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The idea of writing a book may seem overwhelming. After all, if you’re like most people, you’ve been conditioned to believe that you need to be a special kind of person to write a book. This belief is a trap. Anyone can write a book, and writing a book can be a wonderful, fulfilling experience. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to write a great book, or even a good book. You only need to write a book that’s good enough to share with other people. You’ll get better with practice, and even if you never become a great writer, you’ll be better for having tried.
- 1 Know what motivates you to write
- 2 Set realistic writing goals
- 3 Be disciplined
- 4 Apply the muscle
- 5 Get ready for a world of criticism
- 6 There are risks of committing
- 7 It’s a process, embrace every step
- 8 Benefit from the help of others
- 9 Writing is a craft that gets better with time
- 10 Join the Commaful Storytelling Community
Know what motivates you to write
Usually, someone who is agonizing over whether they should write a book wants to know what will make them more successful as an author. Before they submit their chapters to a real editor, though, they need to figure out what they want from writing a book. Are you writing to promote a business or to become a voice in your niche? Are you writing because you believe this book is what the world needs, or because you wanted to prove something to someone? No matter why you’re writing a book, it’s worth taking some time to really understand why you’re doing this.
This step is critical regardless of your reason for writing a book, as it can make the difference between success and failure. Think about all the recent successful books you’ve read. Picture the image on the front cover. Put your finger on the first page and open the book somewhere in the middle. Read the first few words you see. You might not be an adoring fan of that book, but if someone were to hand you a free copy tomorrow, would you say no? Sure, this exercise works with trashy romance novels and Harry Potter, but if you’re writing for a particular niche, part of literary analysis is honing in on what makes a book shareable. Write your inspiration and motivation down so you can refer to it later, and don’t be afraid to revisit it multiple times.
Set realistic writing goals
The common misconception of writing as a skill is that anyone can learn to do it. Therefore, many people who set out to write a book end up frustrated and disappointed with their first attempt at writing. Additionally, without concrete goals, it is difficult to gauge your progress and to find motivation to complete your book. By clearly defining your goals, you can motivate yourself to achieve them. Start by writing down your manageable, upcoming goals. How will you spend your days? What skills will you work on? What books or workshops will you read? Write down your retirement plan or goal of leaving a legacy to your children or grandchildren. What kind of future do you see for your writing and your career? Next, create your big-picture goals. This will help you stay motivated and focused to finish your book. What kind of help or support do you need? Once you have these defined, break down and set deadlines to conquer your long-term goals.
If you’ve never written anything before, you realize you need to learn how to become a better writer. While it isn’t a simple process, you need to deconstruct it to get the work done. And the first thing you need to realize is that writing is a job. It’s something you’re going to do every day if you’re serious about learning how to be a writer, and it isn’t always going to be fun. In fact, most of it will be downright painful — but that just makes the good part all the more worthwhile.
It’s important to set aside a specific number of hours to work, and then to stick to that schedule. Look at it as a regular job — if you don’t show up every day, you aren’t going to get any work done, and if you squeeze in non-writing related activities, you aren’t going to want to write. If you need to make a schedule, put on your calendar a specific time to start working on writing each day, and stick to it. It’s too easy to slip back into your old habits, so you need to make sure that you’re working on your writing project every day. Clear your schedule so that you have no distractions, and you won’t feel at risk of abandoning your writing project if you do. It’s a better idea to keep setting a schedule and canceling it than it is to not follow the schedule at all.
Apply the muscle
Many times, you’ve read something like “you should write 1000 words a day, every day, if you want to become a better writer.” It’s easy to misunderstand such advice as “if you want to become a better writer, you need to write a lot”—which misses the whole point.
Mastering any skill takes careful practice, and writing is no different. Just like you need to go to the gym to make your body stronger, you need to write to make your mind better. You don’t have to do 1000 words a day, but you should build that muscle and gain stamina. You’re almost certainly not going to be writing twenty or thirty thousand words a week, scrambling to meet a deadline. A better approach would be to write one thousand words a day, every other day, or every third. This lets your mind build endurance, for when you need it.
The term “writing muscle” is pretty popular because it applies to more than just writing. If you’re doing any kind of serious analytical work, you need to be building up the cognitive arm strength to engage with the task. It’s easy to write a book — it’s never taken me more than six months — but it takes a pretty serious investment of time and energy, like a cross-country runner training for a marathon. Once you’ve built the muscle, though, you have the stamina to write smart, interesting prose at a level well beyond what you were doing beforehand. Remember, writing a book is hard. It works, and when it does, your payoff is as strong as any serious investment you can make in yourself.
Get ready for a world of criticism
Once you’ve worked through your ideas and decided to write a book, the next step is the realization that a lot of people have probably already held your same ideas — and there’s nothing new under the sun. And they have written about them too, in some form or another. This means that in order to share your ideas widely, you’ll have to convince others that your spin on their ideas is worth hearing.
The process of getting ready to write a book requires a lot of the same skills required for public speaking — everything from preparing a talk that covers the basics of your concept to practicing it often until you can give the talk without notes. When you give the talk to other people who’ll be expecting to learn from it, you’ll start to notice that you know less about your topic than you originally thought, and you’ll have to make revision after revision in order to trim every ounce that’s unneeded from your presentation.
