Have you made your annual Christmas card list already? Don’t think it’s too early for that; because if you are crafting yours and if some of them go overseas, you want to be ahead of the postal cut-off date. But I’m also talking of a different kind writing. Another long winter season lies ahead in Washington State – it means gray and dreary skies, a lot of restlessness in people, reflecting what’s past. So, why not make use of your leisure time and write down your memoirs or your tales or whatever you have always wanted to write?!
How many of you have ever thought: “I could write a book about it”? (And guess how often I have been told this!) October 12, this Saturday, celebrates Independent Authors in the United States. Indeed, we are not really a celebrated species. Book stores often shun our books as they are either published via an online platform that is deemed a competitor. Or our products are that expensive that the book stores don’t cut much of a margin if any. We are mostly local or regional, rarely with enough budget to travel and expose ourselves nationally. Not to talk of internationally, though our books are available internationally. Thanks to International Standard Book Numbers aka ISBN. And how often do we hear an Indie colleague say: “I’m only self-published.” No, not only! You did something a lot of other people would love to do but – for whatever reason – haven’t done so far!
Why should you write if you have anything you deem worthy to be written down? First of all, it’s a wonderful experience to put into words what stirs your heart and mind. It makes you rekindle memories, relive precious moments, gives you fulfillment with each and every sentence you save black on white. Don’t even think of publishing yet. Just think of getting it out of yourself. Delve deeply. Enjoy the time with the essential you.
Now, if you think you’d want to share your manuscript with your family, think whether this is how you would tell them your story. Or think of whoever else you want your story to be received by. Is it a group of kids, maybe? Or do you think that your neighbors might find your story interesting? Your town? Rewrite accordingly. Find a natural tone in which you would address them. Make it good. Even if you are never going to publish it – think that somebody someday might find your manuscript and conclude who you were.
This is why to rewrite. You don’t want your manuscripts to reflect badly on you, do you? There are spelling programs out there that will catch on most of your typos. Still, make sure that you find all those that don’t look like a typo but are and make no sense. If you are not sure of the use of a foreign word, don’t use it. Be sure you mean what you write. Make sure that your facts are right – historical ones as well as scientific ones. These days there are so many sources to go to, it would indeed be a shame not to get it right.
In short: Never underestimate your imagined or future readers. Because they will find you out and judge you by your writing. If you are writing for children or young adults, you have double the responsibility. You are setting a standard for their future reading habits, their future literary reception. You don’t want anybody to figure your book is a first draft that has been declared finished by you because you are too impatient to get it out there. You don’t want it to be tossed as trash because it’s not worthwhile to be read, much less to be gifted away. (And believe me, I have come across such published manuscripts that made me blush for the writer and wonder whether somebody else thinks that way about mine.)
If in doubt about how finished your manuscript is, have some honest friend read it who is not afraid to criticize it. Remember, your story might be a movie in your head but not in anybody else’s. Make it visible to them. The more input the merrier. And, of course the more the rewriting.
You want to become a writer? You’ve got a long rainy season ahead of you. What are you waiting for? They say: If you are a writer, you write. If you are waiting, you’re a waiter. Start today if you mean it. Join the wonderful crowd of imaginative independent writers. Add your voice. And never forget: Your written story will survive you … and make you even a bit immortal …