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Sunday, March 9, 2014

What are the usual problems faced by first time authors and what can you do about it?

Writing is not new for anybody. You spend 15 – 18 yrs doing nothing else in school.

Writing articles and other short stories too is not difficult. You write essays in school and articles are not that very different.

My belief is that anyone can write. You are conditioned to write since a very young age, and the more imaginative and inventive you were with your answers in school, the easier it is to write once you're grown up.

Of course, writing a book is a whole different ball game, but my point isn't to tell you that it is easy. Just that if you feel that you've absolutely no experience in writing, you're wrong. You do have. Quite a bit in fact.

And herein comes the biggest problem faced by first time authors – that they are not too confident about their writing ability. They don't feel that they can write well. They just think that they can. And there's a big difference between the two.

When you think that you're good, you're basically rationalizing the whole writing thing. On the other hand, when you feel that you're good, you know that you are. You may make mistakes, you may receive criticisms from others, but this will not alter the fact that you know that you can write well. You take the criticisms and come back stronger. You understand that mistakes are just what they are – mistakes. An error. An accident. Nothing more.

And you come back stronger the next time round.

So you have to feel deep within you that you can do it.

This kind of confidence comes only with one thing – success.

I know, it sounds like I'm giving you 10 different kinds of hogwash here, but it's true. The only way you will ever get the sort of confidence that you need to write your own book is if you have already met with success. The point is that this success need not be with other books.

And here we come to the next point that I am about to make. Don't start off with a book. Start small. Maybe you can create and maintain a blog or even guest post on other blogs. You can write informative articles that you can try to get published in your local newspaper or enewspaper. Or you can take up freelance writing work. Or ...

There are a number of things that you can do to start writing in a small way. Doing this helps you in two ways.

One, it gives you experience, which is just one word for “what readers expect in written content”.

Two, it removes a lot of the “romance” from writing. When you write professionally, you write on anything that you have to. You don't have the luxury of choice. This may sound a little weird, especially as I started off by saying that you need confidence, but doing this will ensure that you have both feet firmly planted on the ground when you write your book.

When you figure both these out and know that you are doing a fairly descent job for others, then you know that you can do as good a job, if not better, for yourself.

This may sound more like a five year plan, than one in which you spend a weekend writing a book and a couple of hours on Monday in publishing it, but it all boils down to how good you want to be. If you're interested in creating a name or a brand, it takes both hard work and time. It may be possible for you to shorten the time element a little by putting in a lot more hard work, but there is no substitute for trust, and trust is only gained with time.

And while talking about trust, I come to the third thing on my list, which is competency. Many authors don't think about a very important concept – VFM (Value For Money). Unfortunately, the whole world of commerce revolves round this concept. Nobody buys anything unless they find value in it, and they are definitely not going to recommend it to anyone else unless they find more value in it than the cost that they are paying for it. Many authors seem to think that because they are pricing their books at a dirt cheap “couple of dollars”, nobody should complain if their writing is not up to the level of books that sell for many times more.

Unfortunately readers invest not just their money, which may not even matter to them. They invest their time in reading your work, and in this day and age, time is more valuable than money. If they feel that they have just wasted so many hours of their time in reading your book, they aren't going to be happy.

And with the advent of social media, they aren't reticent about letting the whole world know exactly what they think of a person who does this to them.

Make sure that you give your readers value. Even if it is only fiction, and meant only for leisure reading, you have to make sure that they feel that their time has been spent well. Miss this and things are going to turn nasty on you.

The next thing that I want to give you is just a piece of commonsensical advice. However confident you feel in your own ability, take advice from as many people as you can. Of course, you don't have to follow it all, but getting 20 different points of view gives you a much broader horizon of view than 5.

Most first time authors just ask their family and friends, and decide that their manuscript is good enough to become a best seller. My point is that you need more variety in people who offer you advice.

Why do I say this?

Different people are different. They have different preferences and different tastes. If you want your book to be successful, you need as many of these different types of people to like your book as possible to ensure that you cast your net as widely as possible.

And how are you going to know the preferences of different types of people unless you talk to them and find out what their preferences are?

And lastly, I say, do your best. Writing is not a race where one person wins and everyone else loses. There's enough space for everyone up there if you are willing to sweat it out. Don't ever publish something that you are less than satisfied with because not only does it ensure that your book will fail, but you are spoiling your chances of future success too because past reviews can affect present books, just as how present reviews can affect past ones.

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