Tuesday, May 6, 2014

I want to be an author, now what? - Writing Workshop Series

Many of you have heard it said, "everyone has a story to tell," and that is true. However every story isn't book worthy. Deciding to write a book requires you to really dig deep into what your story is and why you need to tell it. Will the story you tell add value to the reader? Will your story encourage your reader? Will your reader walk away from reading your story with tools to help them deal with a situation similar to your story? What is your story and does telling it help others?

It has become much easier to publish books than ever before. Many have learned the art of self-publishing and have taken control of publishing their own work. While this creates a great opportunity for a writer to see their work published, it is also a place where an inexperienced author can run into difficulties if they do not seek help.

I have published four books and have had several articles published. There are some key things I have learned in this process that I want to share with you. As I stated before, it's great you have a story but you have to make sure you bring out the reason why your story needs to be told. To make sure I am capturing the reason for telling my story, I write an outline for each of my books.

For example when I began writing my book, "I Soar: The Chicken is out of the Coop", I wrote down what I wanted to express in the book. The initial thought I had was: Brief testimony of my life from my first book to walking in my calling and allowing God to help me grow. I initial saw this book as the next step from my first book, "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made". In that first book I gave my testimony and talked about what I learned to help a young girl understand her worth. In this book, the Lord had me looking at the differences between chickens and eagles and how He desires His children to grow from a cooped up (bondage mentality) attitude to a free type of attitude like the eagle (that soars). In this book I had to make sure when I wrote about the chicken I related the chicken's coop existence to different spiritual areas in the lives of people that needed to be changed so they could be free (released from the coop). When I wrote about the eagle I had to keep in mind the goal was to use the eagles characteristics to show the spiritual characteristic God wanted in His children. My outline helped me to keep myself on task.  

The next step in the plan, once I came up with my initial thought of what the book would cover was to outline the chapters or what I would cover in the book. I decided I would write about the chicken mentality first. The next section I would write about the eagle mentality. I then had to decide what was the purpose of sharing these characteristics. Sometimes this will call for you to do additional research. Often times writers say to themselves, I have something to share and can get discouraged when they realize it calls for dedicated work to move from being a writer to being a published author. When you do all the outlining, research and prep work, it will help your writing process to become much more successful.

You have decided what you want to write. You have figured out why this story is important and how to present it so others will want to read it. You have done research about your topic and found truthful facts to make sure the story you are telling is accurate, so now what? You are now ready to write. The first thing I would say to anyone wanting to write is be patient with yourself and with the process. Set up a writing schedule. Just as you go to work, or school, or church on a schedule, you need to write on a schedule. This will help you to make sure you are making strides in the progress of your writing. Maybe you can only write once a week for two hours or you may have more time. Whatever time you can set aside, do it. Don't make any excuses, because you will never get it done unless you set yourself to doing it.

One of the reasons I like to do an outline before I start writing is it helps me to keep myself focused on what I am trying to write. Your outline helps you to remember what you wanted to say in that section and becomes your accountability partner in a sense. Remember you are only in the writing section. I tend to focus more on writing at this point than I do on editing (that will come later). Let your writing and your thoughts flow.

When I have finished writing a section and/or chapter I step away from it for a period of time. The reason I do this is to give myself some time to get the immediate writing out of my mind. I come back to it after some time with fresh eyes and read what I have written to make sure I have actually stated my thoughts in the way I intended.

After you have completed your story, you are now ready to move to the next phase, editing. As I mentioned earlier it is much easier to publish your work, but the concern is many do not have good editors or either do not see the need for this step. Let me assure you, don't do that! Giving your story to someone to read for you, does not automatically mean it has been properly edited. While I might like aunt Betty or cousin Mike, that doesn't mean they are ready to be editors. You need to get someone that either has edited or that has some type of Writing, English or related type of education or career that can edit for content and grammar usage (do you know some college professors, copy editors, speech writers, etc., start there). 

I have read several books that had great potential but after reading error after error  or lack of direction, I had to put them down. I was disappointed because the book promised to be interesting but never delivered on that promise. While someone may say, but you bought the book, that's all that counted. That's wrong thinking. The truth is, I may have bought the book but I won't recommend the book to anyone else. And I may be hesitant to by another book from you in the future based on the book I purchased. If you think your story is worth telling, then tell it well!

I tend to edit my work myself first. I go through several times reading and re-reading my work. I want to make sure some of the technical things are in order. For example I don't want to have one chapter with 400 words and then the next chapter with 1,000 words. I try to make sure my writing for each chapter is balanced in general word count. I also read to make sure I quoted correctly, whether scripture or some other source. If I am quoting someone else's work, I will write to that author for permission to use their work. Some say yes, and don't ask for anything. Some ask that you mention their work in a certain way. Make sure you are not plagiarizing someone else work and honoring them by citing their work.

After I go through these processes, I am ready for the next level of editing. I get someone else that doesn't know the story or what I was trying to say to read my work. I have one person read for story content. Does it make sense? Did I allow you the reader to understand the importance of the story? Did you care about the story? Was it relevant? I also have someone else read to check for grammar usage and any spelling error. After this is done, I do the process all over again. I take the suggestions from the editor(s), make the corrections and re-submit for editing again.

This process can be frustrating because you are ready for your work to be finished. Please don't rush it. As I stated before, if your story is worth telling, it is worth telling it well. Whether you use a traditional publisher, self-publish or eventually work with us at Tri-Production to publish your work, I would suggest you make sure you take advantage of editing. In fact, as we begin development of our company, we will not publish any work that is not edited. We don't want our company to be associated with putting out bad work or poorly done work. As a published author, I would not be willing to set another author up for disappointment by not having their work edited. 

You have a story to tell, so make sure you tell it well.

Rev. Jewel D. Williams, Creative Director for Tri-Production affiliated with Williams Innovative Network (W.I.N.), where we help people WIN with Christ.


More information will be coming soon on publishing packages through Tri-Production. Join us again soon for our next lesson in our Writing Workshop Series.