How and Why to Write a Book

I just finished a book, Failure: The Secret to Success. When people hear about this, they offer congratulations and ask me a couple of stock questions:

  • Where did you get the idea?
  • How long did it take to write?
  • What made you want to write a book?

I could answer any of these questions for you, but I’ll tell you the truth is they are all asking really the same question: How do you write a book? For many people, the notion of putting together a single blog post sounds like hard work. A full-length book seems practically impossible. And although this might be a blog devoted to marketing technology, the old-school tech of ink on paper is still great marketing. Just ask the authors of Corporate Blogging for Dummies.

Here’s how you do it.

Step 1: Decide Why

The first and most important question about writing a book is answering the question “Why do I want to write a book?” It might be pure vanity. It might be because the book you want to read doesn’t exist (or at least you haven’t found it.) It might be to help establish yourself as a thought leader in your niche. Or, it might be just because you want to do something difficult and uncommon.

Whatever your reason, you must keep the “why” front and center throughout the entire process of creating your book. If you lose sight of the purpose of your book, you’ll stop working on it. Or worse, your book will wander into something else.

(Note: It’s okay to discover your purpose as you go and change the reason “why”, but do so consciously! After all, if you change the reason for writing without realizing it, your readers are going to be forced to change halfway through the book! That’s probably not what anybody wants.)

Step 2: Design a Writing Plan

Different genres of books require different steps in the writing process. For my book, the process consisted of developing a premise, producing an outline, researching stories and finally writing and editing. If you’re telling a memoir, you might have a different plan. Or if you’re working with a publisher as part of a series (like Doug and Chantelle’s book on corporate blogging for “Dummies“), they might give you some of this structure.

A crucial part of your writing plan is to reserve time to work on your book. Go to your calendar and block out “writing time.” A good estimate is 150 words per hour. So if you think you might write a 30,000 word book, that’s about 200 hours. Go to your calendar and block out 200 hours for “book writing.” If you stick to your schedule, you’ll make a lot more progress than you might think.

Step 3: Pick Your Tools

There’s a lot of debate on the best way to write, but I’ll tell you this: the more you can focus, the more you can write. I’m a fan of Google Docs over a traditional word processor, because it frees you from worrying about formatting and can be accessed from anywhere. You and your editor can even log on at the same time!

You can go zen with software such as Ommwriter or just an old fashioned Moleskine notebook. No matter what you choose, do so with intention.

Step 4: Stick to Your Plan

This doesn’t sound like much of a step, but it’s where most would-be book writers have trouble. You get busy with other projects, and life interferes with your book. If all the abandoned books in the world were finished, we’d probably have a thousand times more books on the shelves. Keep focused! Remember your “why.” Honor your writing plan.

A great way to keep yourself motivated is to tell people you trust that you are writing a book. Ask them to ask you about it! This will help you stay on track.

Step 5: Publish and Promote

For me, the hardest part of writing a book is selling it. Marketing and promoting is not my forté. I have to make myself reach out to ask people to buy a copy. (Which I suppose, I’m doing now. Take a look!)

But today, you can leverage technology to market an old-fashioned paper book. Set up a book blog. Promote the book on Twitter and with a Facebook Page. Request interviews with people who run blogs, internet radio programs or other media sources. Reach out and make your work a success!

Robby Slaughter has had a lifelong passion for information technology, spanning some twenty years of education, teaching, full-time employment and consulting. Robby is the Principal of Slaughter Development, a workflow and productivity consulting firm based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License by DK New Media, LLC.