Writing is generally a pretty solitary thing. You get your coffee, your laptop, and a comfy chair, maybe you put on a highly curated playlist, and you go. Because writing is so personal in nature, it’s not usually considered a task that can be shared.
While I would agree with the fact that the actual writing, in and of itself, is a solo activity, I also definitely believe it is a task that can, and should, be shared, both for your sanity as a writer, and for the quality of your work. I recommend finding a virtual assistant to work with as it will allow you to retain the solitude you need, while simultaneously assisting you in your process.
Here are a few reasons hiring a virtual assistant can be one of the best things you do for your creative process.
Virtual assistants are generally pretty great at research. Whether you’re writing a light-hearted romance novel, or a non-fiction account of a historical event, it’s important to make sure that any facts you use in your book are correct. And that requires tons of research. Probably literally, tons. Work with a VA to confirm dates, locations, travel times, directions, etc., so you can spend those hours writing instead. Once all your facts are confirmed, you can simply drop them in your manuscript and go on your way. You can also task your VA with other research tasks, like finding a photographer for head shots, coming up with a mailing list of publishing houses who take on projects like yours, or searching for an agent or editor.
After spending a lot of time being hyper-focused on your writing, it becomes nearly impossible to spot your own inevitable mistakes. (Trust me; I’ve learned this very hard lesson from experience. How embarrassing.) You would never want to submit a manuscript to an agent or publisher if it’s full of typos, so have your VA look it over for any glaring spelling or grammatical errors. This is not going to replace a good editor, of course, but it will at least make sure your book is presentable and clear once a publisher snatches it up. (Pro tip: have an iron-clad non-disclosure agreement in place before allowing your VA to see your work, to protect both of you.)
3.) Publishing pitches
You’re on your way to finishing your manuscript, but you know that it won’t do anybody any good just sitting in a pile on your desk. You need to get it published, and to do that, you need an awesome pitch. Thousands of these cross the desks of agents and editors, and most don’t get a second glance. To make sure yours gets noticed, have your VA give it a little pizzazz, so everyone who sees it is immediately sucked in and dying to publish your work.
4.) Draft your bio
Bios are tough, am I right? It’s hard to find a way to accurately describe all your amazing accomplishments without coming off a bit pompous and arrogant. But you can’t totally downplay everything you can do either, or no one who doesn’t know you will see a reason to care. Put the task in the hands of someone less emotionally invested, and have them come up with something brilliant.
5.) Sending out your final first draft
There is some ceremony to completing and printing out your completed first draft. (And if there’s not, there should be. Pop some champagne, have a dance party, run through your neighborhood shrieking…do SOMETHING to acknowledge your accomplishment!) But then as soon as that wears off, you’re probably immediately like, “damn, I still have to print out eleventy million more copies, and package them, and send them, and then deal with all the inevitable rejection letters, and..and..and..” Forget all that. Send your VA the digital file of your manuscript and have them get it printed (and maybe even bound, if you’re feeling fancy) and sent. You can even have them go one step further and have them set up a shared spreadsheet in Evernote or Google drive to track who received your manuscript, and what their responses were.
At the end of the day, you know that writing a book is tough. And exhausting. And overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be as difficult or stressful as it used to be. Getting some help from a virtual assistant can make the difference between finishing your book and never wanting to look at another typed word again, or wanting to write another one. Your story deserves to be heard—don’t let the stress of getting it out stop you from sharing your brilliance with the world.
Jordan Hansen is, unsurprisingly, a virtual assistant, and the owner of Practically Magic Virtual Assistance. A self-proclaimed planner and manicure addict, she also admits to ingesting far more caffeine than is healthy, and reading a ridiculous amount of murder mysteries (and subsequently scaring the daylights out of herself any time something goes “bump” in her house). You can usually find her on Twitter, discussing her mild obsession with Chipotle.