Want to finally start your book? Start here.
Writing a book can feel monumental. Once you truly commit to the idea and wonder where to start, overwhelm can hit in that short-breath-holy-crap-can-I-really-do-this-what-the-#$%@-am-I-thinking?! kinda way. I get it.
Deep breath. *Relax shoulders*.
You probably have a bunch of notes: on Post-its, in new and old notebooks, in Evernote/Notes, with a few Google or Word docs too. (Bonus points, btw, if you’ve index cards set up in Scrivener!)
I’ll guess you also have favourites on your laptop, that collection of quotes saved in Instagram, a few on Pinterest, and a surprisingly good article someone posted on LinkedIn that you discovered down the internet rabbit hole one night.
(We won’t even mention the trove of languishing ebooks. And downloads from webinars and workshops. And good-old bookmarked paperbacks on your shelves. All about writing, writing a book, and research on what you want to write about.)
You like to be prepared. I respect that. You’re not just going to dive in and hope to pen a blockbuster, that’s for naïve amateurs. Right?
I know you’ll get started as soon as you’re organised.
(Mini cringe while you think But there’s so.much.stuff...)
Listen, before I wrote my first book, I was drowning in my own unwieldy sprawl of useful information, too. And you know what? I’m not going to suggest you ‘start before you’re ready’ or something similarly unhelpful.
No. I’m not a ‘start before you’re ready’ person — you want to be ready. In your own way. And if your way is like mine, there’s only one thing for it.
Get those books and notes organised. That’s job 1, without exception — just like the little voice has been telling you every time you have a sliver of a thought about writing your book.
Marie Kondo* that shit and you’ll sort your head out, too.
Then, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, dive into the steps below. (It’s also a helpful exercise to revisit if you put off writing again once you’re underway.)
You’re about to level up your prep in a way that will keep you moving, my friend. Only read on if you’ve got to get your book out of you before it kills you.
The 5-step procrastination buster for first-time authors
Get really clear on why you want to write a book. Use the ‘5 Whys’ method: ask yourself “Why do I want to write a book?”, then when you have an answer, ask yourself “Why is that important to me?” Repeat several times until you’re at the real core of the matter. (You’re looking for the intrinsic motivator here, not some search for fame or fortune — which, by the way, will not be well-served by writing a book. Choose something else to do with your time if that’s your goal.)
Get really clear on why you haven’t yet written a book, even though you want to. Be honest but kind to yourself — write down all the huge and tiny reasons. (Yes, write them down, don’t just think about them; there’s power in committing to paper, and this gives you a reference point which you’ll need for the next 2 steps.)
Assume all you’ve written in response to step 2 is solvable or surmountable. Now, look at your final answer at step 1 — is that reason compelling enough to help you tackle all you’ve identified at step 2? If not, dig further into your reason for writing. This is the ‘trick’, when your reason is strong enough, it will pull you through the tough times.
Take a break, then playfully brainstorm solutions to your responses at step 2. Do this with a friend, if that helps. This is not about finding the solutions, it’s about finding a solution, which will provide a sense of potential — and from there, it’s easier to find momentum. You may find you’ll need to change your habits and mindset, reach out to others for help or a combination of all those.
Commit to being a creative problem solver. Get started on potential solutions you’ve identified at step 4, and allocate time to continue working through them as you write. You’ll encounter unpredictable obstacles in life, and within the book itself, during your writing process. If you apply the mindset at step 4 throughout your writer-to-author journey, you’ll keep moving forward.
Does this really apply, regardless of what my book is about?
Yes. There are several reasons for this: you’ll likely identify any subject/idea problems, if you have them, at step 2, and find initial prospective solutions at step 4. This exercise also highlights that even if you are clear — at this stage — on what you’re writing, there are other potential setbacks within the book-creation process that it’s useful to mitigate.
Though it’s a good idea to aim for one genre at the outset, it’s possible to write your way into an idea; you don’t need to know exactly what your book will be for you to start writing. This will strike terror into the hearts of story planners so I’ll address writing craft-related questions in a separate article, to come.
The act of writing a book is a teacher
There’s much to learn along the way — about yourself, your story and the publishing industry (whether you take the traditional or independent route) — but if you harness your curiosity about the whole endeavour, as you do within your story, you’ll find what you need to keep going. To craft the best work you can, and deliver it with personal triumph to the world.
Onwards. You can do this. There’s a publication day — not to mention a book cover and a party! — with your name on it, if you’re willing to claim it.
*Marie Kondo is the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Oh, and between you and me, I don’t think you’ve made it when you have written a sold-by-the-millions book — it’s when someone uses your name as a verb. (Can I have a hell, yeah?!)
Let’s do this
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