When I began writing my first novel, I didn’t tell anybody what I was up to. I hesitated to talk about it before I was sure I could finish what I’d started. But when I finally did let the cat out of the bag, I got comments like, “That’s so cool! I/my husband/my daughter/etc. always wanted to write a book.” It’s sort of like when people find out that my husband and I live in a custom-built log house. “Oh! That’s something we’ve always dreamed about doing!”
Questions often follow. People are curious about the process, and we’re happy to share what we’ve learned by hard-earned experience. First piece of wisdom: don’t imagine it will be easy. Nothing is easy about building a log house – plumbing, wiring, installing windows or kitchen cabinets. Nothing is straight, level, square or immovable. And a chainsaw is often required for modifications. It will be twice as much work as you think, and probably cost twice as much as a the same house in regular construction. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart or budget.
Writing and independently publishing a book is way cheaper, but possibly just as much work. If you plan to attempt it, here’s my advice:
1) Hone your craft. Take classes. Attend writer’s conferences. No amount of self-promotion will make up for a product of poor quality.
2) Don’t rush to publish. A first draft is just that. Allow time for your masterpiece to mature through feedback and considered rewrites.
3) Find and join a good critique group. These valuable people will see the plot holes and writing flaws that you can’t.
4) Know your limitations. Taking a book from inception to publication requires a variety of separate skills (writing, story and line editing, formatting, graphic arts, marketing, etc.), and no one is an expert at everything. So,
5) be willing to ask for (and pay for) assistance as needed.
6) Network with other writers through writer’s associations and social media. You’ll probably find, as I have, that they’re incredibly helpful and supportive.
As I reviewed this list, I realized these steps also neatly applied to how my husband and I went about building our house. We planned for years, taking time to learn about the unique craft of constructing a log home, finding experts to advise us, and talking to other homeowners who had done the same thing before. Then we decided which parts of the project we could do ourselves, and hired others to do the rest when the time came. It was a huge undertaking, but a successful one.
Our log “cabin” (as people tend to call it) is now 20 years old and will most likely still be standing long after we are gone. I hope the same is true for my books, that they will stand the test of time as well – still around and being enjoyed decades from now.
“Improve this dear cottage! No. That I will never consent to. Not a stone must be added to its wall, not an inch to its size… To me it is faultless. Nay, more, I consider it as the only form of building in which happiness is attainable, and were I rich enough I would instantly pull Combe down, and build it up again in the exact plan of this cottage.” (Willoughby, Sense and Sensibility, chapter 14)