12 Steps for the Beginner Indie Writer

beginner indie writers

Many dream of taking the next step in starting a craft but don’t know what to do first. One of the most common questions I see in author groups is “I want to write a book where do I start?” 

While that’s a loaded question, the main answer is, just start writing! Great advice, but not all-encompassing. 

These aspiring writers already read a book a week to learn from those that published before them and know they have a story in them waiting to be discovered.

It’s stumbling on the right resources that will point them in the right direction that is holding them back. Hopefully, these 12 steps for beginners will help any aspiring author jump into the indie publishing scene with a plan.

Already knee deep in writing? Let us know what has helped you navigate indie publishing in the comments!

1. Take Brandon Sandersons Free Course

While you may not have read one of his books, his courses on writing books are one of the best ways to immerse yourself into the writing community. These free classes will touch on just about everything you could want as a writer. This is the most recent one, but the previous years are also on YouTube for you to discover.

2. Read "On Writing" by Stephen King

We can all agree that Stephen King is a successful writer. He has written in just about every medium there is: novels, short stories, novellas, screen plans, and even articles. No matter what genre you are planning to publish in, reading On Writing can help give you the motivation needed to get started. 

3. Discover your Weaknesses

One of the best ways to start any craft is to learn how to learn. While this might sound silly, as we are always learning, discovering methods that work best for you will accelerate the learning process. There are so many ways to do this, but by learning how to learn you will open the door to take in information and then use it to its full potential. 

The first aspect of learning to learn that can be the most beneficial is to find a note taking system that works for you. I don’t mean typed notes, the science in on hand-written note taking and it’s worth learning.

If you haven’t heard the term “Growth Mindset“ it’s another great starting place. So many people trying to master a craft are selling themselves short because they don’t understand their weaknesses and can’t handle critical feedback. By learning how to learn you will put yourself ahead of the curve. 

This goes hand in hand with discovering yourself as a writer. Being honest about your strengths and weaknesses within your writing will help you focus on the areas that need work.

Books like “12 Rules for Life“ by Jordan Peterson can help you begin to navigate your path through self discovery. Let us know any books you come across that have helped you grow as a person or a writer!

In general, learning about cognitive science will not only help you discover yourself but it will also improve and diversify the characters you write. 

On Writing Stephen King


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12 Rules for Life Jordan Peterson


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4. Read "Story Grid" & "Anatomy of Story"

Once you are ready to start learning the first two books you should invest in are “The Story Grid“ by Shawn Coyne and “The Anatomy of Story“ by John Truby.

Many writers writing about writing will try to sell you on the idea of a “3 act structure”, but don’t fall for this misunderstanding. The 3 act structure can be applied to anything after it is created because it was developed in Hollywood as a rudimentary way to let the studio know the gist of the story. When the story is being created none of the greats will tell you to actually write it following a 3 act structure. It doesn’t exist in the writing process. 

These two books will give you the knowledge needed to not only write a novel but also the vocabulary needed to further your research in learning to write.

The Story Grid Shawn Coyne


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The Anatomy of Story John Truby


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5. Hire an Editor

A good deal of indie authors self edit, and while it can be financially advantageous to do this, it will not tell you where you stand against the masses.

If you have a book written, spend the money to hire an editor that has a track record within your genre. Even if you only use them for one book, figuring out what a professional sees in your work will be a learning experience worth every penny.

Another way to discover where you stand is to send your novel out to agents but this will burn bridges if you don’t actually plan on traditionally publishing. 

A few tips in finding an editor:

  • Make sure they edit in your genre.
  • Send out a sample to many more than you think, 10 – 20.
  • Know your writing style and find an editor that agrees with it. It will be a waste of money to roll your eyes at changes that are style disagreements.
  • Research editing prices and the types, not all editors view a line edit as the same thing. You need to know what you want from an editor.
  • Don’t hesitate to look at their past work, or turn them down. This is your business, go with someone who will help you grow as a writer.
  • Ask other authors in your genre, the recommendations via word of mouth is a great starting point.

6. Dissect a Traditionally published Novel

After you read The Story Grid, you will most likely have the tools to dissect a novel. Pick one of your favorite books within your genre and read it many times, working through all the points made in The Story Grid. Start with figuring out the big plot points, then work your way down to sub-plots and character motivations. Your goal is to figure out why that novel works, and to learn how to implement those reasons into your own writing.

7. Learn What you Don't Know

By now in this list, it is bound to be clear what you don’t know right? To add to your ever growing knowledge of must knows, learn the industry jargon. Once you have the words and meanings down, find it being done correctly. Catolog those instances so you can refer back to them when you are doing edits on your novels. 

A great place to start with this is the Writing Excuses podcast. While the whole podcast is worth the listen, season 10 is specifically great because they cover writing a novel from start to finish. 

