Writing a book—it’s an endeavor many people entertain at some point in their lives, one that is commonly followed by a concern about their writing abilities. For many hopeful authors, they wonder if they even can write a book without any writing experience. And while there’s much discussion in the Writing Community about so-called “must-have” qualifications in order to be a writer, we at Josha believe there’s one aspect that can compensate for prior experience: dedication.
The entire drafting and editing process is an arduous one, but for new writers embarking on that quest, it’s important to be aware that you will inevitably gain experience through your dedication to your writing; how much experience you gain is directly related to how dedicated you are to continue to work on your manuscript, utilizing the feedback of others. And that experience is gained in two unique stages of the writing process—drafting and editing.
There’s a basic formula for drafting, according to multi-genre author Neil Gaiman: “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” As self-evident as that might sound, the truth of drafting is that there’s really no one way to do it. What matters is that you’re dedicated enough to the story that you want to tell to start writing and then to keep writing.
Maybe you’re aiming to write fiction, and a scene from the climax of the story came to you in a flash, but you aren’t sure how the characters got to that point; in that case, start by writing the climax out. Where do your characters go from there? Sometimes by starting with the second half of a story, you can develop the first half. Or perhaps you want to write a memoir, but you’re most comfortable writing about your life now. That’s okay; you can always go back and add aspects from earlier experiences later. No matter your genre, what matters is that you start somewhere—and where you start may vary from where other writers do.
When it comes to drafting, you don’t have to start at the beginning of the story—what matters is that you begin to write. And being dedicated enough to your story that you put it on paper is the very first step; there will be time to edit and improve later. In the words of Louis L’ Amour, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
Once you have a completed draft, it’s worth taking a moment to celebrate. Most likely, your draft still needs editing and then some polishing, but congratulations are in order because you did just write a manuscript, and that’s the first part of the journey to a finished book. And now, some tedious work begins: editing.
This stage of the journey can be a difficult one, and not only because it’s a stage most writers have to go through multiple times with multiple readers and editors per book. When it comes to editing, patience is essential. As exciting as it is to have a completed draft in your hands, it’s almost guaranteed that the draft has a few things that may need some assistance, such as plot holes, character development concerns, perspective or tone inconsistencies, and typographical errors. Even if your idea is excellent, the execution of it—the way it’s presented on the page, as opposed to how you envisioned it in your mind—likely needs to be edited in several different ways.
We strongly encourage every writer to begin with a start-to-finish self-edit, usually after taking a few weeks away from their manuscript. In our experience, when you spend weeks or months or even longer drafting a story, it’s easy to become so enmeshed in your manuscript, so close to the content, that the things other readers would notice are easier to miss. After all, it’s your story—no one knows it better than you. But one of the key goals of the editing stage is to make sure that your readers know your story from what’s on the pages as well as you do, and that your prose is clear and error-free by the time it reaches the publishing stage (and certainly by the time it’s in readers’ hands!).
As Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, once said, “You fail only if you stop writing.” The same is true when it comes to editing, whether that’s your self-edits or work with professionals. It can be dismaying to receive a manuscript back that is full of red-shaded edits and notes with suggestions for ways things can be fixed, but it’s important to remember that means your story is worth improving—that there is a way to fix those things. All in all, it means that if you stay dedicated to your manuscript, your efforts will eventually make a difference.
Check out our Editing Tips Series for helpful tips and tricks from our editorial staff for every stage of editing.
Every aspiring author must find the process that works best for them along the journey to write a book, and that process can only be found through trial and error. Fortunately, it’s through trial and error that we gain experience. Someone with little writing experience may feel daunted by the idea of submitting something they’ve written to an agent or publisher, but the good news is that through the drafting and editing portions of the process, you naturally encounter opportunities to hone your craft…which means that you’re gaining experience.
In other words, the only way to gain writing experience is to experience writing. So if you’re considering writing a story, go ahead and pick up a pen or open your laptop—you can do this.
And the minute you start writing, remind yourself that you are doing this.
Josha Publishing, LLC is a woman-founded, woman-owned, and woman-run company that is passionate about books, stories, and the power of words to change lives. Learn more about us here and remember to sign up for our newsletter to find out about new content, new books, and submissions update.
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