Many of us feel we have 'a book in us,' as they say - perhaps one aimed at sharing the knowledge garnered from a working life, or one that is a pure creative outlet. As the New Year looms, so too does the feeling that the time is right, but all too often those resolutions seem too tough to follow through on.
With the New Zealand publishing market undergoing a transition, the ranks of self-published authors are swelling. An example is Michelle MacKinnon, who worked as a general and obstetric nurse before writing Escape from Eden, a novel drawing on her life. The future is bright for Escape from Eden and its creator - the title was recently picked up by Paper Plus.
For anyone who harbours the writing of a book as a life goal, who is passionate about a subject or is an expert in their field, or who simply wants to create something that survives after they are gone self-publishing is an appealing choice.
And for business or career-minded people in particular, publishing success can lead to the fulfilment of many business and personal goals, not to mention the instant credibility garnered by leading the thinking in your area of expertise.
For anyone harbouring the goal of writing a book - historian, business guru, genealogist, poet or storyteller - here are ten valuable pointers:
1. Topic - whether fiction or non-fiction is planned, decide in detail what the book will be about. This will help determine whether you have the skills, knowledge, qualifications and experience.
2. Purpose - how many people can relate to the book's topic and purpose? Is it to entertain or inform? Is the project intended to boost your credibility, win acceptance from a peer group, or is it a form of creative expression?
3. Audience - be specific. What is their age? Gender? Racial mix? Education level? What are their interests? Why will they buy your book? What will they pay to have it? How can they be reached? The more this is defined at the outset, the clearer the path for the writing that follows.
4. Breadth - these days, length is rarely a virtue (only in certain novels and expert collections of precise and essential information), so clearly defining the boundaries of what will be included should help in achieving the next few steps. Write a brief abstract of the work.
5. Style - spend some time in libraries or bookshops, and choose a work, not necessarily on the same topic, that represents how you would like your work to appear. Imagining your finished work will help you through the next, planning steps.
6. Time - now you are ready, plan your time. For example:
a. how many words you feel you can write per day
b. on how many days per week
c. at what time of the day
d. the existing commitments that must be dropped to free up this time.
7. Space - find a space that will be free of interruptions. A garden retreat, a quiet room at the back of the house, or perhaps a rental house at a beach. Choose a peaceful and quiet time of the day early morning or late at night. Create a comfortable place to sit and to rest the notebook or computer and to display any associated plans that will guide the writing.
a. A computer and means of backing up your work, or notebooks and means of copying them to keep a copy off-site in case of fire.
b. The cash to have the work typed, assessed, edited, proofread (if necessary).
c. Access to resources to offer the work for publication, if this is a goal, or to otherwise complete it and market it to reach its target audience.
9. Key points (shape, plot, character etc) - at this point, define the key points for a non-fiction work and the order of their presentation. For fiction, define the plot, characters and sequencing of the story.
10. Chapters - now it is time to apply chapter breaks at natural points. Thinking of the approximate number of words estimated in the model book, apportion this number across the chapter plan in an appropriate balance, taking into account the content to be covered in each.
Most importantly, surround yourself with people who inspire you and urge you on when the going gets tough.
* Jane Beals is the managing director of PublishMe, New Zealand's largest assisted self-publishing community