By writer-director and author Brendan Foley

Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. That makes the difference between the thousand people who think about writing a book and the one that does.

Then, out of every thousand who actually do finish a manuscript, there are usually just one or two who make meaningful money out of it. And most of them say that they have to have a constant stream of books at various stages of the life cycle from ideas to remainders at the bargain store in order to make a living. And yet…

And yet many of us have that yearning. We have something to say that won’t fit in a tweet. We have had an experience or built up a knowledge we want to share. Or maybe as time passes we just get keener on the idea of leaving something behind that might last longer than an evening performance, a recycled newspaper, or a footprint in the sand. I was fortunate enough for one of my books to become a best-seller, but more important than that, writing it was one of the most satisfying creative experiences of my life, and that spans work in newspapers, magazines, TV and film.

I’ve run a course for the NUJ and if there is enough interest will run a similar one for the FEU on ‘Writing Your First book’. The course is designed to use our existing skill set as freelances in the creative industries as a unique advantage – a head start in the very competitive and uncertain world of publishing. The good news is that in just the few years that course has been running, there are at least three successful books in the world, written by those who attended.

Apart from all the good reasons mentioned above, there is one compelling reason for any creative freelance to consider tackling a tome. Being the author of a book can be very good for your standing with both peers and prospective employers.

A book, and even more so a successful book is a very powerful qualification that you are an expert in a particular field. For a musician it might be a collection of rock ‘n’ roll stories from the road, or a guide to new groups trying to break in to the fickle world of demos and online sales. Or for a writer it might be a novel or a factual book on a person or historical event. For a journalist it might be a memoir of the early days of TV News or a contemporary fact-filled account of the war in Afghanistan. Whatever your skills or interest, being a published author can generate more work or interest and that is often both commercially and critically more rewarding than the often modest amounts in royalty payments.

But just like running a marathon, it is not those who hare off from the starting line with the most enthusiasm who stagger across the finishing line a long time later. In the world of authoring books, it is those who do the best preparation who tend to stay the course. Having a detailed plan – a core theme, chapter headings, contents of chapters and sub chapters, right down to 1000-word sections of a 100,000-word book, can break it down into manageable pieces.

Equally important is having a good idea of how and when you will write. It is no good setting epic deadlines to ‘finish in six months’ if you don’t have a regular writing pattern and an understanding of how much you can write in a week. This is particularly true if you are writing in your spare time.

A realistic timetable and writing structure can not only result in a finished book, it can save you from losing all your friends or having things hurled at you by your nearest and dearest if they find themselves playing second fiddle to a book obsession. Have a look at these tips from a successful freelance on how to stay on track.

So the rewards are uncertain, the journey is long, but if you are willing to pay for the ticket, writing a book can be one of the most interesting road-trips of your life.

Do you want to learn more?

If you would like FEU Training to arrange for Brendan to run his successful ‘Writing Your First Book’ course, please register your interest at (subject matter: book) stating where you are based. If we have sufficient demand, we will look into to running this course asap.

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