I teach a creative writing course called ‘Naked Writing – the No Frills Way to Write Your Novel’.
Okay, have you stopped chortling yet?
The name seemed a good idea at the time, trying to get over the idea that this was simply a course designed to help writers finish their own book – there’d be no analyzing the classics, here, just plain old hard work. I suggested that students put ‘Naked Writing’ in the sub line of their emails to help me quickly pick them out of the inbox.
A simple idea, you might think. But no. I got complaints from some students that their servers spotted the word ‘naked’ and automatically thought ‘spam’ and refused to send the email.
Oh, yes, censorship may well be alive and well and living in cyberland….as a reaction to THOSE kind of spam messages. You know the ones that are usually accompanied by pictures of body parts you’d rather not see on strangers unless you’d specifically asked to, right?
Of course, for writers, everything is grist to the writing mill and when I thought about it….sometimes we can be a little like that – so determined to ‘do it right’ that we lack the flexibility to see and explore the worth of new ideas and opportunities. So often I’ve heard people talk about ‘the formula’ for writing a novel, a biography, a text book, a romance, a best seller…..as if there is some secret recipe that will guarantee writing success. There is a sort of one, actually – but not the one that these people are looking for.
In fact, it seems to me that there are several secrets to being successful as a writer and getting published.
1) Believe in yourself and don’t give up. Writing can be disheartening at times – you sacrifice time you could be doing other things in order to write. And it’s hard, and sometimes it seems there are only rejections and you think maybe it will never get better.
2) Write the book of your heart, let your passion for the story shine through. Forget the idea of a ‘formula’ and write the book you’d want to read, the book that tells a story that you need to tell.
3) Realize that a good writer is in a constant state of ‘becoming’ rather than ‘being’ – writers should always be honing their craft, learning and growing, so they are constantly becoming a better writer rather than merely being a good writer
4) Be prepared to put yourself out there. I think there are probably many wonderful books that their creators have consigned to a box under the bed for fear of rejection, or fear or what other people might say or think. You have to believe in yourself and in the story you want to tell.
What someone else thinks – be it a relative, a friend, your boss, an agent, publisher, editor – or even your creative writing teacher – counts only so far as you can see a way to use their comments to make the book better in your own eyes.
5) Do the work.This is the biggy. No-one ever became a successful writer by talking about the book they’re ‘gonna write someday’. Get the words on paper, learn to edit and polish, send your work out and learn from the critiques you receive from editors and agents. Then, when you’re published, be prepared to promote, promote, promote….no matter how difficult you find this, or how shy you might be.
Like I’ll be doing when I’m standing all alone in Chapters, hoping that some compassionate souls will stop and chat about my book, about writing, about the weather – anything so that I won’t feel like a fool standing there with my pile of novels waiting to be bought and signed, and a silly grin on my face.
Maybe you can add some thoughts of your own to what makes a successful book?
Glenys O’Connell’s next novel, a romantic comedy entitled Marrying Money, will be released as an ebook by Red Rose Publishing (www.redrosepublishing.com) on April 8th!