So you want to write a book. I will not be the one to take the idea out of your head. Becoming a writer can be one of the best decisions you will make in your life. Mind you, don’t expect it to be easy.
Writing a book is not easy. In fact, it is much easier to quit than to finish. During the process you will be tempted again and again to throw in the towel, you will run out of ideas, your own style will bore you, you will doubt your abilities, you will be distracted and you will be overwhelmed by the enormous amount of work.
But what if you knew?
- Where to begin.
- How each step of writing works?
- How to overcome fear and frustration.
- And how to move on when everything is over you.
Well, it would be much easier and faster for you to write your book. Today, you have excellent writing tools at your disposal to help you with planning and writing.
In the end, if you have a map it is much easier. Is there a formula for writing a book? There are many, Michael Moorcock, author of the Elric de Melniboné books, had a formula that allowed him to write a book in three days. It all depends on finding a method that works for you and following it.
I have written books myself in less than a week. I have developed my own method for writing non-fiction books in that time, for example my Handbook Keywords for Writers. In part, I developed these techniques because my job required it (I have written technical manuals) and in part, I did it because I really enjoy writing non-fiction books.
In this article I will not explain how to write a book in three days (I will do that another day, if you want). In this article I’m going to talk about how to start and finish your project. About the steps and obstacles you will encounter and how to overcome them.
Part One: Before You Start Writing
Spend time preparing your book. Trust me, it’s one of the best things you can do for your writing. Do not go crazy, I have done it and the results are not usually good.
You wouldn’t set out to cut down a forest with a blunt ax. The safest thing is that you prepare a chainsaw, sharpen it, grease it, have fuel to spare, and gather a crew of professional loggers.
The same is true of writing. You have to be prepared.
Find your space
You need your own space to write. I’m not one of those who thinks you need a “sanctuary,” but you do need to have a place where you can work without distractions.
I started writing on the sofa at home. With an old laptop. I was unemployed, I had a lot of time and, since I was bored, I started writing. Those have been the days that I have written the most in my life, because when I sat on the sofa my hand would go by itself to the laptop and start writing.
The sofa is not the best place to write. Writers spend a lot of time sitting and writing, so posture is essential. Find a quiet, comfortable place and, if possible, where you can lock yourself up.
Despite all this, a writer must be able to write anywhere. There are those who do it in cafes, libraries, restaurants … I have even written in the hospital waiting room (on my phone). Also in the office, whenever I had a space or free time.
Today we have many free and paid tools for writers. You also have the possibility to write by hand, with pencil and paper.
Every writer has their favorite shows. Microsoft Word and Google Docs are two of the best options. Partly because they are applications that we use daily and that do not require an investment of time to learn how to use them.
For the most purists there is Scrivener, an application for novelists that offers great options. It is ideal to organize information, to manage chapters, characters and offers tools to create an outline. Its biggest problem is its learning curve, which can be very steep.
If you want more tools for writers, here is my article on tools for writers that will surely be of great use to you.
Part Two: The Book by Parts
Writing a book is a big task. Many writers divide the work into parts, you know what they say: the best way to eat an elephant is bite by bite. If you perceive your book as a single 400-page block, your brain will perceive it as a monstrous task.
You have to understand a book for what it is: a manuscript made up of words, paragraphs and pages. As you type words, paragraphs will appear and with each paragraph more pages will be added to the project.
You can start by reducing the idea of your book to a premise: a single phrase that describes your book. The more specific and descriptive it is, the easier it will be for you to focus on it as you write it.
But how do you summarize your book in one sentence? That is the question.
Distilling the big idea
Good whiskey is distilled. In other words, of a whole barrel of “soup” only a small part is converted into whiskey. The best whiskeys, such as Lagavulin or Talisker, are distilled up to twice. The distillation process cleanses all impurities and filters only the pure liquid.