8. Immerse Yourself in the Community

Publishing can never be stressed enough, find your tribe of authors. A group of authors in the same genre as you, but may vary in where they are on the journey to success. This will be your most valuable resource, from cross promoting to critiques and shared information on writing. Indie publishing shouldn’t be a solo adventure, join the group, find your people. (Our Fantasy Tribe)

There are so many groups on facebook, for every genre, join the ones that meet your needs and find people you click with to create your own tribe. 

Another great platform for authors talking to authors is on Twitter, most authors use this platform to talk to each other oppose to interacting with fans. Using the hashtag #writingcommunity can get you started on the conversation.

You can also search locally for authors in your area, finding an in person or skype chat will be valuable to your growth.

One of the best ways to immerse yourself is to find a mentor, someone that has been where you are, and willing to help you along your journey. 

9. Practice Makes Perfect

The best way to learn how to write a story is to actually write a story, but the second best way is to study published books within your genre. A great way to study these books is to copy pages of text, pick out some traditionally published and some indie published. Type a couple thousand words a day from these books. Analyze the sentence structures and use what you learned above to understand how sentences work. 

ProWritingAid is one of the greatest grammar helpers out there. Learning how to use it to its full capacity will be invaluable in your writing journey. 

10. Look at all the Options

There are numerous ways to write a book. Don’t be fooled by anyone that says “you must do this to be a successfully published author”, they’re lying.

It is important to keep your options open and make the changes that fit that path you’re taking to success. Even within this list, many of these things won’t work for some writers. A few examples to consider:

Book Length:

There are many reasons that go into deciding the size of book you’d like to write. When discussing length it is industry standard to talk in word count not page count. From short stories to novellas to full novels, you can create a well crafted story at any size. A great way to find your niche is to try all of them. Are you a better epic 100k+ word count writer, or is your sweet spot within the 30k range? 

By writing each different style you’ll not only be practicing your story telling skills but also learning different ways to tell the story. You may be surprised to discover your writing is best suited for a book size you hadn’t considered. 

Tools:

It is important to spend the time and find out what works for you. How do you want to type your novel, what pens/paper do you want to take notes with? How do you want to compile it into a publishable format? A few suggestions to start you on the research:

  •  Dragon Dictation: When writers block hits, talking out your story via dictation can be an invaluable tool.
  • Alphasmart Neo2: No distractions, just typing. This small type writer will help you focus without the internet, and write just about anywhere. It uploads to your computer via USB and is about the most affordable option on the market.
  • Scrivener: You can successfully use this software to plot, write and publish your novel. No mac needed. It takes a lot more learning, and time, but it can be done and will be worth it financially.

11. Take Care of your Health

You are making a career off of your brain, it’s important to take care of it!

You will thank your younger self for starting a healthy routine now, even though it doesn’t seem like it. Vitamins, daily exercise, and eating right can change your ability to write. This is something you don’t even have to trust me on, just try it, change your lifestyle for a few months and see how you feel. Track your levels and compare them to when you started. 

Some benefits to taking care of yourself:

  • Clearing out brain fog
  • Better sleep
  • Can help with depression and anxiety
  • Focus
  • Stronger Immune System
  • And a plethora of more reasons!

A few thinks to look into when starting the journey in putting your health first:

  • Drink Water. This is the easiest, yet most painstaking task you will face. But it will be worth it after a few months of getting your daily ounces in. You can find out your bodies requirements here, and why this is so important here. If you are having a hard time starting this, here are great options to help increase your consumption.
  • Eat better. You only get one body, why run it into the ground faster? Heavy sugar and carb eating can take a toll on your body and your mind. By cutting it out you will start to feel better overall. Do the research and find recipes you will look forward to eating. There are so many ways to season food, while you may not like your friends healthy food, you can find seasoning that appeal to your palette. Brain food is a thing and you should embrace it to get the most out of what makes you money!
  • Exercise. This doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds, adding in a walk, or yoga every day can do wonders for your overall health. 
    Why Physical Exercise is good for the brain.
    – Mental Brain Exercises
  • Sleep. The one thing most adults are depriving ourselves of. But it’s also the one thing that will redefine your life by getting enough. This article does a great job at giving a complete over view on why sleep is important. 

12. Remind yourself, it's a journey!

Accept that it will take you about a decade to become a successful author. Then strive to make it happen faster than that. Many of the authors you know and love gained their success from years of cultivating their craft. Writing isn’t an easy get rich quick process, no craft or career will be easy.

Look into the back stories of your favorite authors, let their humble beginnings guide your path to success. There will be many times that you want to throw in the towel, don’t give up. Take a break, unplug and recenter yourself. Go back to these basics and start again. 

Your success depends on your determination to achieve the un-achievable. 

Thinking of buying an online course on writing? Check out our scam detector: It’s a trap! Writers Writing about Writing.

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