Dave Baldwin of Raleigh (author/editor and content producer extraordinaire) is my guest blogger today and gives new authors fantastic tips on how to find viable support in the big, beautiful-ugly world of publishing. It comes down to finding the right professionals on your team. Enjoy this blog and learn more about Dave at the bottom of this post.
Since 2007, I have worked with a wide variety of writing and editing clients on various types of projects ranging from articles to full-length book manuscripts. From time to time, I’ll receive inquiries from new authors who aspire to publish their first book. Some of these inquiries come from people who have little or no written material need help getting started. Other requests come from authors who have a “rough” (unedited) manuscript. Invariably, I find that inexperienced writers underestimate their need for support—and the complexity of what they are about to undertake.
The Emotional Cycles of Writing
One of my favorite books is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (see my review here). Pressfield emphasizes the need to overcome a phenomenon he dubs “Resistance” (the capital “R” is intentional). Resistance, as Pressfield tells it, is the unseen force or combination of forces that conspire to thwart our creative efforts. Any experienced writer knows exactly what Pressfield is talking about—whereas novice writers tend to underestimate or dismiss it. I have spoken with dozens of writers who told me about books that they have been working on at one point or another—only to later confess to me that they had abandoned the projects. Initially, writers start off strong, with seemingly ironclad resolve and unbreakable enthusiasm. But the real test of writing is endurance. Are you able to keep putting in the effort, month after month and year after year?
If you find the idea of writing a book intimidating but exciting, you’re in good company. Many first-time authors have overcome the same struggles that you face. However, no writer wins the battle alone. Success requires a personal commitment on your part to stay invested over the long haul. You will also need to learn the most effective tactics for leveraging the power of your professional network. There are countless people you know who can give you feedback and perspective to help you shape your writing, and who can help you spread the word about your book. However, it takes careful strategy and disciplined execution to create and sustain the necessary momentum. That is where you will need to rely on the expertise of trained professionals.
Writing Coaches and Editors
A writer needs support on different levels in order to stay focused, motivated and committed to the end goal. Even seasoned writers fall prey to self-doubt, confusion or the temptation to wander off down too many rabbit trails. If you are serious about writing your book and getting it done within a specific period of time (I believe that one year is aggressive but doable for a first-time author), a writing coach is an invaluable asset. A writing coach can help you establish a consistent writing routine that works for you and overcome the unforeseen hurdles that can cause your writing to stall out. Like a personal trainer, a writing coach can show you simple ways to improve on the fundamentals and keep you accountable.
An editor plays a different role than a writing coach does. One of the things that I have always respected about Alice Osborn is the fact that she is able to wear both of these hats. That is not the case with every editor—in fact, some editors would make terrible writing coaches. After all, an editor’s job is to know what good writing looks like and to be brutally honest with a writer about what is missing. A great editor is one who knows how to look at your book exactly the way the market (or a publisher) will look at it. If you have not yet learned to hear criticism without taking it personally, an insensitive editor might leave you feeling discouraged or upset. I have seen writers quit completely after receiving harsh criticism.
Asking for Feedback
A writing coach can help you develop the discipline of asking for feedback from the right people. This takes skill and consistent practice. Also, when it comes time to hire an editor, you will get much more value from the service if your material has already been through at least one solid round of reviews from beta-readers in your network. If you belong to a writing group or if you take writing classes, you may be able to find good sources of peer-to-peer feedback from these groups. A writing coach can help you understand how to select right people to ask for feedback—and what specific questions to ask your readers. You’ll also need to learn to take the feedback you receive with a grain of salt, and a writing coach can help you keep an objective mindset throughout the process.
Making a name for yourself as a writer has never been an easy feat. In the last ten years, the challenge has become increasingly difficult. The world has seen an explosion of new content. Social media, blogs, self-publishing and other easily-accessible platforms have made it simpler than ever for just about anyone to publish their content. This phenomenon has created intense competition for people’s attention. No one has time to read bad writing. If you’re a new writer just cutting your teeth in the craft, your message is likely a “diamond in the rough.” It needs polishing, cutting and setting before an audience will receive it the way you intend.
About Dave Baldwin
Dave Baldwin is a writer and business consultant specializing in content marketing strategy. Dave has a passion for helping introverts succeed in building their own businesses and establishing themselves as experts in their chosen fields. Dave has been a member of Toastmasters since 2007, the same year he moved to Raleigh from Pennsylvania and started his own business.