By Patty Apostolides
If you are reading this, then you probably have asked yourself
at some point in your life, "Do I have what it takes to become
I believe that successful authors, those who actually write and
finish that novel, or book of poetry, or even that book of short
stories, and see it all the way to publication, have certain characteristics.
- 1. They like to sit for hours in front of a computer screen
(or with pen and paper), typing (writing) away.
- 2. They think about their book, even when they're not
- 3. They are motivated to finish their book.
- 4. They are motivated to proofread, edit and revise their
finished book until it is the best it can be.
- 5. They are motivated to publish their book.
- 6. Once they publish the first book, they are already working
on the next one.
If you answered yes to anyone of the above, then you have a good
chance of attaining your dreams of becoming an author. Don't
listen to those people who say it's a competitive market out
there. Don't listen to those people who say they've written
five books and haven't had one published yet. And don't
listen to those people who send you back your manuscripts! Listen
to yourself. Listen to that inner voice, the one that is whispering
now. But wait until you get started. Once your book is written and
published, that inner voice will be roaring! And the whole world
will hear about it.
I know, I know. I tend to be the optimist. But we have so many
pessimists in the book business, we sure need some more optimists
For you, the novice writer who would like to start writing that
first book, the best way to begin is to start writing. Yes, just
sit down and do it. Stop the other activities, the television, the
reading, the shopping, the chatting on the telephone, and find the
time to devote at least one hour a day to writing.
Whatï¿½s one hour a day in the scheme of things? It comes and goes
like this, poof! What do you have to show after an hour of television?
A lazy yawn? If that same hour was spent on writing, then there
would be a product in your hands. Something that will, hopefully,
be shared one day with others.
So, go ahead, shut the door to the rest of the world for one
hour (or more) and make yourself comfortable in front of the computer
screen (or pen and paper). Letï¿½s take the first step to becoming
To Begin Foundation
Just like a construction company which builds a foundation to
a home, you also need to prepare a foundation for your career in
writing. Don't skip this step, it's important.
Your "foundation" will consist of basic writing skills.
Remember those English courses you took in high school and college?
If you don't remember anything from those courses, then it wouldn't
be a bad idea if you found your old English textbooks, dusted them
off a bit, and looked through their pages to refresh your memory.
If you haven't taken any courses in creative writing, you
might consider signing up for one. Check with your local community
college. They often offer weekend and evening classes, and sometimes
even online classes. If you're on a budget, then visit the public
library and sign out books relevant to writing.
In addition, it would be very useful to join a writing group
(online or in your local area) that critiques your work and gives
you the opportunity to critique also. The group provides wonderful
support and an avenue to sharpen your skills as you gain experience
in writing, as well as exposure to other people's writing. For
example, Writing.com is a good example of an online resource that
provides many opportunities to share your writing, and get your
work rated and reviewed. If you want to join a critique or review
group, it offers that also.
The second step to becoming an author, is to have the right tools.
Besides a comfortable chair, plenty of lighting, and a quiet
room, you will need a computer with a word processing program (e.g.,
Microsoft Word), a printer, and plenty of paper.
Why a computer? First of all, publishers typically will request
a copy of your files sent to them on a floppy disk. More importantly,
working with a word processing program will aid you in many ways
towards becoming a published author. It will provide the opportunity
to save your work as a Word file, without having to use up tons
of paper (as with a typewriter). This greatly aids you in keeping
your work organized. It also gives you the flexibility to edit and
re-edit large sections of your work quickly by allowing you to utilize
the copy and paste functions.
Other advantages of using a computer word processing program
is that it provides spell check capabilities, and also helps you
count the number of words per page. In addition, when you want to
spice up your vocabulary (For example, if you like to use the word "walk"
alot, and are getting tired of that word, place your cursor on the
word "walk", hit shift F7, and itï¿½ll give you a list of
synonyms you can choose from - like stroll, amble, etc.).
