We all dream. For writers those mind movies of self-indulgence may include visions of a book cover or a posh office you will be summoned to on the top of the Freedom Tower in New York to ink a million dollar deal. It is okay to dream–it’s where most of my stories come from–but to make it happen, keep it in your dreams.
Very often first time writers will ask questions about publishing or about things that have nothing to do with making their writing the best it can be. How do I get an agent? How do I get my book published? Should I self-publish? Will I get sued if _______? My advice always is, finish the project first. Once the novel, story, memoir, play, screenplay, etc., is complete and as good as you can make it, then worry about what comes next. If it takes you a year to write it, there may be outlets for it that did not exist when you started.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with familiarizing yourself with agents, producers, theater companies, publishers and copyright while you are creating, but your focus should be on telling the best story you can. Until you are a known commodity, worrying about galleys, cover jackets, book trailers, audio versions or rights of any kind is putting the cart before the horse. It’s hard to get anywhere like that.
However, if drawing and creating a cover helps you focus the story, great. Do it. If dreaming of yourself sitting in a posh New York office gets you to the computer for 15 minutes a day. Do it. If using the name of your favorite actor for a character fires your imagination, use it. Don’t let it take over. Use anything as long as it serves the story.
If any of the things mentioned in the previous paragraph cause you to spend hours online arguing about rights, trademarks or possible lawsuits–get rid of them. Writers often use questions about rights and legalities to get people to read a synopsis of their story and say what they think. I call it “sneaky” feedback. See Shut Up and Write It.
Do not go out and hire an illustrator, proofreader, script doctor, or copyright lawyer. Do not send money on anything. Writers tend to buy things and feel they have done something for their writing. Don’t fall into this trap. The only place you can purchase a good story is a book store, but the money flow is going the wrong way for you.
Tell the best story you can and get it in a fixed form as best you can. Then allow the horse to pull the cart across the other bridges at it’s own pace.