The writing was going so well. You were just cruising along -- writing was so effortless. And then you stop, because you got stuck and don't know how to move forward. Check out these book writing tips for getting yourself unstuck and getting moving again.
Why You Get Stuck
I think one of the biggest reasons that authors get stuck is because they don't know where they are going. Often, you're so excited by your idea that you just sit down and start writing. But once the enthusiasm and excitement wear off, there is a lot of hard work to do. If you are starting with only the barest idea of your topic, it won't take you very far. Putting some structure around your idea -- and writing that structure down -- will help you when the writing gets tough.
Things To Know Before You Start Writing
The scariest moment is always just before you start.
Before I start talking about how structure can help you, please keep in mind the following book writing tips:
It's a process. It's a long, sometimes messy, frequently chaotic and not always enjoyable process. You will hit bumps in the road. You will hit outright holes in the road. But that's all a part of the process. Acknowledge that it is difficult and that you will stumble occasionally. That doesn't mean you should stop. You didn't learn how to walk in a day. You won't learn how to write in a day either.
The first draft is just that -- a first draft. Not everyone sentence has to come out of your brain exactly perfect. The goal of a first draft is to get your ideas down on paper. Get everything out of your head and into a format you can play around with. Don't obsess over typos, grammar and places where may need to do some research. Those things can wait for the second draft.
Accept the fact that you will get overly attached to your writing. Especially if this is the first book you've ever written. It's not necessarily a bad thing. You are writing something you are passionate about and that passion will help fuel your writing. But you will need to step back at some point and gain some distance so you can be critical of what you've written so you can improve it.
Do not -- DO NOT -- be tempted to write as you go. You'll start getting bogged down: Why did I write this section like that? Would this paragraph be better at the beginning of the chapter? What was I thinking when I wrote that? Don't spend time editing before everything is down on paper. You'll get so sidetracked in perfecting what you've already written that you won't do any more actual writing.
How Structure Can Help You Get Unstuck
Say you want to take a trip. You hop in the car and start driving. The windows are open, the music is playing and you are feeling great! Then you suddenly realize you have NO IDEA where you are going. Is it across the city, across the state or across the country?
You would never do that -- well, some of you adventurous types might. But most of us would want to do some actual planning before we started. And your book project isn't any different. How can you start writing if you don't have a clear idea of what you want to say, how you want to say it, and who you are speaking to? These are essential questions to answer before you ever set pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard in our modern age).
Define Your Purpose
At the most basic level, want do you want to say? You should be able to state your premise in a sentence:
- Getting Things Done: Create system for getting all of your tasks out of your head and into a trusted system that you can reference and modify quickly and easily.
- Start With Why: People don't buy what you sell, they buy why you do it.
- Good to Great: How can any company -- even those with mediocre performance -- create success?
Obviously, there's a lot more to it than that. But you need to be able to boil it down to the essentials. Not only will this be the beginnings of your framework, but it will help you quickly and easily talk about your book as you begin the process of selling it.
A word after a word after a word is power.
Identify Your Audience
Who are you writing this book for? Remember, it's not for you. You know this stuff already; you're trying to put it in a book for someone else to read. How can you write for someone else if you don't know who that someone is?
If you already have an established audience -- you already sell a product or service -- you probably have a good idea of your ideal customer.
If you're starting with your book, get a laser-like focus in determining who you are writing for. How old are they? College graduate? Blue collar or white collar? City slicker or suburban mom? Age? Gender? The more specific you are, the easier it will be to write just for that one person and answer the questions they would have about your topic.
Create A Framework For Your Ideas
The shape and form of the framework doesn't matter nearly as much as that you actually have a framework. There are any number of choices. You could create a simple outline structure of main point, supporting point, etc. You could pose a series of questions and then answer them, providing explanations and examples along the way. Or you could interview someone, using the question/answer format. You could present a problem and then show how you have solved it. You can list and explain the steps in a sequence.
Whatever format you choose for your framework, it will help you enormously before you ever start writing. It forces you to plot your ideas into a structure that your ideal reader will be drawn to.
Break It Down Into Manageable Pieces
The idea of writing a whole book can be overwhelming. If you've never done it, it can certainly seem very daunting. So breaking it down -- by using your framework -- can make it much more manageable.
Say you want to write a book about teaching a foreign language. Just think about what you have to cover: vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar rules, accents, inflections, etc. It's an exhausting list. But if you consider each small topic, once you string them together, you've got a whole book!
The point is to think in smaller chunks. This also gives you some variety and can allow you to skip around a bit and write what is most driving you on any given day. Your book doesn't have to be written in order.
It's none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.
It's Never Too Late To Add Structure
Ideally, you'd have your structure in place before you get started. But it's never too late to put a framework around what you are doing. You can still create the framework you need and figure out where the content you've already written will fit. Keep in mind that some of it might not fit. Remove that material from your book, but keep it handy in case it sparks ideas in the future.
What other book writing tips do you have? Please share them in the comments!