October 07, 2015

10 Things To Remember When Writing A Book

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I wanted to write a small list of things I’ve kept in mind to prevent me from loosing my mind a little bit over the past few months. I put this on my Instagram first but then I thought I’d put it on the blog too. Even though I have brilliant friends, family, peers, fellow writers all around me, I cannot ask them for pep-talks every five minutes when I’ve got my head down working. You have to keep your frame of mind healthy, otherwise you could be overcome with self-doubt. After all, you’re working on something alone for a very long time.

I’m used to collaborating, shouting across an open-plan office, having creative partners, someone to talk to, someone to bounce ideas off of. I’m also used to getting instant feedback, an Instagram “like” here, or a blog post “share” there. We’re used to instant gratification. But writing a book is incredibly solitary and it’s a long long old process. It requires something I’ve have had to teach myself to be good at, and that is: patience. I’ve really enjoyed getting my teeth into something lengthy and it’s been worth it for the high moments when I’m happy with a sentence, or I’ve fixed something I’ve been sweating over..

Plus, it’s just the first draft really that is totally solitary. Obviously you have an agent there for support (hooray, and my agent Robyn Drury is AMAZING at pep-talks) and an editor is there once the first draft is handed in to help make it even better. But getting that first draft is blood, sweat, tears. And more tears. Good days, bad days, in between days.

This is (in a nutshell) how I kept going. I want to do a more detailed follow-up post, but here’s the first things that came into my head:

1. Remember the reason you are writing your book

Remember you are writing this for a reason. There is a purpose deep down inside you. Whether it’s for a bigger cause, a personal cause, or just because it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, remember it at all times. Our own personal reasons for doing something will all be wildly different. Purpose is important. Write it on a post-it, stick it to your laptop.

2. Learn to put your inner editor/critic on hold

This is important. Don’t self-edit before you’ve written. Write what you genuinely think first, THEN self-edit last. Don’t self-edit before you’ve even begun. Don’t be afraid of what you might say. Don’t criticise yourself. You’ve got this. You can always go back and delete. It’s a long process with lots of editing time, so write things out and let it stay there for a while.

3. Don’t feel like you can’t ask others for advice

Seek comfort and advice from other authors. I have DM’d some incredible authors with a little “hey! eek! help!” and they have been LOVELY. Especially one of my favourite authors Louise O’Neill who sent me a long essay follow my little “eek” message to her. Also: the Internet is full of free and brilliant advice! (Even though some things you should take with a pinch of salt). I watched Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert and my other author heroes on YouTube, on repeat. I read lots of books in between writing. You will need pep talks. So bookmark them.

4. Get messy, like a child with a paint set

Get it down, just get it down. Doodle in a notebook. Scribble. Draw. Cover your floor in post-it notes. DON’T be a perfectionist. Be MESSY at first! Tidy it up afterwards.

5. Be nice to yourself, and be realistic

Nothing will ever come out as perfect on the page vs.what you imagine in your head and that’s OK.

6. Don’t get precious. Get ready to hit “delete”

Redraft and cut, redraft and cut. Cut massive chunks out. Don’t keep it for the sake of it. Don’t get protective.

7. Try not to get swayed by others

Don’t write what you THINK people want; write what YOU want. Don’t try and be something you’re not. You might be influenced by others, but you don’t have to do what others are doing. It’s scary as hell, but better than writing something you don’t fully believe.

8. Have fun!!!!!

Try and enjoy it!!!!!! What an amazing thing it is to write something you believe in! This is YOUR thing. Get lost in it. Plus, once it’s over, it’s not yours anymore.

9. Fresh air, fresh eyes

Shake up your locations and routines if you can. Keep your mind fresh. Take breaks. Even take a weeks break from it. Keep fresh eyes.

10. There might be love/hate moments

It’s OK to start hating it. You will have a moment or a few moments of resentment. That’s normal. You will love it again. But you might have arguments about it in your head, like any other relationship you care about. STAY WITH IT.

My Book

“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”

– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE

"Funny, honest, and nostalgic!"

– The Debrief

“Emma Gannon is a bright spark of light in the world. I seriously dig everything she makes”

– Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Big Magic