13 years ago, I gave up my full-time day job to focus on my writing. Now I earn my living from writing and writing-related activities such as public speaking and teaching. This post is to encourage anyone who has often thought they’d like to write a book that it’s never too late to start – and how to go about it.
Do you often think, “I could write a book, if only I had the time”? The long, cold dark nights of November make spending leisure time outdoors or away from home less appealing. So why not take the opportunity to start getting that book out of your head and down on paper?
Whether you plan to share your story with the world or want to write for your eyes only, here are some handy tips to get you started.
• Choose a space that will be your writing station. It doesn’t have to be a separate room. Jane Austen wrote her novels on a foldaway table in the corner of her living room.
• Block out time in your diary to write every day – it’ll soon become an ingrained habit.
• Commit to writing just 10 minutes every day. Make a star chart and give yourself a star every day you achieve your goal. You’ll often find you’re writing for much longer, because within that short time you’ll get into your stride and not want to stop.
• Always keep a notebook to hand for jotting down ideas. Put it on your bedside table to ensure you remember those middle-of-the-night “Aha!” moments in the morning.
• Don’t try to write perfect prose (or indeed poetry) – just scribble or type away. A scruffy first draft is better than an empty page. You can fine-tune your words later.
• Write the sort of thing you’d like to read and be your authentic self. Every writer is unique, so don’t try to be someone else, unless writing fan-fiction –a great way to practise your writing skills.
• Write from the heart and write what you know. What are you passionate/knowledgeable/evangelical about? Everyone’s an expert or advocate in some way.
• Don’t judge yourself. Every published author has imposter syndrome at some point, so you’re in good company.
• Don’t let your age put you off. Mary Wesley didn’t publish her first novel until she was 70, and her books have become modern classics. The best time to start is now.
• Put some fancy stationery on your Christmas wish-list to encourage you to keep writing in the new year…
You don’t have to pen a bestseller to enjoy writing. You don’t even have to share your work with anyone else if you don’t want to.
But thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to put your work in front of an audience, whether in book form or on your own website or blog. Analogue is fine too. After all, you don’t have to look far to find a friendly parish magazine* that publishes local writers’ work in print…
Good luck, and happy writing!
*This post was first published in the November 2023 issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News, for which I’ve been writing a monthly column ever since I quit the day job, as mentioned above. During the same timeframe, I’ve been writing my monthly “Young By Name” column for the Tetbury Advertiser.
These columns are now collected into books every few years, and four volumes are now available in ebook for Kindle (read for free in Kindle Unlimited) and to order in paperback from Amazon and all good bookshops.
The Charmed series includes my columns for the Hawkesbury Parish News.
The Young By Name series contains my Tetbury Advertiser columns.