Do you have a book in you? Have you started it yet? How’s it going?
If you’re anything like the typical would-be author, you probably answered, “Yes, and no,” or, “Yes, no, and argh.”
It’s okay. Every published author has been there at some point.
There’s a much-quoted study by the Jenkins Group from 2002 which states that 81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them, with a fairly even split between fiction (27 percent), self-help/DIY (28 percent) and other types of books like kids’ books or cookbooks (20 percent.) Yet according to American Libraries columnist Walt Crawford, only 2 percent of people ever get round to writing one.
As you can image, one of the most common responses I get when I tell people I’m an author is, “I’d like to write a book.”
So why haven’t you written it yet?
I’m sure there are other reasons not to write a book, but these are the ones that crop up most often.
I don’t know what to write
Often, the magnitude of the idea of writing a book, in contrast to the blank page before you, is enough to stall the process right at the outset. A lot of first time writers imagine they will write the book once, and be done with it. That expectation puts a lot of pressure on you to find the right words as you go.
Once you understand that writing a book isn’t just writing the first draft, but multiple (sometimes seemingly endless) rounds of revision, editing, and proofreading, you can relax a little, and give yourself permission not to be perfect. You don’t need to write a polished manuscript. You need to get the ideas out of your head and onto paper so you can refine them.
Even so, there’s a huge difference between a 50,000 word document, and that blank page. That’s why you need to plan first. Deciding who you’re writing for, defining the scope of the book, and creating a chapter and headings outline means when you do start writing, you always have something to prod you along, because you know what to write about.
I don’t know how to write
You probably do. You might write like you speak to begin with, and you might have to learn some technical aspects of storytelling, or brush up on your spelling and grammar, but if you have even rudimentary English skills (or whatever language you’re writing in) you know enough to get the first draft down.
If you’re a two finger typist, and the thought of punching out so many words is just too horrifying, you can always speak your book using voice recognition software. If you have an accent the software has difficulty with, you could record your manuscript and send it to a transcription service such as rev.com, which charges just $1 per minute.
If your first draft sucks, and you don’t know how to improve it, get it edited, preferably by someone who will also teach you to improve your writing for the future. Editing may not be cheap, but it’s necessary, even if you have strong language skills and a solid manuscript.
If all of that sounds like too much work, but you still feel you have a message to share, you can always hire a ghostwriter. They will help you pull your outline together, talk you through the book, and then use your words to write your manuscript.
I don’t have time
No one has time. There are, and always will be, a billion things you could do instead. Still, hundreds of thousands of books get written every year. If you want yours to be one of them, you have to find the time. Commit to it. Or again, hire a ghostwriter.
There’s too much competition
If you think there’s too much competition to sell books, and you’re going to write a blog/start a podcast/YouTube channel etc instead, you’re going to have a rude awakening when you realise there’s more competition for all those other online channels than for books.
As of 2014, over 300 hours of YouTube video are uploaded every minute. That number is only likely to go up. There are over 152 million blogs and over 1 billion websites online. No one seems to know how many podcasts there are online, partly because as an audio-only channel it’s never quite taken off. Best estimates are that the average podcast has around 4 subscribers.
The point is, if you’re going to let a little competition put you off, you’ll end up doing nothing. Whatever you want to do, there will be stiff competition. So if you want to write a book, write it.
What will people think?
Yes, you’ll get bad reviews, and some snide comments. You’ll get them whatever you do. More people will be amazed you did it and start telling you how they want to write a book. Trust me on this.
In truth, if you want to write a book, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t, and don’t let anyone tell you different. Whether the book eventually gets published is another matter. But you will learn and grow just from the writing process. So if you want to do it, do it.
The only real reason not to write a book
There is, of course, one and only one good reason not to write a book, and that’s, “I don’t want to.”
What do you think? Are you writing a book? Do you want to? What’s stopping you? Tell me in the comments below, and let’s see if we can get you off the starting blocks.