A Dirty Dozen: 12 Things You Need to Stop Doing Right Now if You Want to Publish Your First Book
6 months ago, I had not published a book.
I was 39 and sitting on a dream that I had wanted for as long as I could remember. Problem was, I didn’t know how to publish a book. So I didn’t.
Then it hit me: I am never going to learn how to publish a book unless I give it an honest - dig - in - an - embrace - the - failures try. That started my writing journey. I published my first book in April, and will be publishing my third book at the end of August.
But how I did it is a story for another day. Here are the 12 things I had to stop doing before I could publish my first book.
If you are falling victim to any - or all - of these behaviors, get your quitting shoes on, because if you are serious about writing your book - or truly accomplishing any goal, it is time to:
1. Stop Quitting
It is easy to say “I’ll do it tomorrow” but we all know tomorrow never comes. If you want to do something, take a step right now. Then keep taking steps. You are going to bang into an obstacle along your way that makes you want to throw the keyboard out the window (so many close calls) or burn your book and start over (I even lit the match), but you need to keep going.
Set the tough thing aside, go for a break, be kind to yourself then dig back in and keep trying. Google the answer, get on YouTube, and try again. To make progress you must overcome challenges - and facing challenges means that you are learning and growing, so lean in. Stop quitting when things get tough.
In other words - Keep moving forward.
2. Stop Listening to Your Inner Gargoyle.
Ug, this b!tch! That inner voice that screams insults at you that you would not yell at your worst enemy. The whisper of doubt, or warning about the worst case scenario. The expert on all the risks, and all the possibilities of what could go wrong.
This voice is an evolutionary defense mechanism. She was intended to keep us on our toes, wary of real and true dangers - like wandering into a cave filled with bears. But in our modern world, she has nothing ‘real’ to warn us against - so instead, she warns us about social risks, or emotional risks or other potentially painful, but rarely deadly risks. Thing is - she is usually wrong. The worst case scenario is as likely as the best case scenario - so you might as well give it a shot.
Acknowledge your inner gargoyle - maybe even speak her concerns out loud, then keep going.
3. Stop Listening to Self Doubt
Imposter Syndrome and self doubt can cripple progress. I am in this moment sitting here thinking “Who would ever want to read this?” (inner gargoyle) and “I am terrible at writing blog posts” (self doubt). I haven't mastered silencing these voices, but I’m going to keep writing and finish this post :p
When self doubt rears its ugly head (“You’re a terrible writer.”) I like to say - even out loud if it wont get me kicked out of the brewery “I’ll get better if I practice.” and then I keep going. Find a way of sidestepping the 1-2 punch of self doubt and keep going!
4. Stop Waiting for the Timing to be Perfect
THE TIMING WILL NEVER BE PERFECT!
I always think I am going to do a ton of writing on my holidays - or on the weekends, or on breaks during my workday - and something always comes up. Life is unpredictable and this moment in time may be the BEST moment you have to start your book.
Start now! Write in the cracks of your day. Eek out a few minutes, call in sick - find a way to start, then find a way to make it fit exactly as your life is now. Your current life is your reality, so find a way to make writing part of that reality.
5. Stop Researching! Write!
Some of you are not going to want to hear this - but you cannot research your way to a great book - you actually have to write it. Yup - pen to page, fingers to keyboard. If you dive too deep into researching - perfecting character backstories, drawing maps, building family trees 15 generations deep - you may end up knowing everything about a book that was never written.
Researching can become procrastination, so stop researching and write something. You can always go back and research more - but if the research is outweighing your writing, cut back or cut it off so you can do the real work to move you closer to your goal.
6. Stop Expecting it to be Perfect
Done is always better than perfect. Read that again. Done is always better than perfect. There are errors in all things. You can edit till your eyes fall out. You can have 10,000 ARC and Beta readers. You can do everything right and there might still be a mistake in the final copy. Do not let the fear of imperfection stand in the way of finishing your book. Get it done, then polish it for a reasonable amount of time - any longer than that and it might just be your fear talking - then publish!
7. Stop Listening to Everyone Telling You How You HAVE to do it
Oh the advice. Everyone has advice. Hell, you are reading my advice - so I am also speaking about me when I say - there is no 1 right way to do things. There are no Have Tos. I have connected with a lot of authors and the one thing that stays the same for all of them? Their journey was uniquely their own. They have different ways of writing, different processes for editing, different experiences editing - there are 1,000,000 different ways to get there so stop stalling - pick a way that makes sense for you and get going.
8. Stop Being Paralyzed by all the Options
Expanding on the previous point- because there are so many different ways that this process (any process) can be done, it is easy to become overwhelmed.
The cure? Pick one - any one - and try it. Give it an honest try - 2 week? 3 months? A year? Depends on the situation, but settle on something reasonable.
Through action, you will learn. You will discover what works and what does not work about the choice you choose.
Then take this new knowledge and choose again. No matter what anyone says, you are not stuck forever with a single choice you made in your writing career.
9. Stop Avoiding the Hard
There will be moments when this process sucks. My eyes burn from staring at the screen for hours of writing after working a full day on the computer. I am overwhelmed creating content for social media and trying to edit, write, market, engage and format. Sometimes I cry under the pressure that I have put on myself.
And other times, it is the best thing in the world!
Everything in life is hard sometimes. Running a marathon is hard. Sitting on the couch eating potato chips is hard when you try and run for a bus. Working 40 hours a week can be hard. Trick is that you have to choose your hard. So what’s it going to be?
10. Stop Expecting You to Understand Everything Before You Start
This was me. I didn't know what to do so I did nothing. My best learning from this whole crazy too fast process has been that I have learned more in the last 6 months about publishing a book than I did in the 39 years that came before it.
Just start. You’ll learn as you go. I did :)
11. Stop Editing as You Write
This one has crippled even some of the most successful authors. It is said you cannot edit a blank page.
Write your book first. Start, continue, finish. Then edit. My favorite quote on this is “The first draft is you telling yourself the story.” I do not know who wrote it, but it is fabulous :)
Write your first draft as if you will forget it. Once it is complete, then you can go back in and make it great.
12. Stop Writing Multiple Books at Once
For all my other neurotic, hyper, ADHD, or manic friends out there - stop multitasking. Pick one idea and work on it until it is finished.
I have over 15 ‘mostly drafted’ manuscripts. I only managed to finish a book when I went to work on a single idea with focus and refused to get seduced away to another story. Pick one and get’er done!
If you are worried about forgetting another book idea, implement an ‘idea catcher’ system.
Text the idea to yourself
Write it on a post it in a special place
Keep a notebook handy. You can come back to other ideas once this one is complete - and you will finish each of them - one draft at a time.
Rise above these common pitfalls and you will be giving your own "How To Publish" advice in no time :)
Thank you so much for sticking with me through this post :)
I hope you took a few ideas with you to move you forward in your writing journey. Let me know in the comments if one -or all - of these behaviors is standing in your way of finishing your book. Reach out if you have any questions or suggestions. I love hearing from you!
Regina Grimm is the author of erotic fairytales, written for the uninhibited readers 18+. Check out her books - Snow White and the Wicked Curse: Chapter 1 and Snow White and the Vicious Curse: Chapter 2. Snow White and the Seven Thieves: Chapter 3 coming soon!