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5 Common misconceptions about writing a book

As an experienced writer, I’ve noticed some common misconceptions about writing a book and I’d like to set the record straight.

Have you ever thought about writing a book? Do you have questions that only an experienced writer could answer? You’re in the right place. Pour yourself a nice cuppa, grab a biscuit, and pay careful attention to what I’m about to share with you.

Who am I to share this with you?

I published my first book in 2013 and written a few more since. I’ve written blogs, newsletters, social media copy, and worked with people who were also interested in writing. I’m also a member of the Society of Authors, and of the Writing West Midlands Room 204 Programme, and in 2018, I graduated from university with a 2:1 in Creative and Professional Writing.

I loved writing long before I studied it, and reading books long before that.

So, it’s fair to say I may know a thing or two about how this writing malarky works.

I can give you some insight into the most common questions I get about writing a book. If you’re thinking about putting pen to paper, it might be worth reading through this blog post first…

5 common misconceptions about writing a book

1. It is easy.

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Taking on a writing project like this is one of the most challenging things you can do.

You have your idea in your head, you may speak about it with people, even planned it all out, but actually writing and constructing a book is really challenging. You’ll find you have thoughts pop up, like “this is awful”, “nobody will read this”, and “I can’t do this” and have to fight against that to write to the best of your ability. It’s normal to have these thoughts, even the most experienced writers battle with self-doubt and sometimes imposter syndrome when they are working on their book.

You will also find so many online courses that say you can write a book in 12 week, 6 weeks, or even 48 hours. And this can be really appealing to aspiring writers who want to write and publish a book quickly. Also, you probably can write a book in that timeframe but it probably won’t be your best work.

And if it isn’t a well written book, why on earth would you want to put that out?

My advice: Take your time to write a well thought-out and carefully crafted piece of work that you can be proud of.

2. Your first draft must be perfect

It absolutely needn’t be perfect. In fact, it can even be awful because at this point, only you are going to see it.

The purpose of the first draft is to get all your ideas out, whether you are writing a story or a business guide or a memoir or a recipe book. It doesn’t need to be beautifully written at this point, it doesn’t even have to be grammatically correct; you just need to pour your words onto paper so you know what you are working with.

It’s important resist the urge to edit as you write – this will slow you down! And also feed into that part of you who wants to write a perfect draft the first time round.

The way I approach writing is to get everything onto paper/Word first, and then edit and shape it up later, when I know exactly what I’m working with.

My advice: Don’t put pressure on yourself for it to be perfect, focus instead on finishing what you planned to write.

3. You have to research the publishing process before you start writing your book

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It’s good to understand the process, to know what literary agents are looking for and get an idea of what the industry is like. But also, you don’t have to do that. If you start looking for requirements to fit into, you won’t write your book in the fullness of what it needs to be. Instead, you’ll write what you think you need to write to fit into that box to get noticed. It is possible to find balance.

It’s better to write authentically and let your idea roam and grow, and then come back and edit it. Then you can look at it as a full piece of work and then decide what you want to do with it. Then you can ask yourself, “Do I want to self-publish?” or “Do I want to go the traditional route of publishing?”. You’re in a better position to explore this when you’ve written the whole book. Because until you’ve done that, really it’s just a concept.

There are merits in doing your research about publishing avenues… But I’m not confident we create our best work when we are under pressure. I know some people feel they work well under pressure, and that’s great. But I want you to experience the freedom that comes with your own writing, your own voice, and your own idea taking form on a page. That level of freedom is magical. Even more so when you have capacity to think about what to do with your masterpiece, and then do your research.

My advice: Be authentic in your creative writing. Don’t let your research overshadow the most important task at hand, which is to write your book.

4. You have to write a set number of words for your book to be a good book

This is not true. The length of a piece of work does not indicate the quality of the writing.

You could read a book with 200,000 words and it be the worst experience ever. But then, you could also read a book with 20,000 words and it change your life. Word counts exist as a guide, but does not guarantee a well written piece of work. It only matters if you plan to follow the traditional route of publishing, because literary agents and publishers will have requirements.

As a writer, you must prioritise creating a piece of work that inspires your readers to read beyond the first page.

My advice: Focus less on the word count and more so on developing your writing into a good quality piece of work that explains, has clarity and context, and is original.

5. Self-publishing is expensive

Self-publishing has become popular over the last 10 years or so. It’s amazing to see because it means publishing a book is more accessible to people than it was before. However, it does have its disadvantages.

Vanity publishers continue to prey on people who are desperate to have their writing published. These ‘publishers’ make big promises and just don’t deliver. It is the aspiring author who ends up out of pocket by thousands. There has been an increase in vanity publishers, or hybrid publishers, operating and people are noticing. Earlier this year, a joint investigation was launched by the Society of Authors (SoA) and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB), looking into the practice of vanity publishers after receiving a high volume of complaints

Issues reported range from aggressive marketing tactics and emotionally manipulative sales approaches to opaque contracts and processes, and services that fall short of expectations. Unions say the fees charged are typically four or five figures, often with the authors surrendering a wide range of rights and control over their work.

Mark Chandler, The Bookseller, 2021.
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Is it all doom and gloom?

Of course, being taken advantage of like this is not great at all. But we must not confuse vanity press with independent self-publishing companies. The difference will be that they offer a full service, including editing and marketing. This is usually at a cost, yes, but the rights and royalties remain with the author.

All that being said, you don’t have to approach a self publishing company to have your book published. You could upload a Word document onto Kindle Direct Publishing and publish a book today. For free. It is that easy. But, after writing a few books myself, there are some things you could invest in if you self-publish:

  • Professional editor to edit the content
  • Book formatter to format your book so it is ready for publishing
  • Graphic designer for your book cover
  • Marketing specialist to help you create a launch campaign
  • Venue to hold your book launch
  • Preorder copies of your book at an author discounted price

My advice: Expect to invest in services to get your book ready for self-publishing, but be wary of vanity publishers.

Again, it is a good idea to do a little research into the publishing routes so you can determine which is best for you.

But make sure you write your book first.

Hope you’ve found this useful! I recorded a video version of this blog post that you can watch here.

Need help getting ideas flowing? Click here to order my writing guide.

With love x

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