So you want to write a book.
First, do you believe writing is hard?
What if I told you writing is easy?
It’s just the process of turning that writing into a book that is damn hard work.
In this post, I’m not talking about the “short ebook, written in a weekend”. I’m talking about a quality piece of literature, fiction or nonfiction.
In order to create a quality book, you will do research, and you will rewrite parts of your text, and by the sixth or seventh rewrite, it does become a struggle to keep the enthusiasm going.
A friend of mine, writing his first novel, once said to me that he was so sick and tired of reading his manuscript he felt like throwing it in the bin.
What do you need to write a book?
Yes, you need the “how-to” things to write a book (e.g. structure, dialog, theme, etc.), but more importantly, you need…
“Achievement is what happens when you take your acquired skills and use them.” – Angela Duckworth, GRIT
What is GRIT?
“There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.” – Napoleon Hill
Without a burning desire to write a book will make doing so a painful uphill battle.
What is a burning desire?
This is the deep-rooted reason for wanting to write a book: it is the thing that keeps you awake at night, the thing that gets you up at 4 am, or makes you go to bed at the wee hours of the morning. This is the foundation of GRIT.
How to develop GRIT
Know your “Why?”
Does that sound simple?
Not so fast, my dear Watson.
“Even though I cannot influence your thinking and reasons for wanting to write and self-publish a book, I can say that if you have a superficial reason, it will be an uphill battle to get it done and you will almost certainly enjoy trivial success. Writing and self-publishing take a lot of determination, perseverance, and patience. When your reason is backed by strong emotion, you have a powerful driving force.” – Excerpt from my book, Blank Page to Finished Book
Knowing your “Why?” is essentially your burning desire.
If you don’t have a genuine, deep, conviction to write a book, hang up your keyboard now. Writing a book is the long haul, and takes determination, persistence, and perseverance.
“Write a book in a weekend”
“Write a book in a week”
Those and other rubbish claims that are propagated by tricksters are not real. Here are the cliff notes on what these snake oil salesmen promote…
- Write a short ebook (this is often in the 10,000 to 15,000-word range).
- Use a timer and write fast. Duuuuuuh.
- Publish your book to Kindle.
Do you want to write rubbish? Cheat your readers?
Even if you don’t want to build a reputation as a professional author writing sub-standard “books” will influence your reputation. Receiving negative reviews, one after the other is not a pleasant experience.
Consider authors like JK Rowling, Stephen King, Jack Canfield, Dr. Joe Vitale, and the list can go on and on. Do you really think that these authors write their books in a weekend?
If your reason for wanting to write a book is genuine and not superficial, you will find the determination to do it.
A high productivity level
Try this exercise. Over a period of only 5 days (consecutive days work best), grab a piece of paper and note the times you spend on things in your day (this is easy nowadays, using your cell phone you can note the time easily). Record the start time, what you do, and then the end time, e.g. 5:00 Get up, 6:00 Leave for office, 7:15 Get to office. At the end of each day total the times spent – now put this data into a spreadsheet and create a pie chart. This is what mine looks like…
Let us consider the word counts of some book genres:
- Mainstream Romance: 70,000–100,000 words
- Science Fiction/Fantasy: 90,000–120,000 (and sometimes 150,000) words
- Young Adult: 50,000–80,000
- Standard Nonfiction (Business, Political Science, Psychology, History, etc.): 70,000–80,000 words
- Memoir: 80,000–100,000 words
- How-to/Self-Help: 40,000–50,000 words
Now, let’s look at the logic and the math…
For example, let’s go with a word count of 50,000 words…
In a typical day, say that you have 2 hours of free time available (it could be less or more, but for illustration purposes, we’ll go with 2 hours).
Now, let’s say that you can comfortably write 500 words per hour.
Therefore, in your 2 hours of free time, you can write 1,000 words.
50,000 divided by 1,000 = 50 hours.
That means you are going to need 25 days (approximately 1 month) to write your manuscript. Keep in mind this will be your FIRST draft. And you will need to maintain your 500 words per hour, every day.
Am I being a gloomy Gus?
No, this is the reality of writing a book.
Consider NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). If you are not familiar with this event, it is where writers take up the challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. Again, using math this relates to writing 1,666 words every day, for 30 days. And, it is important to remember that this is the FIRST DRAFT of the manuscript: it is not the final, edited manuscript.
In her book GRIT, Angela Duckworth offers us this, “With daily effort, Irving became one of the most masterful and prolific writers in history. With effort, he became a master, and with effort, his mastery produced stories that have touched millions of people, including me.”
The good news is that it is possible to write your book.
Although there are no short-cuts or tricks (every single book ever was written was done so one word at a time), there are productivity hacks you can use to improve your writing output.
1. Using an outline
“The outline is 95 percent of the book. Then I sit down and write, and that’s the easy part.” – Jeffery Deaver
The writing fraternity is made up of pantsers (write by the seat of your pants) and outliners. If you are a pantser, but want to improve your writing productivity, I will suggest giving outlining a try.
If you write nonfiction, an outline is essential.
Using an outline helps with:
- Overcoming writer’s block
- Eliminating writer’s procrastination
- Beating the blank page fear
2. Sticking to a writing schedule
Creating a writing schedule can help with your writing productivity by setting up a system that can enable you to write regularly.
A few words of caution: don’t let your writing schedule create fear of not being able to write prolifically. You should create a schedule that fits your lifestyle and circumstances.
For example, if you can write 3 times a week, for 30 minutes at a time, then that is what you should schedule. Ideally, you should aim to write every day, even if it is only for 15 minutes.
The benefit of adhering to a schedule brings us to the next point…
3. The power of consistency
This is one of the most powerful tools available if you want to improve your writing output.
In his book The Power of Consistency, Weldon Long reminds us that, “success is not a knowledge problem, but rather a consistency problem.”
Even if you can only write 300 words, but do it EVERY day, you will discover that your progress grows exponentially. Following a hit-n-miss method of writing 2 days, then skipping 7 days, then writing for 3 days, making progress will be hard.
“And that’s the key: consistent action,” says Weldon Long in The Power of Consistency, “It’s not the scope, size, or drama of the action you take to achieve your dreams. Making a single grand gesture one time (usually) will not do you much good. Doing lots of little, helpful things regularly is what’s going to make the difference.”
Consistency leads to forming a habit, and when you are in the habit of writing every day, you may just amaze yourself with what you can achieve.
4. Outsource book formatting (or do it yourself)
If you are going to self-publish your book, you need to format your book manuscript, and this takes time or money.
There are two options:
- You can outsource the formatting of your book to a book designer, or
- You can go the DIY route and do it yourself.
Either way, you will need time. If you outsource the formatting of your book, you will need to review and check the file.
In addition, you also need a book cover, and similar to your interior book file, you will need to do this yourself, or outsource it. If you don’t have graphic design skills I would recommend outsourcing the design of your book cover.
5. Get a head start on marketing and promotion
And what about marketing & promotion?
Keep in mind that your book promotion should not start only when your book is available for sale.
As marketing master Seth Godin says, “The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out.”
If marketing and promotion is not your thing, using the services offered by Storiad can be very useful.
Is there a short-cut to writing a book? No.
Are there productivity hacks? Yes.
Find your “Why?” – the reason you want to write a book – and the journey could be a lot easier.
Try the productivity hacks in this post, and remember what Napoleon Hill said, “Action is the real measure of success.”
We wish you well on your writing journey.