You’ve been told you’re great at writing. You have an amazing story. You should write a book!
It’s flattering, but you don’t have the time. You don’t know how you’d fit it in.
Still, the idea lingers…
You think about it at night, when the lights are out and it’s just you and your thoughts.
You write parts of it in your head, giggling to yourself, delighted at how easily the ideas flow.
You buy a notebook—an expensive, novel-worthy one—and you jot down some notes.
Your friends start asking you, “Have you started your book yet?”
And you admit, “Yeah, I have.”
Now you’ve been outed.
You’re writing a book, and everyone expects you to finish it.
If you don’t write this book, everyone will be disappointed. They’ll see you as someone who talks big but doesn’t have what it takes.
So you write the first chapter, and the second, and you’re on a roll…
And then it happens.
You get stuck.
You don’t know what happens next.
You had no idea it would be THIS hard.
To make matters worse, all your research is telling you that it’s impossible to get an agent, and publishers rarely take risks on new authors, and you might as well self-publish and be content with selling a few copies to your friends.
Would you like some good news?
Then let me introduce you to Tim Storm.
Tim is the head of Storm Writing School. He’s not only an award-winning author himself, but he’s also an editor and writing coach.
He helps people write their books.
And in this week’s YBTV interview, he’s going to tell us what it takes to get published.
You’ll discover why it’s NOT a bad sign if you get stuck, or you don’t feel inspired, or you think that what you wrote is no good. It’s just part of the process!
You’ll also find out how to know if your idea is any good, what to do if you’re blocked, and why even the best writers get rejected.
What You’ll Learn
Absolutely everyone has a story or stories that are worth telling…. But the question is, does everyone have a book in them? And that’s a little bit more complicated.”
When you set out to tell your story, you have so many options.
You can write an essay. You can post it on a blog. You can record a video and share it on social media.
But a book is a different thing entirely.
A book is a long project, Tim explains. It eats up a huge amount of time and energy.
And then to get it published is an endeavor in itself.
You’ve got to polish it and perhaps hire an editor and learn how to sell your book in such a way that it attracts an agent, who may or may not be able to get a publisher on board.
It’s a LOT.
So, even if your story is amazing and inspiring, it may not be suited to the format of a book.
That doesn’t mean your story isn’t worth sharing.
It simply means there are other ways to get your story out that don’t involve spending years on a book.
How Do I Know if My Idea is Any Good?
But maybe you KNOW you want to write a book.
You’ve always wanted to write a book.
And you think that you might be the exception to the rule.
YOUR book might be the one that sells on the first try, with a record-making advance, and then gets sold to Hollywood as the next blockbuster.
It happens. Why couldn’t it happen to you?
Before you bet on your first book being a winner, it can help to understand what sells.
By definition, publication means to make public.
If you’re the only one who “gets” your book, then it may not be a great candidate for publication. Publication is about what other people think of your book.
Just as companies don’t launch a product without making sure there’s a market first, you may find it easier to sell your book if you’ve done your own market research.
See if your idea has legs by testing it out on other people.
Talk to other people about your book idea. Share drafts with readers you trust. See if it captures their imagination.
“All that said,” Tim adds, “if you have an idea that really captivates you and that you’re not letting go, then it’s highly likely it will captivate other people.”
What If I’m Blocked?
In any large, complicated project, there comes a stage where your best-laid plans fall through.
You hit a roadblock. You’re not sure how to solve a problem. You’ve run out of steam.
Tim finds that many of his students get overwhelmed. “They start the project, and they discover that it’s just more complicated than they thought.”
That’s where a writing coach or writing community can help.
“Even Olympic athletes have coaches,” Tim says. “They’re at the top of their game. They’re the best in the world. They’re better than their coaches. And yet they have coaches. Why? It’s because their coach can see something they can’t see.”
Writers need support people, too.
Even though writing is a solitary activity, you shouldn’t feel as if you’re completely on your own.
Reach out. Get help. Talk to other writers. Commiserate.
Don’t get frozen by fear. Even though you may worry that your writing is no good, you’ll never finish, and no one will ever want it if you do, it’s all part of the process.
“Almost all writers face it at some point,” Tim says, “this sort of self-doubt … where we think, ‘Why did I ever think I could do this?'”
He continues, “The most successful writers are the ones that can persist through that and be resilient despite all of those self-doubts.”
If you’re really struggling—with your storyline, or your confidence, or the immensity of the project—consider hiring a writing coach.
“One of my jobs is basically therapy with people,” Tim says.
He sits down with writers, talks through their ideas, highlights the strengths and weaknesses, and makes suggestions for moving forward.
Am I a Real Writer?
So you write…
But does that make you a writer?
Don’t you have to wait until you’ve published a book to call yourself that?
Not at all, says Tim.
My favorite definition of a writer is basically someone who is bothered by NOT writing, someone for whom not writing feels uncomfortable.”
So you don’t have to be published to be a writer.
You don’t have to have a special relationship with the Muse to be a writer.
You don’t even have to write beautiful prose to be a writer.
“Good writers are people who are willing to struggle through those periods when it doesn’t flow,” Tim says. “They’re aware that sometimes they’ll move at a painfully slow pace or even move backwards.”
Even successfully published writers write bad books.
“You might work on a project, and it might fail,” Tim says. “That doesn’t mean that you’re a failure at writing.”
Also, he adds, “if you sit around waiting for the Muse, you’re not going to get a lot of writing done.”
One of Tim’s poetry teachers said that writers often think they need to sit down and wait for inspiration to show up before they can write. That’s backwards. Instead, writers sit down and write.
Maybe inspiration comes. Maybe inspiration never comes. In the end, it doesn’t matter.
They write anyway.
I Need Help with My Book!
If you need help with your book…
Whether it’s plot, description, dialogue, or editing…
Then Storm Writing School can help.
Plus, Tim offers workshops, editing services, coaching, and a newsletter that’s well worth signing up for!
What If I Never Get Published?
Even though it can be tempting to go into a writing project with the goal of publication, there’s always a strong chance that your book won’t sell.
If your book doesn’t sell, will you feel all that work was wasted?
That’s why Tim recommends going into a writing project with a different goal:
Use your project to explore some unresolved aspect of yourself.
He quotes from Chuck Palahniuk:
If you’re going to work on something as long as a novel, it has to explore some unresolved aspect of you, so that even if it never sells, never makes any money, never gets any attention, you still have a therapeutic benefit of fully exploring and exhausting that unresolved part of you.”
Are you ready to explore?
Tim is an award-winning writer and teacher whose work has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including Black Warrior Review, Copper Nickel, Short Story America, and Literary Hub. His passion for storytelling and its inner workings informs his teaching, editing, and mentoring. He runs an online writing school, which offers articles, worksheets, and courses geared toward helping writers hone their craft of engaging and moving stories.