If you’re like me, a new year means new goals to accomplish! One goal I’d had for years was to write a book. I just didn’t know how to do it. Thoughts flooded my mind. I don’t have the time. I’m already so busy. Where would I even start? What if what I write isn’t good enough? I’ll just wait until I have fully formulated my idea.
When I pushed off writing, I felt guilty and empty in an area that could otherwise bring me joy and fulfillment.
Sick of ignoring my creative talents, last year I made a vow to myself to write everyday and finish my book. There’s no reason to ignore the dreams you have. Working toward achieving your goals is a way that can bring you deep happiness. Is writing a book your goal this year? Here are my tips for how to start and (this is the key), FINISH writing your book.
1) Do Pre-Work: Think about cooking dinner. You can reference a recipe or sort through your kitchen for ingredients you think would work well. Both methods have the potential to deliver a delicious meal but free flowing in your kitchen can mean risker results compared to following a recipe.
Sitting down to write your book is the same concept. While you can start writing what you’ve dreamed up, you’re more likely to be successful long-term if you first plan a clear vision for your book to follow.
Use these book planning exercises to get started. I completed these before sitting down to write my book and they completely changed the way I envisioned my books theme, layout, and message.
- Why do I need to write this book? Why does this book needs to be on book shelves? Why are you the best person to write it?
- What’s the book jacket copy? Pretend your book is already complete. What would the book jacket say?
- Create the table of contents: Outlining how you plan to organize chapters will give structure to the ideas floating in your head. It will also break down the overwhelming task of writing an entire book into more digestible chunks, making it easier for you to manage each one.
2) Set a Schedule and Stick to It: Every “how to write a book” or “how to become a writer” article I’ve read claimed that you need to write every day. Well I must say, I agree!
Writing every single day was one of the most challenging parts for me. When can I find the time to write? I sporadically wrote, every two or three months. It was not productive! Then I dedicated time each day to writing. I saw progress being made with my book and felt more enthused about writing too.
Consider the following to help set your schedule:
- Discover what time of day is best for you: At first, I tried writing in the evening but I soon discovered I was too mentally exhausted after working all day to think creatively. Waking up to write before work became the best time for me. I felt most energized and fresh to tackle my pages.
- Discover how long you need to write each day: For me, setting aside one hour each day was enough to meet my deadlines (completing ten pages per week). What will work for you? Thirty minutes? Two hours? Play around with timing to see what works best with your schedule and writing goals.
- Promise to meet your page everyday: My promise to myself was to write everyday, even if that meant for just five minutes. I figured if I wrote even just one sentence, it was better than not writing anything at all. Plus, I was less likely to let days go by without writing if I had to commit to writing in some way, everyday.
3) Have Accountability: I’ve always been an extremely self-motivated and ambitious person. I never thought I’d need someone holding me accountable to complete my manuscript. I could motivate myself! Well, it turned out that utilizing a book coach/editor was instrumental in completing my manuscript. Self-motivation was good until a happy hour invite would come my way or a new dance class popped up that I wanted to attend. Knowing I needed to submit ten pages to my book editor every Wednesday forced me to prioritize how I spent my time. Plus, I was paying for this service which gave me an even greater reason to submit all ten pages each week. I wanted to get my moneys worth!
If using a book coach doesn’t feel like the right approach for you, there are other ways you can gain accountability. Team up with a friend who’s also interested in writing a book and share your work with each other. Join a writing group and submit your work there. Sign up for a writing course that requires you to submit pages as part of the class.
Whatever direction you decide to take for accountability, set rails on it by committing to a set number pages each week. This will help to prioritize writing your book and will drive your progress.
4) Receive Consistent and Constructive Feedback: After submitting my ten pages, I imagined my editor would write back praising each word choice and fluid dance my sentences created. But instead, I’d receive track changes that toppled over each other within the margins.
Show more, tell less.
Create a scene. Don’t be so vague here.
But how did this make you feel when this happened? Tell us more about that.
Her feedback was hard to swallow at first. That’s what I thought I did, Kemlo!
It was hard to hear any feedback about my work that wasn’t positive. But it was my editors constructive feedback that soon became my favorite part of the writing process. When I pushed myself to rewrite pages using her feedback I saw the story always improved. Oh damn, Kemlo. You’re good. I see how that works now.
Whether it’s through a book editor, a friend, or a writing group — find a way to workshop your writing and receive constructive feedback. It may be hard to hear at first but if you’re open to the feedback, it may end up positively transforming your entire book.
5) Remember, “Progress Over Perfect.” I hear my writer friends say things like, “I’m not writing now because I’m not sure how I should frame it yet” or “The words aren’t flowing. I just need to take a break and come back when the inspiration strikes.”
When it came to writing my manuscript (or anything really!), I live by the mantra “progress over perfect.” Your writing will rarely, if ever, be perfect on your first attempt. Don’t use this as a roadblock. Welcome it as part of the creative process.
As one of my favorite authors, Jodi Picoult, says, “You can edit a poorly written page but you can’t edit a blank page.” I couldn’t agree more, Jodi.
6) Enjoy the Process: When I started writing my book, I was mostly focused on completing it. But once I got into the flow of writing, I found I appreciated the process. It wasn’t just about finishing the book, the enjoyment came from writing it.
There will be pieces you write that get published and there will be pieces you write that never see the light of day beyond your own laptop or journal. I’ve discovered that as a writer, I don’t write to be published. I write because I need to. It’s like a muscle that needs to be stretched or a hunger that needs to be fed.
Write each day because you love writing. Start there and I have no doubt you’ll not only finish your book but it will be even more wonderfully written because your love for the process will come through in each word.