I never meant to write a book; it just happened and before I knew it, I’d written 86,000 words, a well-known publisher had signed me up, translated it into several languages, marketed it around the world and sold millions of copies worldwide.
Lesson One: Unless you’re Patricia Cornwell, this is not going to happen.
In my world – and most other people’s I suspect – the picture is very different. It took me four years from first putting pen to paper to self-publishing and getting my book on Amazon. According to literary agents, that’s the easy bit! And boy are they right. Trying to spread the word about a book written by an unknown author in a crowded market, while juggling a successful career travelling the world training people in empowerment and fulfilment, is as easy as bagging a ticket on a tourist trip to the moon.
Lesson Two: Write about what you know.
I am getting ahead of myself. Let me take you back to the beginning. Four years ago, my son was nine months old and I was delivering corporate training courses around the UK while picking myself up after a business venture had just collapsed.
Perhaps to fill the void (but more probably to stop myself from moping around), I decided it was time to turn my many travel stories into a book. While my son was napping, I’d spend my time writing, which I found strangely therapeutic. My husband read the first few pages of my scribble and encouraged me to continue. Then I typed up my scribble and gave it to a friend (who I knew wouldn’t be quite so keen to please) who said it was interesting. Upon reflection, perhaps I should have investigated further what she’d actually meant by interesting. I (mis)took it for meaning that it was worth pursuing, and so I did.
It was at this point that it occurred to me that I didn’t want to write just a story about a backpacker’s adventures, I wanted to help readers learn about something too. I had already created some steps to empowerment for a course I’d written, and so I wondered about writing a self-help book instead, but I didn’t want to write just a self-help book either.
This sparked off an idea: why not write the self-help steps into the pages of what I’d already written? And so I began integrating the two.
A year and 120,000 words later, I needed professional help. So I asked an editor I’d sourced online to help.
Lesson Three: Don’t source an editor off the internet.
With hindsight, I can say that what I’d written (at that point) was awful. Okay, perhaps I’m being harsh on myself, but it was amateurish at best. I was such a novice at writing that I’d put ‘said’, ‘whispered’ or ‘responded’ after every character had said something. While the editor highlighted this to me, he should have also told me to attend a writing course to learn basic things like how to describe rather than tell, how to decide whether to write in the first or third person, how to convey a character’s thoughts, and how to end chapters with hooks to draw the reader in.
I told you I was a novice. The editor – to whom I had paid a lot of money – corrected my grammar and spelling mistakes, but he should have pointed out that his efforts were as effective as polishing a turd.
Luckily I didn’t self-publish at this point and persevered instead. Fast forward two years and my book is in a more acceptable state, but I still had one more thing to do: I needed to be more succinct.
Lesson Four: Less is more.
I had to be ruthless and take out anything that didn’t add to the story, including a lot of unnecessary, filler words. I thoroughly enjoyed cruelly slashing entire paragraphs. I mean, I enjoyed slashing paragraphs. This exercise reduced the word count from 120,000 to 86,000 and made the read more enjoyable (if I do say so myself).
Lesson Five: Know when to stop.
I could still be making changes now but there has to come a time when enough is enough. I think a book is a bit like a human being. No one is perfect. In fact, it’s our imperfections that make us perfect. So my book might not be perfect but it’s imperfectly perfect (if I do say so myself).
I hope you enjoy reading Blokes, Beers & Burritos (while learning the steps to a blissful life).
I wish to thank Portobello Book Blog for publishing my article and finding it entertaining! https://portobellobookblog.com/2017/03/15/5-things-i-wish-id-known-before-id-published-by-jo-blakeley-theblissexpert/