The time saved by using a computer is very valuable. It gives
you more time available to write! Of course, if you donï¿½t have the
above materials, donï¿½t let that stop you from writing that book!
Using a pen and paper is perfectly fine. Books were written with
these two basic tools for centuries.
Letï¿½s assume you are using a computer and a Word processing software.
First of all, before you begin writing, form a subdirectory that
you can add all your chapters to. Maybe you know the title of your
book already. Fine, then form a subdirectory using the name of the
title. After you finish writing that first chapter (oh joy!), just
save it as Chapter 1 under the subdirectory. If you are writing
a book of poetry, then you might want to save each poem as a seperate
When I write my chapters for my novel, I format them in double
space mode, with a Times New Roman 11 font. All the margins are
at least one inch. This way it will be ready for manuscript submission.
Try not to add your page numbers until the very last revision.
Page numbers constantly change when youï¿½re revising, so wait until
Finally, another reason for having a computer, is for Internet
access. As a writer, you will have opportunities to submit work
online for e-zines or poetry contests. Any chance you can get to
write online, do it. As long as it doesn't take too much time
away from your book. It's also a free way of promoting yourself
before the book is even published.
So you need to balance your time in writing that book, honing
your writing skills, submitting your work along the way for others
to critique, and promoting yourself. Can you do it? Of course you
The third step to becoming an author is:
If you are planning to write a novel, it would help to know what
general category your book is going to be in. Will it be in the
romance, mystery, or science fiction category? If you donï¿½t know,
take some time and think about it. Read some books in those genres.
Which books seem to attract you the most? Itï¿½s highly likely that
youï¿½ll be writing in the category that you like to read. My preference
is romance because I read those types of books the most. Once you
decide the category, then you are closer to writing that novel!
For poetry, you might start by writing a poem and submitting
it to a poetry journal, or a poetry contest. Gain exposure for your
poetry. Join a critique group so you can sharpen your poetry skills.
A chapbook usually consists of about 25-35 poems. For a poetry book,
you'll need at least 60 pages of poetry, if not more.
I have found over time, that there are two types of novelists.
The first type is the writer who prefers drawing up a proposal or
plan of what they will write about. The second type prefers to write
whatever comes into their mind at that moment.
You decide which writer you will be.
Type 1 Novelist
They begin by describing the characters, their names, personalities,
and sometimes their motives. Then they decide when and where the
setting will take place. When will it take place? If it takes place
before the 1900ï¿½s, then it will be considered historical. Also,
will the setting be in the country, in a city (which city?), in
a house (whose house), on a cruise ship? That needs to be defined
Once those decisions are made, they write brief sketches of each
chapter. It could be a page or two long. Once all this is done,
then the real writing begins. If this method works for you, then
feel free to use it. It may take some time, but you will become
more confident about what youï¿½ll write once you go through this
Type 2 Novelist
What if youï¿½re the type of person who doesnï¿½t want to spend all
that time writing proposals and character sketches? What if youï¿½re
like me, who prefers to just write whatever comes into your head?
Then do it! Sit down and start writing. Write anything.
As the story develops, something wonderful begins brewing in
your mind. Something called creativity. Iï¿½ve caught myself hours
after I finished writing a chapter, and Iï¿½ll be preparing dinner,
or walking somewhere, and a scene from my novel will begin to unfold.
Itï¿½s called creative problem solving. My mind is working to solve
the problem that the writing presents it, even though Iï¿½m not actively
writing. When I get those urges, I immediately stop what Iï¿½m doing
and jot down my thoughts. Itï¿½s helped me many times, particularly
when everything clicks together.
Will it Take?
It took me almost two years to write and find a publisher for
my first novel. For other people, it may take longer or shorter,
depending on the amount of time they allow for writing and how many
pages they are writing. I know of authors that took six, seven,
up to twelve years to write their first book. I also know of a famous
author who writes two novels a year!
So unless you begin writing that first page of your book, you'll
never know how long it'll take you to write it. Go ahead, make
that first step, and good luck!