But before distilling, you need to create the “soup.” The “soup” in this case is your great idea. For you to distill it, it has to be a good idea, that you are passionate about, that it is the first thing you think about every morning, that pushes you to the keyboard daily and keeps you sitting in the chair. It has to be exciting for you, but it must also be exciting for everyone who listens to it.
A bad idea – or one that isn’t good enough – can be the culprit for abandonment. Many of the stories that we leave in half, are based on a bad premise. Maybe it was a great idea for a story, but it didn’t go beyond that.
There are so many books on the shelves, you can’t afford to gamble. The premise of your book, the phrase that you would put on the strip of it, should be good enough for your reader to salivate.
How do you know that an idea is good enough? It is simpler than it seems, there is no formula. Simply, the best ideas are the ones that stick in your head and stay there for years, growing in silence. Until you write them.
Write an outline for your book
Once you have a clear idea and you know that it is a good one, the time has come to make an outline.
Rockets and ships that reach the moon are not just built. There is a whole process behind it. Someone has an idea and a group of engineers does a complete study, with complicated calculations and a lot of drawings.
You don’t have to do a lot of calculations, you don’t even have to do a complete rundown — if you’re a compass writer, the rundown can be a heavy slab. You just have to make an outline, so you don’t get lost during the writing process by ghost writing company.
The rundown should be a tool that helps you move forward. If it makes you waste time or you get stuck in your writing, you are not doing it right.
I am one of those who, as Stephen King says, I sit down and just throw characters and put them in difficult situations to see what happens. I am a compass writer, I get carried away almost always, and however, I don’t usually start from scratch. I always have a slight outline with the characters and the direction of the novel.
If you are a map writer, you already know that the rundown is your best travel companion. Create character cards and decompose your novel chapter by chapter or better, scene by scene.
Writers tend to lose interest in what we write in the middle. At this point, the object stops glowing. I call it “the pájara”, like the one that cyclists and marathon runners suffer. At this point, an outline or outline can go a long way, guiding you through those heavy pages and leading you to the end.
I already told you that I am a compass writer. However, I work with schematics. Every time I have an idea (one that stays in my head for more than two days), I write it down. I do it by hand, because for me it is one of the best ways to internalize an idea. I write down a (tentative) title and then I start by scoring the main scenes (this is how I visualize a novel, I see scenes and characters in my head) by points.
From here, I work with the schematic. Sometimes I leave it as it is, other times I add scenes, characters, ideas or even phrases. For me, the most important thing is that it be a short outline, one or two pages long. Something I can work with without overwhelming myself – which I am VERY prone to.
If you are one of those methodical people, who need to go from point A to B through all the intermediates, I recommend the article that Ana Bolox wrote on my blog about the Snowflake Method.
How much time do you spend writing? If you have a two or three word answer, cool, you can move on. If you have a long answer with some excuse that contains a “when” out there, keep reading this point.
I have written in fits and starts all my life. He wrote WHEN he had time. WHEN I was inspired. WHEN I quit my job. I always wrote WHEN, which meant that most days I didn’t sit down to write. I had plenty of excuses to avoid feeling guilty:
- I am not motivated.
- What I do is going nowhere.
- I have a lot of work.
- I work writing and my creativity runs out.
- I only write when I am inspired.
- I am blocked.
Then Ana González Duque pulled out her legendary seven-tailed whip and forced me to set a writing schedule. He made me create a rock job – which I tied around my neck at first – and forced myself to do it every day. I started small: half an hour a day.
I’m not going to fool you, the first days are hard. Your brain is scrambling. He does not like obligations and, although he is the same sucker who has put the idea in front of your eyes, now that he has to work, he struggles to do other things. Luckily, after a few days you will start to relax. The rock task will become a routine and you will do it without much resistance.
You can write half an hour every day. One hour a day. Or write three hours each day from Friday to Sunday. Does not matter. Although if you want to write, the minimum you will have to dedicate is 6 hours a week.
If you are wondering how to find time to write, I have bad news for you: you can’t find time to write, you have to create it yourself. If you want to write, you will have to sacrifice something.