Facing Your Fears: 4 Steps to Becoming an Author

Some people expressed to me that they were writing their first books and how scared they felt. I totally sympathize.

When I first started writing, I was terrified of the unknown world of publishing. How would I find a publisher? If I self-publish, how do I get a book cover or an ISBN? How do I find readers?

What if no one likes my books? Worse, what if everybody likes my books and I become a bookstar? Yeah, I was as terrified of success as I was of failure. I was totally messed up. I like hiding. I’m shy and prefer anonymity.

But after releasing my first books, success or failure didn’t really matter anymore. What matters is writing and sharing my stories. I love getting reviews, good and bad, though sometimes the bad still make me cry. And I love learning more about writing and improving my style and building new stories to share with you.

Over the years, I've learned that the road to becoming a writer is a series of baby steps. When you were a baby, did you refuse to walk because you were afraid of falling? No, you didn’t care. You’d just pick yourself up and keep going.

And your parents didn’t think you were a failure because you could only string two or three steps together before tumbling to your knees. No, they thought you were absolutely adorable. In fact, everybody thought you were adorable: grandparents, neighbors, the stranger at the grocery store.

Is your first book going to be perfect? Not likely, but that’s the wonderful thing about being a writer: with each new story, you get to try again. Most writers hit their stride with their third book (or so I’ve noticed when reading my favorite authors).

My suggested plan to becoming a confident author:

1. Plan your writing career.

What are the next ten books you want to write? How many books a year do you want to produce? How are you going to market these books?

Aiming to be the next hit wonder is as likely as winning the lottery or as useful as a get-rich-quick scam. Success as a writer often comes after several books are published, and you've found your own audience.

2. Study the art of writing.

We’re not magically gifted with talents. Talents are things we love so much that we work to become good at them, and then when somebody notices the excellence of our work and can’t see the years of struggle that got us there, they call it a talent.

3. Find some beta readers who really know how to write.

We aren’t gods. We weren’t created with infinite powers. We have to sleep and eat to replenish our energy stores. We need God in our lives to keep our souls and spirits from becoming old and creaky. And we need each other. Nobody can write a book in a vacuum.

4. Practice with short stories.

A short story has a single plot line with only one or two subplots. Novels have several plot lines with tons of subplots.

If you want to learn how to juggle (and believe me writing is very much like juggling), you should start with 3 balls and slowly work your way up to 10 balls. In writing, you have to juggle characters, plot, technique, and grammar, and the longer your story, the easier it is to drop one of those balls.

More on planning your Writing Career next week.

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