In the words of John Dufresne: “The purpose of the first draft is not to get it right, but to get it written.”
So, how many of you have had “your firsts” in life?
Oh! I hear a lot of “YES!” My own voice to begin with…
I agree we all have and will continue to have our share of “firsts” as long as we live.
As infants, we had our first step, fall, words, etc. As we grow up, we continue with our first crush, love, date, etc. So, what is the difference between our firsts as a toddler versus those growing up?
Are you wondering why I’m asking this question? A little bit of patience, and you will soon discover the significance of this question.
Children are not aware that they are stepping into unknown territories, so they have no sense of fear or loss. If they fall while taking the first step, they will be at it till they get it right. Or, if their first utterance evokes laughter, they will also join the bandwagon.
However, as grown-ups, all our firsts are preceded by an unknown fear of failure, rejection, and ridicule. And this is also true when it comes to writing your first book.
As a kid, I loved writing. Whether it was school assignments, letters to friends, or simple stories, I unleashed my passion for writing. However, as an adult, I was unsure and started exercising restraint with my writing style and content.
My personal and professional life experiences always nudged me to write a book so that I could share my thoughts with a larger audience. However, as I sat down to write, I was plagued with several questions.
While I am still preparing myself, I have discovered answers to some common questions of first-time authors. So, let me share the wisdom I gathered. Maybe it will save you the effort of reinventing the wheel.
Can you write a book with no experience?
Everybody starts as a beginner. Imagine if you had to learn a new sport, you can’t expect to compete with a professional on day one. It takes time to learn and become better at it. Writing is the same. However, one doesn’t need to have a Ph.D. in English. Someone with even high school English grammar can write a book.
Writing a book is not a showcase of your writing skills, it’s about sharing your story with your readers. Whether you have excellent English language skills or not, if you have a great story, and I believe most people do because of their unique real-life experiences, you can always find an Editor who will clean up and structure your story. That’s where editors come into the picture. They will structure your story, clean up the language, and present your story in the best possible form for your readers.
As you keep writing and learning, your skills will improve, and you will get better at writing. It’s most important to make a start. Read the book, How to write your first nonfiction book. It’s an excellent book for beginners who want to start writing.
I want to write a book, where do I start?
I remember the first time I started writing a book. The first thing I did was read a book about writing a book. If you have no clue about cooking, what do you do? You download a recipe from the internet, and you follow the recipe. Writing is similar. You need a process to write a book. A book I recommend reading is How to write your first nonfiction book. The book helps first-time authors successfully navigate the challenges of writing their first book, present their thoughts in an organized manner, and cultivate the necessary discipline to finish writing their book.
How difficult is it to write a book?
A famous poet once said, “everything is difficult before it gets easy.” But with writing, this statement might not be accurate. Even professional writers can find it hard to write at times. The most important part of writing is to make a start. It’s easy to over-analyze and read every book about writing before you start to write. Instead of trying to be perfect, just start writing, even if it is only a few words a day. Bill Suboski, one of the contributors to this blog, challenged himself to write 52 bad stories in a year. This took the pressure off him and got him to enjoy the process of writing. You can read his journey here. So, don’t ask if it is easy or hard, just get down to writing your book.
Is it better to write a book on paper or computer?
Other than writing a “To do” list, I can’t remember the last time I wrote anything on paper. Many of us haven’t written anything on paper for a long time. Paper or computer depends on one’s comfort level.
However, a computer has many benefits:
- You can edit your work using software
- There are software that can help you organize your work
- You can change the order of paragraphs easily
- You can send your manuscript to an editor who can use track changes in a word document for you to see his corrections
Any person can be ready to write their first book if:
They can overcome the fear of failure and ridicule
Even before I started writing the first draft, I was unsure if I was on the right track. Since I had read several authors, I was constantly plagued about whether the world needed another writer. And what would the world stand to lose if I did not write my book? I was also not sure if my book would see the light of the day. If that happened, I could turn out to be an object of ridicule among my family and friends. I think, more importantly, I feared looking into the mirror because my true writing abilities would surface, and I would know that I was far from being a writer.
Over time, I realized the world had nothing to lose if I did not write for them. It was purely my loss if I procrastinated my writing. Further, I think I was trying to take long strides when I should have been taking baby steps as a writer without being tempted to clear all my doubts in the first go. Finally, I realized that it was better to know my true image rather than run away from it. By discovering my areas of opportunity, I could always work towards developing them.
When I started thinking along the above lines, I found a new energy setting in me that convinced me that I should at least give it a try.
They can overcome the fear of comparison
We constantly compare ourselves with those better than us. So, while I knew the bar was set pretty high, I had doubts clouding my mind. Is my writing good enough? Will my words amount to anything?
Slowly and gradually, I realized that others were not obstructing my writing. Instead, it was my own mindset. Shockingly, I was convincing myself to drop the idea of writing because I was comparing myself to them, while all I had to do was get inspired by their writing, create my own identity, and stop delaying the writing process.
So, with the second realization, I found I was better prepared to write my first draft.
They want to give back to the community
Do I have a worthwhile story to tell? Would I be able to do justice as a narrator?
After much thinking, I had my answers in the affirmative. Every individual has a unique tale to narrate. Even if two people experience the same situation, their individual perspectives make them respond to it differently. For instance, most of us have hit rock-bottom in our lives, personally or professionally. Different people would have dealt with it differently. So, I realized I had my unique story to share. By doing so, I wanted to ensure aspiring writers could learn from my mistakes and not make the same blunders I did. So, I wanted to share my experiences, and since I was passionate about writing, I knew only I could do justice to my narrative.
Having found answers to the above, I also realized that I didn’t need certifications in writing or utter words that would make my readers grab the nearest dictionary.
While grammar is the soul of the language and much-needed for the final draft of the story, my first draft could do without it. In a bid to be perfect in the first instance, I dropped the ball. I knew my first draft would be the booster dose to my first book-writing journey.
While I have filled up the first few pages of my draft pad, I am now beginning to focus on the structure and other aspects of my writing that will visibly shape my loosely knitted ideas.
So, put your fears to rest, awaken your passion, and share your story. Read our book “How to write your first nonfiction book” to learn to write a book.