If I have heard it once, I have heard it one hundred times. “I can write better than that. I will just write my own book.” Or another one is “that book had so many grammatical errors. I can do better than that.”
The same mantra goes for web articles, blogs, case studies and more. However, let’s look at this realistically. Writing a book is a lot harder than you think. It takes longer, saps more of your energy, and requires a determination that frankly, most people don’t have, at least not for writing. I’ve written 12 so far, and I can tell you this for sure. It doesn’t get any easier.
So, what is it like to actually write a book, front to back, opening to the end? Here are a few reasons writing a book is harder than you think.
Carrying a Story or Idea for 70,000+ Words
Sometimes when people say they can write a better novel than–fill in the blank with a famous author name here—I simply look at them and smile. Many of them can’t remember their car keys, or their next doctor appointment time without an electronic reminder let alone carry a story without some continuity errors through the length of a novel.
Not to mention that it will take you a long time to write a novel. You will have to keep those things straight for nine months to a year, maybe longer. (Preferably you will write faster than this, but that is another post for another time.) The truth is you won’t do it perfectly and without the help of a really good editor and some re-writes, your book will be a mess.
Even when it comes to non-fiction, you have to stay on topic for the entire book. Many people find this difficult even in a normal conversation. What makes you think you can carry a theme all the way through? Before you brag that you could do better, think to yourself how easy it is for you to get distracted. Multiply that by 1,000, and you have the difficulty of writing a book.
An Impossible Error Standard
Are you a perfectionist? How many grammar and spelling errors do you allow in a book before you put it down and give up on it? Think you can do better?
Now think about what you do for work. While no one wants to hear a doctor say “oops” even medical mistakes happen. In fact, medical mistakes are now declared to be the third leading cause of death in America, and some statistics say it may even be higher. While this is alarming, the truth is medical professionals make a way higher percentage of mistakes than authors do, and that is when a life, not a comma, is on the line.
Think of it this way. If that book you are reading has 70,000 words, how many errors will you tolerate? One? Four? Seven? Let’s use seven for argument sake and to simplify the math. Seven errors is a 99.9% accuracy rate. What if you were held to that standard by your boss, only if you failed more than that 99.9%, you were fired?
If you read a novel and leave a poor review because of seven grammar errors, you have not only essentially fired that author, but you have blacklisted them to a whole bunch of friends and people you do not even know. You’ve directly impacted that authors income because they did not meet a 99.9% or greater error-free standard for their work.
Seven errors is a 99.9% accuracy rate. What if you were held to that standard by your boss, only if you failed more than that 99.9%, you were fired?
Want to know why reviews are so important and it is so hard to make a living as a writer? This standard is why.
On the flip side, if you are a writer, this is why a good editor, proofreader, and a team is so important to bringing your book to life. There is no way you can even come close to this standard on your own. The more people you have checking spelling and grammar, the more automated tools like Grammarly and PerfectIt that you use, the better.
Just for a moment, I will talk about dedication. Here’s the deal. If you sat down at your desk and wrote a single page every single day, by the end of the year you would have a novel. Even if you skipped several days, you would have a more than a 300-page manuscript.
Statistics also tell us that 80% of people surveyed say they have a book in them and would love to write one. Now, think about how many authors you know, even people who have completed a book but not published it? Is it 8 out of 10 of your friends and family? No? Why not?
Because even sitting down and writing a page a day is hard for a lot of people, let alone writing several, holding the idea together, and simply finishing what they started. This is true of many things, a reason that New Year’s resolutions are often abandoned by February, but few things are as difficult as writing a book from start to finish.
In that same vein, think about the pay an author gets for nine months work. We are not talking George R.R. Martin money here, we are talking us normal writers. By the time we pay for an editor, pay for a book cover, and pay for marketing we might break even plus some grocery money. For many mid-list authors, they make enough usually off of several books to make a respectable living but make even close to six figures and you are in the top 10% of writers WORLDWIDE.
If it is such a thankless job and the pay is so small, why do it? Writing has to be your passion and you have to be dedicated to it. Even if you are writing a business book or novel on the side of your regular career, you still need an insane level of dedication to complete it. Trust me if you are not dedicated enough, you will never write “The End”, which is only really the first step.
Why do you think that 60% or more of celebrity books out there are ghostwritten? Because the celebrity in question neither has the time or dedication to write their own book, so they hire someone to do it for them. It really is that simple. The number of people who have the passion and dedication to write for a living are few and far between.
Why do you think that 60% or more of celebrity books out there are ghostwritten? Because the celebrity in question neither has the time or dedication to write their own book.
The same goes for company blogs, celebrity posts on Huffington Post or Forbes, even social media posts and articles on LinkedIn. How many of those celebrities actually write all of that content for their website and social media? While they may actually make posts from time to time, many hire companies and ghostwriters to do it for them.
The next time you are about to tell your friends how you could write a better book, or what a great writer you are compared to someone else and how you can do better, be careful. Take a moment to think about what it really takes to write a book. If you can, sit down and do it. You’ll join the ranks of the few who ever do so.
But if you’re not going to do it, please stop telling those of us who do how easy it is and how superior your skills are to those who do it professionally. We’re busy writing our next book, and for some of us, it might not even have our names on the cover. What we do is way harder than you think.