10 Things You Should Know If You Want To Write Books as a Career
by Milly Johnson
I – like all authors – am always being asked for our advice and I suspect it’s because people want to know all our shortcuts and magic spells that have made us published authors. Oh I wish I could offer them but the truth is … well read on. And if the following puts you off, you’re looking at the wrong career.
1. The only way to write a book is to sit down and write it. There is no magic, there are no shortcuts – one word in front of the other will eventually add up to 100,000 words – a book. It’s as easy and difficult as that.
2. The first two thousand words of a book are easy … it’s the other 98,000 that are more taxing. Despite the illusion that sitting on your bum all day typing isn’t a real job, trust me – and it’s hard work.
3. If you’re going into writing for immediate fame and fortune – don’t. The reason you hear about the J.K. Rowling and their fortunes in the news is because they are rare. For the majority of authors, it’s a slow burn: modest advances, building readerships and then when you have the trust of those readers – and therefore the publishers – those advances will be bigger.
4. People who say ‘I’m going to write a book one day’ probably won’t. Writing is a passion that doesn’t like sitting on a back-burner. Writers don’t ask ‘how do I start?’ They plunge in and swim around in the waters. They can’t stop themselves. People procrastinate because they are scared of failure. No one will give you a publishing contract for a book that is in your head – you need to winkle it out onto paper.
5. Writers have to have both tenacity and talent – having only one of these will not compensate for the other. If you have both of these you will eventually get a book deal so do not give up.
6. If you think that authors just write books – think again. We are mothers of our creations and our babies have to be supported. We push them in front of people’s noses, show them off in newspapers and on social media sites. We are their PR managers. Sometimes I think that writing the book is the easiest part of the process! My new book It’s Raining Men is coming out on August 1st and that is Yorkshire Day. My head is busy thinking of promotional tie-ins: Yorkshire, rain, umbrellas, the sea … Marc Jacobs even has a perfume called Rain. I’m hoping he’ll send me some samples.
7. It is quite normal for ‘familiarity to breed contempt.’ There isn’t a writer walking – or sitting – that doesn’t look at their work at some point and think ‘what a pile of crap.’ It’s all part of the process and you just have to grit your teeth through that period and plough on.
8. If you think that getting that first book published is as good as it gets – you’d be wrong. The good news is that it just gets better with every book. By book 3 you’ll be building a readership who will be looking forward to your next tome being released and that’s a huge thrill and a great compliment.
9. You can read as many ‘how to write a book’ books as you like but remember there is no right or wrong way when you are writing. Some people plot everything before they begin their books, mavericks (like me) don’t plan a word and just set off to see where the journey takes them – and all different shades inbetween. You will find which way suits you – don’t get too hung up on what is the correct way – because there isn’t one!
10. Okay I lied – there is some magic – because if you fit into a writing career as neatly as Cinderella fitted into her glass slipper, then it is the best job in the world and you’ll NEVER want to do anything else. I certainly feel like someone has waved a magic wand over my life since I dumped the day job and become a published writer. God help me if I ever have to give it up because I’m fit for nothing else!
Love Milly x
Five-foot-tall Milly Johnson is a half Barnsley, half Glaswegian writer of novels including A Winter Flame, White Wedding and Here Come the Girls.