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Writing a Book is Hard

Writing a book is hard. Writing a book about your personal story is even harder.  There are so many things to consider, not least, why you’re writing it. There is never a wrong reason here, by the way, as long as it’s your why.

I get asked many questions about why I wrote a novel based on my life experiences.  I’ve answered many of them in a series of short videos the first of which you can view here and if you would like to see the rest, please subscribe. For those of you who, like me, prefer to read, here are some of the answers.

In 2019 a very good friend of mine (already an author himself then) suggested I attend a workshop.  The workshop was full of excited people all with the same goal in mind.  They wanted to write a book.  Some of them have written more than one now, others, I dare say haven’t written any. 

At this point, I didn’t even know whether I had a book in me, or not. There is a book in everyone, by the way, not all of them can or will be written, which is a whole different story.

The workshop was insightful.  I had hundreds of ideas floating around my head.  I wrongly thought ‘I’ll just write those down and job done!’  Nope. There was so much for me to consider before I even put pen to paper.  At this point, I should say if you feel you need to write something down.  Do it. You never know where it might lead.

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A Few Questions:

    • Why do you want to write a book? At this point, it was because someone told me I needed to write a business book to prove I was an authority in my field.

    • Who are you writing the book for?  The World.

    • What do you want to achieve with the book? To make lots of money, retire before I was 50 (I’m 50 in a few months and have no sign of retirement on the horizon.)

I now know, that for me, these answers were wrong. I should have been doing it for myself. 

I’d been journaling for years due to my mental health issues.  There were some very dark times between being bullied at school in the early 1980s and writing my first novel in 2020. All my thoughts, fears and emotions poured onto those pages.  Most of the time I couldn’t read what I’d written and as part of my healing journey, I’d destroyed everything.  I burnt copious notebooks.  That felt good at the time, but what about now? Where should I start?

The workshop was full of people like me.  We all had a story to tell and, we were all capable of telling it.  I took masses of notes and… no, I didn’t burn them, but I did file them.  I didn’t continue my writing journey with that company.  I went to work abroad instead, and the book and writing went on the back burner. (No pun intended.)

Whilst I was working away, I had various lightbulb moments and I started making my notes again. I had also decided I was going to write my story as a novel.  Why?  The other options seemed even more impossible than the novel:

    • A self-help book – Hilarious to think I could write one of these when I could barely help myself.

    • An autobiography – Really?  Who would be interested in little old me and what would I write?  Born, bullied, not yet buried.  The end.

    • A Memoir – Which moment in time could I choose that wouldn’t depress me or the reader?

Plus, I quite fancied trying my hand at creative writing.

So, a novel it was.

Almost 12 months to the day of that workshop I was flown home from Fuerteventura, due to the modern-day ‘c-word.  In a quandary over what to do, I sat down and wrote Katie, A New Chapter.

Further questions:

    • Was Katie, A New Chapter hard to write? Yes, it was.  Again, why I titled this blog, writing a book is hard. I needed a lot of help to get from note/journal form to story form.

    • Was it emotional?  Yes.  Very. Especially after writing the abuse scene.  I sobbed for hours and wanted to throw my notebooks pencils and laptop out the window. Thankfully I didn’t!

    • Was it cathartic?  Yes.  It was. It formed a huge part of my healing journey, although I didn’t realise until recently how big a part it had played.

I would like to thank all the people who helped me back then.  Apart from my close friends and parents, many people were supporting me on this part of my journey. Kathy De Cicco, Lynne Thomas and Brett Sheldon to name but a few.

Writing a book is hard!

I know I keep saying it, but it is.

The industry is cutthroat, and the writing is almost the easiest part.  Then you must somehow publish, market and sell it!

Even more questions:

    • Why did you self-publish, Lisa?  I couldn’t put myself through the pain of rejection from traditional or independent publishing houses.  My mental health wouldn’t have coped so I found Kathy who helped me write and edit it and Bill who designed the cover.  Then I went through another learning process.  Self-publishing.  There is more to it than pressing a button on Amazon.

    • What was the marketing like? Hard.  It still is.  I stopped trying to market and sell my books and started to have normal conversations with real people.  That’s where the magic happened.  There is no better feeling for an author than when you can see the positive impact your writing has on another human being.

    • Have you ever queried a traditional publisher or agent to try and get your work to a wider audience? Yes. I have queried agents with my children’s book and been rejected several times.  My mental health is good now and I look at the rejections as a positive.  That clearly isn’t my pathway, or those agents/publishers aren’t a good fit for my words.  My pathway will show up when it’s ready, but for now, I’ll keep writing

If you’re thinking about writing your story, consider these things in the first instance:

    • Why are you writing it?

    • What format would you like it to take?

    • What do you want to achieve from writing it?

If you’ve already made copious notes or have a journal you’re halfway there and I encourage you to continue it.  Any form of writing or journaling is good. If you want to start journaling, grab yourself a notebook and pen and write down how you’re feeling.  Don’t just put the negative things in there though, make sure to get positive things in there too. Here’s a prompt to get you started if you’re struggling.

In 2023 I launched my brand new writing programme; Healing Through Creative Writing.   The course is designed for groups and individuals and is delivered face to face or via video link. 

If I can help you in any way,  even if it’s just a chat, please contact me at lisa@lisambillingham.com or book a call with me here.

Thank you for reading & happy writing.

Lots of Love, Light and Gratitude,

Lisa xxx