The hardest part of becoming an author is that pesky writing part. It won’t matter how many great ideas you have, how creative you are, or how many times you say, “I’m going to be an author,” if you never put any of those amazing ideas onto paper.
So, how do you go from wanting to write to actually becoming an author, practically speaking that is?
Hopefully these tips will get you started.
Tips for Writing a Book
- Brain dump. Anytime you’re overwhelmed by a process, a project or even life in general, a brain dump can do wonders for your peace of mind and your productivity. In short, with a brain dump, you take out a note pad or sheet of paper, or even just your phone, and you move that massive wad of “things to do” (again, things to do) from inside your head to outside your head; even the things you wouldn’t normally write down. Get it all out; everything from “call the vet,” to “clip toenails.” Do this regularly and keep a running list of things to do OUTSIDE your head. Your brain is for having ideas – not storing them. ** Pro Tip: Only spend about 20 minutes on this. If you go too much longer than 20 minutes, you’ll start growing new ideas and end up creating an endless list, thanks to all that fresh space in your brain.
- Book builders list. You’ve probably been thinking about your book for a long time. The first step toward authorship is to stop thinking and start doing. With the book builder’s list step, you should put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. This process alone will help spark your creative spirit. Take all those book ideas you’ve been dwelling on and put them down in list form. Everything you’ve conjured up from the genre and the title to the way you want your name to appear on the cover. Whatever book stuff you’ve come up needs to be on this list.
- Organize your thoughts. No matter what your book will be about, you need to organize your thoughts before you start actually writing. Take that list of yours and try to create a loose outline of how you want the book to flow. Whether it’s fiction or reference, your manuscript will need to have order. Don’t let this overwhelm you. It’s not a part of everyone’s process, but most authors find it helpful for smoothing out the creation process.
- Set some goals. How many words will you write in a day? How many days a week will you write? What time of day will you write? Do the math. Compliment your schedule and daily life. It might be helpful to put these goals on a sticky note and slap it right on your computer, laptop, word processor, or even your mirror – somewhere you’ll be reminded of them every day. Hold yourself accountable to those goals. Yes, stuff happens, but it shouldn’t happen every day. If it does, that’s a choice – not a circumstance.
- Just start writing. Let go of the idea of perfection and just write. You can polish later. Often, writer’s block is not a lack of creativity, but a lack of confidence. We want things to be perfect out the gate, but that’s not realistic. Great literature is a process. Think crock-pot, not microwave. Just WRITE. Write. Write. Who cares if it’s not perfect? It’s a work in progress until you say it’s ready. Give yourself some grace.
- Set a deadline, and repeat step five over and over until you’re there.
- Review. Do you feel good about your work? Do you need to move things around? Now is the time to enlist the help of an editor. Get someone objective, who will tell you the truth. Do you know how much editing your book will need? Do you need a developmental editor? Do you need a copy editor? Do you simply need a proofreader? If you don’t know, consider a pre-publication review. These kinds of reviews are designed to provide you with information about what your book needs to be publishable.
- Polish. Does your manuscript need more attention? Are there gaps to bridge? Are there dropped words or dangling participles? You may or may not need help to put the polish on your work – only you can determine that. Don’t be afraid to get help with this part, either. You’re very close to your project. The best and most accurate feedback will come from someone who ISN’T super close to you or your work. Be ready to take some gentle criticism. If you can handle criticism and use it to become better, you’ll be a great writer.
- Finally – PUBLISH. Get that baby out there. Don’t be afraid to let people read your work. Writers can work in secret, AUTHORS cannot.
A few words to the wise:
Self-doubt, overwhelm and procrastination can plague the best of us. It’s important that you dedicate yourself to the effort, and NOT to unrealistic expectations. Take breaks, but come back. If you find yourself procrastinating, give yourself a countdown and then commit to writing for just one minute (you can do anything for sixty seconds). Count backwards from ten, or even five, and then just DO IT. Write two or three sentences. Once you get two or three sentences out and your sixty seconds is up, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be able to keep going.
Motivation comes from within. Don’t rely on others to motivate you. You and you alone are responsible for your drive, work ethic and ambition.
Most of all, remember – It’s one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one page and one chapter at a time. It won’t feel like work when you let yourself love it.