Maya Angelou’s words are ones that resonate for anyone who has ever tried to be a writer, or who anyone who does write but wants to take the next step and become an author. Fear of failure is often what gets in the way of us attempting to achieve our dreams, however it needn’t be that way says writing coach and author Getrude Matshe. Here are her top tips on how to write a book…
“Fear of failure, fear of being ridiculed and just generally a fear of putting yourself out there as an expert or a storyteller has held back many aspiring writers,” says Getrude Matshe, “but my advice is feel the fear and do it anyway. You will not regret it.”
Here are her top tips on how to be a published author
1. Find your writing voice
The best way to find your writing voice is by reading. When I embarked on my writing journey I made sure that I would read at least one or two books a week and as I read, I decided on a style of writing that would give me a unique signature in a world full of authors. My unique style is based on my grandmother’s voice. She was an amazing storyteller who captivated you with her tales.
Read books that have made the biggest impression on you and see how those authors put their stories together.
Examine how the books share their knowledge and use them as mentors for your writing journey. Success leaves clues – there are people who have come before you, who have paved the way, so don’t afraid to explore their journey.
2. Decide on your target market
It is totally impossible to write a book for everyone. Before you embark on your writing journey be very clear on who you are writing for. There is a very distinct difference between writing a book for a woman who is aged 25 as opposed to a woman who is 70.
Remember the 33 per cent rule – 33 per cent of people will hate your book; 33 per cent will be indifferent; 33 per cent will absolutely love it and that one per cent, well is you.
3. Plan and project manage
It is absolutely crucial that you plan the writing process before you start. You need to decide on the end date. When will you publish your book?
Set dates around the milestones of the writing process. Researching, writing, editing, formatting and publishing.
There is a saying: “If you set a ship to sea without a destination will it ever get there?” The answer is NO!
4. Create a book outline
Creating a book outline is like putting together the skeleton from which your book will hang. It is the bones of your book. I use a mind mapping software called Xmind.net.
It is the fastest and easiest way to outline your book. You decide on the main chapters of your book and then write bullet points around each chapter. Then you can go back and flesh out the content. It not only gives you structure but a sense of direction in terms of where your book is going and it helps give you laser focus in your writing.
5. Decide on a writing hour
The most difficult thing for writers is knowing when to write. Everybody has a time in the day where they are most productive. Being a wife and the mother of three children, I found out my writing hour was 2am. I prepare and eat supper in the evening with my family and once the dishes have been cleared, and children are in bed I go to sleep early, normally around 9.30pm and set my alarm for 2am.
Choose a time that suits you, when there are no distractions and your mind is at its best.
Personally, I need a time when there are no phone calls, and no children popping in and out of my office.
6. Ask questions
As a non-fiction author I have found that the biggest challenge is in knowing what information is the most appropriate and of value to my readers.
Asking questions, and the rights ones, is imperative in order to deliver appropriate content.
I do this by sending out an email to my database, sharing the title of my new book and giving a brief synopsis about the content of the book. I ask for people to ask me questions around my content and use those questions to create appropriate content.
7. Get over writer’s block
While coaching writers, I have always been asked how to get over writer’s block. I’ve personally found that the best way is to remove myself from the writing process.
Remove yourself from your project in a psychological way.
I walk into my office and I externalise myself from the writing by speaking to the genius in me. I let her know that I am ready to download the information she wants me to write and my job is to be the scribe. I find that I can download a lot of creative information really fast.
8. Do not over think it
A lot of people tend to edit as they’re writing their first draught.
The key thing to remember is that it is only a first draught.
Your editors will step in and help you finish and perfect the book before it is published. So your job is to tell your story, or impart your knowledge as quickly and as effectively as you can. Then you can step back and read that first draught, revise it and perfect it.
9. It is not brain surgery
Robert Comnia said: “The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike brain surgery.”
Writing a book isn’t rocket science and nobody is going to die because you have written one.
Don’t fret and try to relax into the writing process. If you make a mistake you can go back and rewrite it. Being an author is about writing and rewriting your work until you are happy to release it into the world.
10. Just do it!
Getrude Matshe is visiting the UAE where she will be hosting three How to Write a Book in 40 Hours workshops. Aimed at first-time writers, it will help teach attendees about self-publishing.
Interested in attending? The workshops cost Dhs350, and tickets are available here. The workshops will be held in Abu Dhabi on March 25 at 5.30pm at Salwa Zeidan Gallery, Saadiyat Island; Dubai on March 28 at 10am at Showcase Gallery, Al Serkal and Sharjah on April 4 at Maraya Art Centre
Typewriter image: flickr.com/john levanen