There are risks of committing
Writing a book is a large task, and it’s not a task for everyone. If you’ve ever tried to start a project and quit without even finishing it, or if you have huge problems finishing what you start, writing a book may not be for you, at least not yet. You’ll also need to make sure you actually like writing — if you’re only interested because you think publishing a book will be personally rewarding, or a good way to build a business, know that you’re in it for the long haul. Getting published is hard work, and even getting an agent or publisher takes a lot of energy — particularly several rounds of revisions.
Writing a book is also very risky — you’re putting into a public form something you’re proud of, or at least, think you are. On the other hand, you’ll be putting into an open form something you might later think is terrible. Good writing is often the result of grueling self-critique. Write something you wouldn’t mind being criticized for. Your writing skills won’t improve unless you put yourself out there — but you need to be open and prepared for criticism. This also means you might not make friends with everyone you meet on both sides of publishing. Publishing inside information, negative or obviously slanted reviews, and generally being unhelpful even if you don’t mean to be can all make the publishing world a very unfriendly place.
It’s a process, embrace every step
Beginning can be the hardest part. Go somewhere you have the space and time to really think – nothing gets done at home or at a coffee shop In the hum of everyday life, so find somewhere else with peace to light your creative spark. Whether it’s listening to music, spending time in nature, or curling up with a bundle of blank papers and your favorite book, find what may set your mind free. Action creates motivation through momentum – let yourself do it. Take the day off work. Lock yourself in your room and don’t come out until you have written at least 5 pages. Create a system of encouragement – give yourself something you can reward yourself with immediately after completing your first page. Keep a jar of your favorite candy on your table and when you come to the end of each day you can eat it while reveling in your writing.
Remember that attempts at writing count. They may not necessarily be good writing, but it still counts toward the story of you becoming a writer. Don’t listen to any voice that tries to tell you otherwise. The road to any success is full of obstacles and struggles. Obstacles and struggles are meant to be overcome, not used as an excuse to quit. You’re approximately as prepared as you believe yourself to be. You are not Clint Eastwood when you’ve just started writing a book but that’s not to say you are yet Gene Wilder when you do. You’re somewhere in between There are soulful, fantastical authors who’ve written endless volumes of exquisite work at the embryonic stage of their career. And there are multi-million-dollar authors who’ve burned out in a few short pubescent years. Think over these wildly contrasting life stories and decide what you want from your own.
Benefit from the help of others
On the “should you write a book?” at the end of the equation, you want to have something to say. You don’t need to be an expert or have an M.A. in English, you don’t have to be totally orthodox in your writing style, or be rich, or have been through a terrible trauma – but you should have something to say about a subject. Once you’ve decided that writing a book is not just a pipe dream, and you do have something to say and the courage to say it, then you want to focus on how you say what you want to say. Slightly self-dramatizing? Take it from me – writers who progress in the world make use of editing services and the work and expertise of others. You wouldn’t expect to do your own plumbing or repair your car – why should you expect to fix every comma, and rewrite every badly phrased sentence or paragraph of your book? I’d advise to leave the big picture alone before you’ve had an expert look at portions of it. You want to tell the best story that you can – avoid the ways that a novice writer sounds like one. Keep your ego in check, and you’ll make more of a clap-worthy success of your career than if you insist alone on doing it all.
Writing is a craft that gets better with time
The first step of writing a book is to make sure you’re here for all the right reasons. Writing a book is a big project, and it’s easy to be blinded by elusive long-term goals like fame and fortune. Instead of getting caught up in visions of grandeur, take a more realistic approach to your goals, and focus on things that are within your control. Instead of setting your sights on a major publishing contract, aim for the far more attainable goal of writing a book that your readers will actually want to read. Writing is not a one-time stab at glory, but a career of humble persistence, and success comes from wanting to be great, not expecting it. Same with success as an editor.
Each book is a project, and writing a book is a series of small steps towards that particular goal. Much like in the long-run, you won’t become a better writer overnight, or in a week– your writing style evolves almost imperceptibly, and only over time. Enjoy the process, and fight fiercely against perfectionism. If each page is a challenge that feels like climbing a mountain, the truth is that writing is easy and nothing is difficult. But the next page is never the same as the last, so you need to love the page you are on, and find the joy in doing things that have never been done before.
The most important thing to take from all this is that you don’t have to wait to be good to start writing. Think about everything you’ll be doing whenever you go about living your life. You make hundreds of decisions, solve problems, create new ideas, engage your senses and your imagination, manage your time — all without being a prodigy. So why do we expect writing to be any different? You don’t need an investment to create your own book — only a makeshift pen that you can use right away. Even if you’re not an expert, you can ask your friends for their advice. Besides practice, such real-world feedback will help you figure out what to improve. Anybody can write a book, and write five pages a week, for a month, and then finish the book. The real key is to forget your fears and work on the book regularly. Writing is a muscle that anybody can build through consistent work.
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