Just write something! 25 quick-win ways to get your book started.
By Sue Richardson, Beverley Glick, Paul East, Debbie Nichol
What’s stopping you getting your writing project underway? You know you want to. Perhaps you know you need to. But taking those first steps can feel a bit daunting, can’t it?
So, we’ve put together some fast and focused expert tips that we hope will help you think, plan, reflect, get organised and feel a bit more inspired and confident about finally putting put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard if you prefer).
The number one tip from everyone of our experts was to just start! Don’t overthink your writing. In the early stages it doesn’t really matter what you write; just getting some of your ideas out of your head and onto a page can prove hugely empowering and motivating.
Thinking About your Audience
- Think about your target reader - what do they need? Imagine how you might be able to improve their life. This can inspire you, spark ideas you haven't already considered and bring more purpose to your project. Understanding your readers is vital so thinking about this early will really pay off.
- Always write with your audience in mind. What do they care about? What do you want them to care about? What can you share with them that they wouldn’t be able to read anywhere else? How will your words make their world a little bit better?
- Think about your A and your B, with A being what your target readers currently understand about your topic and B being what you'd like them to understand by the end of the book. Then start figuring out how you can get them from A to B.
- Create a rough outline or framework for your book before you start writing - putting the foundation stones in before trying to build the walls will give you more direction and a much stronger structure.
- Think about your writing environment - if you can, create a dedicated space and perhaps decorate it with meaningful objects or empowering quotes that will inspire you and keep you going as you write the book.
Nurturing your Ideas
- You don't have to start at the beginning. If you feel inspired by a particular idea, write about that and figure out where it fits in the book later. This will help you avoid 'blank page syndrome' or writer's block
- Carry a notebook and pen (or use the notes or the voice app on your phone). Inspiration and ideas can hit at any time, so it pays to be ready to record them instead of leaving it all to your memory. Then, when you’re back at your desk you’ll have a ready stash of ideas and angles to write about.
- Before you start writing, do some reading. Research and read other books and papers on your subject, take notes as you go and watch your ideas and inspiration build.
Feeling Ready for Writing
- Create small, achievable goals you know you can meet. If you overwhelm yourself you'll soon lose motivation and want to give up. Aim to write just a few hundred words to start with and build your daily word count in line with your confidence.
- Mark out time in your diary for one-to-one appointments with your writing. Treat the slots as if they belonged to your best client and turn up at your best. Use the time to think, write or research, as long as it’s focused on your book.
- Gather your reference material as you do your research rather than leave it all to the end of your project. Keep a note the title of the book, the author and the page number or URL to make a time-consuming job much easier to complete.
- If you're stuck on how to approach an idea, arm yourself with a pen and large piece of blank paper and write down your thoughts by hand. The act of engaging physically with your words will often help to shape and develop an idea.
Pause and Reflect
- Be clear about your 'why' before you start every session. What do you want to achieve today and why is it important? Draw up a short list of your objectives for the session and refer back to it when you need a little bit of extra motivation to keep going.
- Reflection is an important part of writing a book. Remember to leave yourself time to think about the things you discover as you write. This will lead you to new thinking, fresh ideas and help strengthen your work in other areas too.
- Spend some time reflecting on the bigger purpose beyond writing a book. Is it to leave a legacy or a 'dent in the universe', as Steve Jobs put it? This will help you to keep going when the writing gets tough.
- Examine any limiting beliefs you have about writing a book - eg I'm not a good writer, I don't have time, I don't have clarity. Challenge and reframe them - eg I'll become a good writer, I'll make the time, I'll find the clarity as I write.
Supporting your Journey
- Find someone to work with. You don't have to do it all alone. Joining a co-working group (like those run by Kate Trafford), or bringing in a buddy, a coach or an editor can really help you to get the job done.
- Attend a regular creative writing class or course. Even though you'll be writing a business book, it will help you develop your distinctive voice and develop your fluency.
- Work with experts – developmental editors and writing coaches can provide genuine support, guidance, honest and impartial feedback and help hold you accountable to a schedule.
Writing with Purpose
- Start by writing freely – don’t edit yourself at all. Keep writing until a theme or idea emerges – and keep going without worrying about grammar, spelling or sentence construction. You can spellcheck and edit later.
- Give yourself permission to have fun and enjoy writing. Don’t treat it as if you’re sitting an exam. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t have the incentive to write consistently.
- Don't be afraid to show the full range of your personality in your writing - it's all those individual quirks that make you interesting and unique.
- Remember that your first drafts are just that - drafts. They're not meant to be perfect, finished or even very good! It is just there to get you started.
- Aim for a writing style that feels natural to you. The best way to achieve an authentic, conversational style is to read your writing out loud to see if it sounds like you talking to a friend.
When you’re feeling ready you might consider reaching out for some professional support or guidance to help you. Working with a developmental editor or writing coach will help move your writing on leaps and bounds and move you closer to your goals, faster. Or discussing your ideas, aims and objectives and talking strategies with a publishing specialist will ensure you’re writing the right book for the right people and have a clear route to market for your book.
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