How to Start Writing a Book
You’ve got the experience, expertise and vision to start writing your book, but how? What do you need to know?
The hardest thing is the beginning of a book. For most writers, it took them a while to find their flow. More so, the fear of failure can paralyze a lot from getting to “the end.”
But the good news is that there’s a fail-proof process you can follow to make your book writing fun, productive and fruitful.
If you’re ready to start your creative journey to becoming an author, here’s a step-by-step guide
1. Determine your book idea
First thing to do when writing a book is determining what’s your single best book idea.
You need to be wary of being all things to all people.
A howl load of themes in a book can confuse your readers. We can kill lots of birds with one stone: e.g. family, marital and work problems in one hit, but that’s a pretty big call.
Here’s a reader’s point of view: I don’t doubt that whatever you teach, speak about, work on or with has a flown on effect by addressing the heart of one very keen simple problem. It will not only improve my work, but my family life and my community, but I am not seeking that out. I am seeking out help with ONE very specific problem.
Remember this quote by Seth Godin,
“To be successful it’s about targeting the smallest possible audience and enacting change in that one person.”
If you’re still tossing around multiple topics, The Book Screening Canvas is a good activity to validate your ideas.
2. Create an outline
In order for your readers to get and digest your ideas, they have to understand it in a logical format, thus making an outline and having structure is important.
See it like this: Your house is your book. The rooms in it are your chapters.
As the owner of the house, it’s your task to invite your visitor (your reader) in. Explain the direction we’re going to head together and why. Let’s get a cup of tea to the kitchen, then I’ll show you to your bedroom - then the guests room - your office and what we will create here - and we’ll finish in the lounge room together so we can have a more in depth chat.
As the writer, it is your task to create a journey for them that they can follow, feel comfortable in, and want to come back to.
3. Commit to the writing process
Writing is all about commitment.
Turning up, doing the work, and trusting the inch by inch process and progress you are making (which is often can’t be seen until much later that is success).
We tend to measure the writing by the writing (the word count etc.). It's not always about the number of words. It's about the progress and how you show up
“You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by successes and failures.” - Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
4. Find the right editor
One of the key steps in book writing is knowing when to hire an editor.
So what do you look for in someone who is going to shape your work?
There are four things you should consider when assessing and finding the right editor:
- How do they work? - Their working style, process and system
- How will you interact? - Online or face to face
- What’s their expertise? - Their strengths and weaknesses
- What is their personality like? - Your overall impression
- How do they charge? - Payment and project management
- WHo else has used them? - Recommendations
Editors tread a very fine line between respecting the author’s work and adding their own touch to bring it to life. Like a trapeze artist. Too much of their voice and where they think it should go and you’ll fall off the rope. Moreover, too little intervention and the author never quite makes it across the line.
Learn more about finding the right book editor HERE
5. Rewrite, rewrite and rewrite
“Good writing is rewriting” - Truman Capote
Work through a shitty first draft as quickly as you can, then it’s a process of refining (over and over again). Remember always that it’s easier to work with words when they are on the page.
Editing your own work and rewriting requires a different mindset than when you are writing. You need 1) a beginner’s mindset 2) to be objective 3) must NOT be attached to your words or what is there.
Get out of your writer’s head and look at it through your reader’s perspective.
6. Remember your BIG SO WHAT
There is one thing I have seen very common with every writer. Editing is hard. Writing feels slow going. They’re not sure if what you’re doing is any good. They’re only just starting and the top of the mountain seems like a frigging long way off.
But there is one thing you have to keep coming back to time and time again on the book writing journey. It is why you started writing in the first place.
In Simon Dowling’s book Work With Me, he talks about buy-in and conviction. To convict or convert other people to love your idea and writing, you need to exhibit the same conviction. This is because if you do not care about what you’re doing and WHY would anybody else?
One the love goes, the motivation dies, and people can sense that in your writing. So when the enthusiasm dips and fades and everything feels like a chore, remember your BIG SO WHAT.