This past weekend I spent some time in Charlotte at the She Speaks Conference, a training conference for writers and speakers in ministry. I co-led a session about writing with my editor, Andrea Doering. Before the conference, a friend asked me “Is there anything you wish you knew before writing your first book?” I planned to answer that question at the end of our workshop but we ran out of time.
There are a thousand things I wish I knew before I wrote my first book, but I’ve picked four to share here.
simple tips to know before your write your first book:
1. Your writing will never be 100% ready.
I was reminded of this while reading Bossypants by Tina Fey. She said this is something she learned from Lorne Michaels while working at Saturday Night Live. He said, “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30.”
After writing on a blog for many years, I always knew this about writing in general, but I didn’t realize how much it would apply to book writing, too. I always thought once you write a book, it won’t be published and sold until it was pretty much perfected. It’s true, it goes through many drafts, a whole team of editors, not to mention the countless writing and re-writing on the author’s part.
You will work hard and do your very best and strive for excellence. But there is a point where you have to agree that you have done all you can do even if there is still room to grow.
You have to release it and move on. I didn’t realize how hard this would be when I started, but now I understand it’s part of the process.
2. Book writing is more like a plane than a helicopter.
For me, blog writing is a lot like a helicopter. I have learned to write in faster spurts, to move quickly from a blank screen to a finished blog post with a beginning, middle, and ending. If I have an hour, I can sit and nearly finish a post (many people can write posts much more quickly than that, but an hour is about what it takes me. This post, for example, has taken me 2 hours. Blerg.)
When I started writing my first book, I approached it the same way – Oh, you’re taking the kids to the park for an hour? I’ll just work on my book!
I would sit down in the small crack of time I had and try to work on the book, becoming quickly frustrated when I would still be struggling to get started as they walked through the door after their outing.
I have had to learn that book writing feels more like riding in an airplane than a helicopter. I need a long runway to get in the headspace to work on the book and I also need a long runway to come back down. This is probably not true for everyone, but it is for me.
Because of that, I schedule my time accordingly. I choose certain days during the week or the month that are assigned for book writing days – these are the days when I know I’ll have a minimum of three consecutive hours to work. I save the cracks of time to work on other kinds of writing, like articles or blog posts.
3. It’s okay to use your name in your blog title.
When I started this blog, I didn’t plan to write books. I just wanted to write. Now that I have books, it has been a bit confusing for people sometimes that my blog is Chatting at the Sky rather than just my name. I’ve heard Ann Voskamp say similar things about her blog, A Holy Experience. But we’ve learned to make it work.
One way around this is I also own emilypfreeman.com so if you go there, you’ll find a landing page that will bring you here. But if I had it to do over again, I would probably have used my name from the beginning in conjunction with Chatting at the Sky. It isn’t ego-centric to do this – it just makes it easier for people to find you. I still love the title, Chatting at the Sky, but I also have plans to incorporate my name more into the front page of the blog for people who are new.
4. If you publish a book, you don’t have to become a speaker.
I’m ducking now to avoid all the darts the marketing geniuses are aiming my way.
One of the reasons I was terrified to write books at the beginning was because I assumed I had to become A Very Polished Professional Speaker and that just isn’t me. I thought maybe my publisher would require me to speak a certain number of times a year or something. They do not.
I am a homebody and I have three young kids still at home. I don’t like to fly and I get twirly in crowds of people. A Very Polished Professional Speaker I am not.
It’s true, speaking is a great way to get your message out, to meet people, and to sell books. But it isn’t the only way. I am learning to enjoy speaking more and more as opportunities come up, but I feel released from the pressure to do it a certain way.
I have a lot to learn, but I’m learning at my own pace and giving myself the freedom to try things and learn as I go.
This fall, for example, I have committed to seven different events between August and November. Here is a partial list of my fall schedule with a few events I’ve yet to announce. This is more speaking than I’ve ever done in that span of time. I didn’t start out speaking very much. It has grown over time, as it fits with my family and our season of life.
With John being home now and my next book releasing, we figured this is a good time to commit to say yes to more events than usual. Maybe we’ll never do it that way again, I don’t know.
Don’t let your fear of speaking keep you from writing. Go in with your eyes open, but don’t let it paralyze you. Write what you feel called to write and don’t worry yet about all that might come along with it.
There are many more things I could share here, but for now I’ll stop at four. If you are interested in learning more about publishing, might I suggest the Re:Write conference in Austin? My agent Esther Fedorkevich started this conference to connect writers with people, resources, and knowledge to help grow their careers.
I’m excited to join her in Austin in October. If you register for Re:Write, you can use this promo code for $100 off your ticket: FREEMAN2013. Space is limited to 150 to keep the setting intimate. And if you attend the conference using this promo code, you’ll receive an invitation to a small gathering just for us while we’re there.
If you are interested in learning more about my own personal publishing story, I recently shared it with Tsh on the Simple Mom podcast. I’m no expert, but I’m happy to share what I’ve learned along the way.