Wondering How to Be an Author? 5 Steps to Get You There

POSTED ON Jun 10, 2015

Judith Briles

Written by Judith Briles

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Are you a perfectionist? Are you looking for the perfect phrase, word, idea? Are you stuck? Wouldn’t getting unstuck and moving forward be a tad more fun? Are you stuck in the getting ready mode instead of actually figuring out how to be an author?

Make getting it done today, this week, this month, this year…even if there are a few hiccups…a reality.

Moving from wannabe author to the real thing is totally possible this year. In fact, moving from wannabe anything to the real thing is totally possible this year.

Is There a Book in You?

Most think there is. And most don’t get them out. You could have the makings of a fantastic novel, a creative young adult series, and exquisitely illustrated young children’s stories. Could a cookbook, health, sci-fi, romance, mystery, graphic novel, how-to or even a business book be lurking in your creative closet?

You may be able to take your career to a whole new level with the creation of a book. Adding to your professional credentials, if done right, could position you as the expert in a specific field. A book could take you to a whole new level, a different type of professional business card. Amazing doors can open with book in hand.

Many wannabe authors, speakers, or already published authors practice the art of one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, three to get ready, three to get ready…and they never go. They keep reaching for one more thing; one more piece of information; another interview; another who knows what. Sometimes, it’s just another excuse. Their book never gets written, much less published. Their quest for the perfect book has become the enemy of creating a good book, even a great book.

Perfection and Procrastination go hand-in-hand. Break the bond and move forward today.

Procrastination image

How to Be an Author, Step 1: Choose a Spot…

Choose any spot that is yours and yours alone. It’s the “Do Not Disturb…Author at Work” spot. Authors need their space and time. This space will contain all the ingredients you need to support you. Think computer, phone— if necessary, pens, pencils, paper, sticky notes, files with reference items that you’ve collected, notes you’ve saved or made to support your topic, other reference books, a favorite snack (I confess—I’ve written an entire book with M&Ms and Cheetos being the reward each time I finished a chapter—yikes, I gained 10 pounds on that book!), beverage of choice, toys, etc.

This is your space. Claim it and let others know that when you are in your space, it’s a “Do Not Disturb…Author at Work” sanctuary. Stay away…stay out.

nonfiction book outline template

How to Be an Author, Step 2: Make the Time…

Some authors have to work specific hours while others are more loosey-goosey with their schedules. There isn’t one of us out here who doesn’t kiss off time here and there. If writing—if completing a book has moved to the top of your “get it done” list—then something is going to have to give for you to get your book done. If:

  • the Sunday talking head news shows are your thing—record and postpone them for a “break” time.
  • you are addicted to Monday or Thursday night TV watching, ditto.
  • you are on Facebook or any other social media exchange for more than a cumulative 30 minutes a day, time yourself and when the dinger goes off, so do you.
  • playing cards or games is your thing, take a vacation—there is always next month.
  • garage sales and swap meets are a Saturday morning treasure trove, more treasures await in a few months.
  • your mouth loves the phone, limit your time.
  • emails pull you down, delete fast and learn to respond in short sentences—you don’t need to write an article as a response.
  • meetings suck your time and energy, put a time limit on them as well.
  • you volunteer for anything and everything, stop; if you are doing research—ask yourself:
    • Am I researching this to death? Maybe.
    • Do I have enough information to get started? Most likely.
    • Can I do a Google search later when my draft is completed and see if there are any late breaking updates? Yes.

The reality is that too many authors-to-be engage in one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, three to get ready, three to get ready…and NEVER go. Enough…change your MO.

Over the next three days, do a time inventory. Note how you spend yours and how much time is used up with things that aren’t important to you. Numerically rank your time usage in importance. Guaranteed, you have wasted plenty—minutes that turn into hours that could have been devoted to your book and your path to be an author, if you had chosen to make it so.

Do what works for you, but do it.

How to Be an Author, Step 3: Yes, Just Do It…

Start writing, even if what you get down looks like gibberish. Is it a cliché? Nope, it’s a start. You can’t move forward to publication until you’ve got some words. So just start dumping them out. Think of it as a giant puzzle. Sometimes just finding all the edges takes time. Colors begin to gather, segments within it come together, and it does come together if you persevere. The more you organize your thoughts, stories, stats and general info, the better it is when it comes to the first dump. The general topic, sub-topics, stories/facts/stats to support the topic all go into magic piles.

Where and what you choose to “delete” is your choice. Some authors still write all by hand; some hunt and peck on the keyboard; some have the fastest fingers in the West; and some talk. If you having been procrastinating or dragging your feet—pick up the latest version of Dragon’s Naturally Speaking where you can literally put on a headset with a mic and start talking or glue yourself to a favorite spot and just start—saying anything to kick start your creative juices.

Your words via your voice get transcribed to your computer. Clean up spellings and missed words after your dictation is done. Here’s what you don’t do with any dictating program: watch it as it unfolds on your screen—it will become the kiss of author creativity death. You will want to stop. In fact, you will stop. Your creative juices vaporize as you start to correct spelling and do a first run at editing. DO NOT DO THIS—not yet. You need everything flowing when you are in your zone—you don’t need to make the written word perfect…not yet.

Or, use your phone. Today’s smartphones bring a variety of apps that you can dictate directly to and download to your computer. Ta dah…the draft has started.

How to Be an Author, Step 4: Get Help…

You may need book coaching to goose you. You may need to get the big picture in place where you can see the book, even virtually feel what it will look like. Do you know your title…or do you need some help in creating it? Titles can morph as a book progresses…or can be as firm as a slab of cement from the get-go. A mockup of your cover might be the visual encouragement that keeps you going. You will need an editor—content/developmental or grammar? All authors need editors who edit (this is not your friend or sister, although they can be readers)…all authors need an editor, no exceptions.

Plan on engaging other professionals who create books—interiors and exteriors. Will illustrations or cartoons enhance your work? Unless you are a pro in book design, book covers, illustrations, etc., don’t go down that path. Book designers know books, your local friendly graphics and banner person is not who you work with.

Your book can do amazing things…you need to bring the amazing you to the party and invite the pros in for the journey.

nonfiction book outline template

How to Be an Author, Step 5: Make Up Your Mind…

What’s it going to be—your first book? A new book? A repurpose of an already published book? A workbook or study guide or book club guide to accompany one that you have already written? How about a stellar speech and/or workshop that will take you to new places? Or an audio program? Do you see a video version of your book or creating exercises and projects for readers to use and enjoy? The paths you choose can be multiple.

I routinely have my authors in the making write down these two lines. They are told to create a headline banner and print them out.

Don’t do well what I have no business doing.
If I never say NO, my YESES become worthless.

For this year, make a decision to go forward or eliminate actions and activities that hold you back, all the items you do consciously and unconsciously that lead to procrastination—and to nothing results. The one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, three to get ready, three to get ready are no longer in your DNA. This is your time for GO.

Judith Briles

Judith Briles is a Contributing Writer for The Book Designer. She is an advocate for authors and writers and is known as The Book Shepherd. Delivering practical authoring and publishing information and guidance, she has authored 31 books, won multiple book awards and co-founded Mile High Press. Judith is the Chief Visionary Officer of AuthorU.org.

You can learn more about Judith here.

Judith Briles

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Judith Briles

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