Is 2022 The Year You Write That Book?
Got a story in your head?
Many people express a desire to write a book. These tips will help you get started whether you’ve got a story buzzing around your head or you want to impart your expertise with non-fiction.
Your writing does not have to be perfect
Whilst it’s true that the first line or page of a book has to grab the reader, you don’t need that killer sentence right now. Allow yourself to write whatever comes out and improve it later.
Sometimes it may feel that you are writing rubbish. This is normal. Keep going. There are times when I have spent days writing what feels like trash but then a wonderful idea emerges. If I hadn’t persisted through the drivel, then I would not have revealed the golden nugget.
When you are using a computer there is more risk of wanting to make the writing “correct” and accurate. If you get stuck, then switch to writing by hand as there seems to be a lesser desire to be perfect. You can type it up and edit it later or have someone else type it up.
Remember that a first draft is exactly that — a draft. Books go through several drafts but you can’t revise what isn’t on the page, so just get it down. Your initial efforts probably won’t meet your expectations but is good to produce lots of crap. That’s how you learn. This blog explains more about this concept.
Write in small chunks
It is tempting to think you have to quit your job to write a book. Unless you have a trust fund or a well-paid spouse, this is not a good idea. Even if you are in those fortunate circumstances, too much time on your hands and an empty page are not always a good combination.
Instead write in small chunks of time. If you pick a small target then there is more chance that you will do it every day. I like to shoot for 500 words a day. I can do this in twenty minutes so it isn’t a big time overhead. Other people like to set a minimum of ten minutes a day. Of course, if you are in the flow you can do more.
It is better to have a small target and achieve it every day than to be too ambitious, do it twice and then never get around to writing again. The average novel is 80,000 words so at 500 words a day you could get the first draft easily done in six months.
Fiction: to plan or not to plan
Some writers like to have a detailed outline of their story before they start the writing, others dump their characters in a sticky situation and start writing to find out what happens. There is no right or wrong method. You have to find your own way and you will only learn by doing.
I tend to take a hybrid approach where I will write a couple of scenes and journal as one or two of the characters. This gives me a few ideas of what might happen and then I create a rough plan before writing a first draft.
If you want to understand story structure and go through a method that takes you from coming up with a premise all the way through character development, plot points and a scene list, then check out The Anatomy of Story by John Truby.
Non-fiction: definitely plan
If you want to write a non-fiction book, I strongly recommend that you plan the content before you start to write. I have met many people who have a half-written book which has gone off tangent and off message. They may have spent months or years trying to recover the book and often they don’t succeed.
A good way to structure a non-fiction book is to write the Table of Contents first. Each of your main strands of information will be a chapter and then you can figure out what the subheadings in each chapter should be. You could even drill down to a further level of subheadings. Then, when it comes to the writing, you’ll have bitesize pieces in a logical flow that can be easily written in that 20 minute sitting or 500 words at a time.
Whatever it is that you want to write, just start on it. Writing is a craft that you learn by doing. Expressing one’s creativity is like building and exercising a muscle — it needs to be done regularly and the more you exercise it, the more responsive it becomes. Get writing, have fun!
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