Rachel Thompson offers much-needed advice for writers.
‘How do you share intensely personal stories without worrying about what people will think?’ someone asked me in the comments of the article I wrote recently for SheWrites. I get asked this a lot, and I think it’s jumping ahead a step.
Back up to first getting there: you have to give yourself permission to write the hard stuff. You can’t think about, ‘What will mama say?’ because last I checked, none of us wants to become our mothers (no offense to moms). Write for you, not what someone else will say. You need to give yourself some tough love!
You are allowed to tell your story, unless for some reason, you’ve been ordered by a court of law not to, or if you fear for your life. Even then, I believe it’s okay to fictionalize your story, or take a pen name, but I’m not in that situation so I can’t share that particular experience. If sharing your story will put your life or someone else’s at risk, definitely weigh your options and consider a pseudonym.
One hurdle many authors have to get over is worrying about what their family will think. Every family is quite different, but most are so busy with daily life, the fact that there’s a writer in the family means little. I always laugh when I read reviews that say ‘the author must have gotten her family members to write glowing reviews,’ because — as most authors will attest — our families could give a flying sack of rat crap about what we do or don’t do. Few read our work. Even fewer review it. Mostly, they just want to know: are you on the New York Times Bestseller list yet? (No.) So, how about them Yankees? (*crickets*)….
Writing a book (or a blog or articles) is very lonely, individual work, which is why most writers love it so much, given our introverted nature (for some, not all, obviously). The positive aspect of this is that there’s nobody standing over our shoulder saying, ‘Oh my god! You can’t write THAT!!!’ Right? So get over yourself. Write anything you want. Fiction, nonfiction, whatever it is — get out of your own way.
In fact, try just for fun, to write the exact opposite of who you are. I have one client who’s an Ivy League MBA in a large accounting firm who writes erotica under a pen name and he’s doing very well.
As I discovered through my own process of writing about difficult topics in Broken Pieces and Broken Places, it’s hard to let all that crap go. What will so and so say/think/feel? But you know what? It’s our story to tell, nobody else’s. I decided to share stories of my childhood sexual abuse in a way that isn’t a trigger (I hope) for other survivors, but that makes people uncomfortable, because there’s no way to sugarcoat the subject. And I didn’t want to.
If my book isn’t for you, don’t read it. I give plenty of warning that it’s not unicorns and rainbows. You owe it to yourself to write your story. Nobody else. YOU.
Once you’ve written your ‘word vomit’ as I refer to it, get it in good enough shape to work with a professional editor. Nobody — no author, no matter how good you think you are — is ready to release a book without a full edit by a pro.
Leading up to the publication of your book, I suggest you reach out to readers (always, every day, constantly), reviewers, book bloggers, and other writers or publications who are interested in reading about the topic you are writing about. I do many guest posts and interviews, because I reach out to people and connect with them. I feature many authors here on this blog who share incredibly stirring stories of real life. That’s what fascinates me, and it gives them a chance to discuss difficult topics they may not be able to write about on their own blogs.
As for my business side, I draw from my eighteen-plus years of sales and marketing, plus all I’ve learned since I began writing professionally in 2007, and put that into articles that can hopefully help others or answer some questions, as well as drawing on experts.
Bottom line: you want people to read your work, so stop hiding from yourself. Once you clear that hurdle, write your damn book already.
This post originally appeared on Rachel Thompson’s blog.
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