“I Want to Write a Book!”

How long have you been saying that you want to write a book? The truth is that you don’t want to write a book, you want to have written one! But the only way to get to the point where you are the author of a book is to write it (or hire a ghostwriter, but that is another topic!).

Writing a book can be an intimidating task. However, you can break it down into smaller, manageable tasks and have it done in no time.

If you are planning to be published by a traditional publisher, you may need to submit a proposal before you start writing the book. This is especially true for non-fiction. The publishing house will make suggestions about what should be included in your book, and they will give you a deadline. Deadlines can be very good motivators for completing your manuscript, especially if you have already spent the advance!

Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, whether you have a publishing contract, are writing on spec or plan to self-publish, this plan can help you write your book.

Write the back cover copy. If your book is published by a traditional publisher, they will probably write the back cover copy. However, the exercise of writing this copy will get you focused on exactly what your book is about. The back cover captures the essence of your book in a few paragraphs.

Create an outline. There are people who simply sit down at the computer, start writing, and end up with a book. Most writers find it easier to write, and go down fewer dead ends, when they have an outline to follow. Your outline can be broad or very specific, but you need one.

Break the writing into manageable chunks. Sitting down to write a book is a big task. Instead, sit down to write a page or two. If your finished book length will be 60,000 words, and you write two pages a day, you will finish the book in two months. Even if you miss a few days, or can’t hit 1000 words a day, you can still have a finished manuscript in three to six months. If that seems too long, remind yourself how long you have been doing nothing but talking about writing a book.

Do the easy part first. Most fiction writers start at the beginning and write the story in order. You may find it easier to start with a scene that you find easiest or more interesting. Once you have written that scene, you can go back to the beginning, write the next scene, or write a scene from somewhere else in the book. Whatever works for you. It is even easier for non-fiction writers. Start with the shortest chapter, or the chapter you know the most about or otherwise feel most comfortable writing.

Don’t get distracted by the shinies. After you have been writing for a while, the glamour starts to wear thin. Suddenly, you have an idea for another book, and you rush off to get it started. Stop! If you have another great idea, write it down then get back to writing the book you have started. Often, a case of the shinies is just a distraction to keep you from finishing what you started.

Don’t edit. Wait until you have finished a first draft before you start to edit.

Know when to stop. At some point, the first draft will be finished. Recognize when that happens. Do not keep writing forever. Your book should not be 300,000 words. Aim for a length of 50,000 to 150,000 words, recognizing that some of your brilliant prose will not survive the editing process.

Now that you have completed a first draft, do a preliminary edit. Then bring in a pro to go over your manuscript and find the things that you missed. Once your manuscript has been polished, it is time to send it off for publication.

Cathy Stucker is the owner of SellingBooks. She has written and published several books, including The Mystery Shopper’s Manual.