people who I didn't tell could have been supportive towards me - I failed to give them the opportunity but they've been utterly fabulous since my publication so, I harvest that now. Back then, I didn't share that I wrote or had a dream of writing a book. I just didn't. Though, it felt kind of awkward once I'd signed a publishing contract and had to inform my family what I'd actually been doing for near on two decades. Oh yeah, sorry if that comes as a shock but that's how long I was secretly writing for. But as I said earlier, I was doing it wrong!
Anyway, I need to go... I have book to write and, if you're an aspiring author so do you!