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How I Wrote a Whole Book in Sir Duncan Rice Library

Advice on How to Self-Publish Your Novel

By Lars Kawczyk

An open book seemingly floating surrounded by stacks of books arranged in a circle.
Courtesy of Jared Craig via Unsplash

Have you ever dreamt about writing a book? You might have already started one or have a list of great ideas. I started off exactly like that too!

My name is Lars, and I am currently in my final year of my undergraduate degree, Economics and Philosophy. I would like to share with you my journey to self-publishing my first novel, A Straggler Among Dancers, something that I wanted to do for a long, long time. I will go through how it all started, my process of writing the novel, and at the end I will list out some tips for your own adventure!

Everyone’s journey is different – mine started with poetry. 

I fell in love with writing poetry during high school and experimented with various rhythms and rhymes, tones and styles. Even though I began without any grand intentions or expectations, my passion slowly pushed me towards them. Having gathered a big enough collection, with growing self-confidence, I self-published my poetry collection called Split. I was happy, but I didn’t yet know that a more demanding challenge stood before me; I dreamed of completing my novel.

This dream lingered in my mind for some time, as I was trying to figure out more details of the story I would be writing. It took me months of imagining different stories but nothing struck me as valuable enough to weave a whole novel out of, until one day when I was making my way to campus I passed by a cemetery. A quick glance revealed an angel statue looking right at me.

Like a flash all these ideas began to flood my mind. 

It was then that I started to build a story about a guardian angel. This main idea was the springboard I needed to develop everything else.

It took two years to turn this idea into the book which is now available. There were many hurdles to overcome, which made me doubt if I would ever finish it. I gave up once, just to return to it a few months later. Being self-taught and having no one around me who had finished a book before, I had to rely on myself. 

A white man with short brown hair (Lars) standing in front of Sir Duncan Rice library, smiling.
Courtesy of the author

You may think that writing a book is all about typing words on a worn keyboard; I thought so too, but I quickly found out that I was very wrong. Besides writing, there is loads to learn in the world of marketing, publishing, and editing, as well as design.

I will be honest, it was not a clever idea to put this on myself during my last two years of university. I do not necessarily recommend completing a novel if you already find yourself busy with studies, but it can be done. Just like with anything else, sacrifices have to be made. It was important for me to restrict myself in some ways in order to set realistic goals. For instance, I decided very quickly that the novel should be roughly 200 pages. A quick search told me that equates to a rough estimate of 70,000 words. Doing some maths, if you wrote just 500 words a day, you would finish writing a short book in half a year. I based my weekly goals on the word count, trying to hit all of them and so coming closer and closer to the end. That worked for me.

At first you should not endeavour to be too perfect. The first step is just to get words on the paper. You do not have to worry about grammar, spelling or sentence structure just yet. You will be able to do all of that during your editing phase. Develop your plot ideas and flesh out your scenery to create the world you imagine first. During the second phase, the editing, you want to try to get everything as perfect as it can be. Re-read your novel many times over and if possible have someone else help you with that. In my experience the editing process lasted much longer than the actual writing, and can be infuriatingly tedious at times.

In self-publishing, the work does not stop there. If you are unfamiliar with the world of self-publishing, then I recommend thoroughly researching the platform you are going to use - I used the Amazon service. I had to learn how to format my finished story into the book layout, and create the cover. Keep in mind that the softcover, hardcover, and e-book versions all have to be edited separately, as the change in size and version can impact the layout tremendously. Once you have that finished, I urge you to buy your own book first before self-publishing! I bought three to four iterations, improving each draft. Once you are satisfied with how the printed form looks you can save it (of course) and publish!

A book cover reading 'A Straggler Among Dancers'. A tree with clouds in place of leaves is shown. Next to the tree there is an empty bench and a glowing street light. In front of the tree there is a lake that seems to be stretching endlessly to the left and right.
Courtesy of the author

I know that there are many of you reading this right now who have thought about writing your own book. Having done it, I would like to give you some tips and pointers that I had to find out the hard way.

1. Believe in yourself. During the making of your book, especially in the beginning, you will not see the end of it. That can prove to be overwhelming and intimidating. In order to follow through I would suggest finding your own ways to do things. Some people like to write in cafes, others in libraries or at home. Perhaps you like to work in the morning, rather than at night. Make your writing as easy as possible, as the whole project is hard enough already.

2. Let yourself be obsessed. Live your story by having it in the back of your mind in whatever activities you do. Try to include other people in your writing experience, as I thought of many new ideas while I was pitching my stories to friends and family.

3. Plan and (try to) stay consistent. Planning is not the be-all and end-all, but it helped me more than I expected. Sometimes you just want to see where the story will go without having planned anything. That led me to delete more than 40 pages, because they were not relevant to the story. To avoid this waste of time, plan out at least the main parts of the story. Definitely plan the start, experiment with different scene ideas throughout the middle, and maybe have possible endings in mind.

Writing is a personal endeavour, which can be done in multiple ways. I wish you persistence and excitement in exploring your own world, and I hope that my little article could give you some insight into what it was like for me.


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