The Recipe for Becoming a Successfully Published Author

by | Jun 4, 2018 | Publishing, Writing Tips

I often get asked how I became a published author. How did 600 000 copies of my books get sold? How come publishers now approach me to write books for them? I wish I had a recipe I could share like Jamie Oliver so that everyone out there could do the same.

But life recipes turn out differently in the kitchens of each of our hearts and circumstances.

Though we control our own effort, grace also weighs in there to some mysterious degree. I suspect the personality of our effort – open, humble and resilient as opposed to attached, needy and desperate may have something to do with success – but who knows? We all do our best.

I’ve reached a place in my own writing career where I feel that if I don’t write any more books, it will be okay. I have said much of what I want to share. The next phase of my life is about helping others to find their authentic writing voices and get their books published.

But I see aspiring authors stumble over the same problems. So I’m going to identify the most common ones and offer suggestions for getting past them.

First up: most beginner writers don’t understand the writing process or where they are in it. They’re lost. They don’t know where or how to start.

Writing a book is daunting. The task can feel overwhelming. Most people have no clue what writing a book entails. Many people start, and don’t get very far. Or they don’t start at all. Or they write a whole lot of bits and don’t know how to put them all together. Or they get stuck. Or they finish and they can’t get published. So let’s just begin with the beginning. Getting some sentences down on the page every day.

Try these:

  • Read books that can guide you and give you specific writing exercises to start the writing process – I recommend Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write or Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind.
  • Just start writing anywhere: the itch on your nose; the jackhammering outside your window, the temperature gauge on your fridge that’s stuck and freezing the milk. Don’t worry about where it will go.
  • Draw it – draw your story or book as a map. You can always stray from the map.
  • Write on index cards – bits you can write in one-hour increments.
  • Don’t worry about the beginning, middle and end. Just write. Structuring comes much later. You need to know where you are in the process and trust that what comes next will in fact, come next.
  • Break the immense task down into small-bite sized chunks. You aren’t a python, you don’t need to swallow the thing whole — you don’t need to know how your book ends, or even what will happen. You just need to start it. And keep working away at it, scene by scene, or chapter by chapter. Shawshank it. You can tunnel your way out of a maximum-security prison one pocketful of dirt at a time.
  • If you get stuck, use this as inspiration: ‘Write hard and clear about what hurts.’ Ernest Hemingway said that.

Signs You Could Be a Writer

Signs You Could Be a Writer (No Matter What Your Day Job Is) ‘I’m not a writer,’ people often tell me. ‘But I’ve always wanted to write…’ You know, there was a time I also wasn't a writer. But I always knew I wanted to write. This longing then, could be, as Rilke put...

Playing By My Rules

It is early evening after dinner, and I stare into the kitchen sink. I gently draw patterns with the bubbles that remain from the washing up. I herd them into the centre of the sink and I turn the tap on and let the water trickle slowly, washing some of the bubbles...

Girlfriends

Men are good for a great number of jobs, I’m thinking specifically of killing spiders and changing tyres, but they are useless when it comes to a second opinion when shopping for a new outfit and repeating the conversation they just had on the phone which you know...

Paths Are Made by Walking

One of the most important books I ever read as a law student was Professor Patricia Williams’ The Alchemy of Race and Rights. The book opens with this line, ‘Since subject position is everything in my analysis of the law, you deserve to know it’s been a bad day.’ What...

How to Become a Writer Publishers Want

How to Become a Writer Publishers Want I often get asked, 'How do you get published?' The better question is 'how do we become the kind of writers publishers are looking for?' Here are my thoughts: Write the best goddamed book you can – live what you’ve written. Don’t...

7 Things the Writing Community Can Do for You

Being part of a writing community has changed so much for me. I have been a writer my entire life, but I have almost always navigated the ocean of words on my own. Only in the last year have I come to realize what it means to my journey to have other oarsmen in the...

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer

    Love this post. So much wisdom in here.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *