"I know!" She responded. "I have so much to share, and I really want to write a book. But, I don't know how to get started."
Ah, now she was in my wheelhouse. So, I gave her advice on what she should do to get things rolling.
Most people don't know how to get the process started. They have the ideas and the expertise, but go into a tailspin on how to start. My methodology works whether you write non-fiction or fiction. But, because writing fiction (which means understanding how to develop characters, a storyline and dialogue) is so different from non-fiction, I would advise anyone wanting to write a novel to take classes. Writer's Market offers some good online classes as well. There are others; just do a Google Search for writing fiction. So for the purposes of this article, I'm going to focus on non-fiction which requires a level of expertise in a specific area, such as my trainer has.
How To Get Started
- For a month or so, jot down your ideas for your book as they come to you. Use the notebook or record function on your cell phone, or carry a small spiral pad and pen, and pause when you have a thought and record it.
- Take as long as you need to gather ideas. Don't rush the process.
- If your schedule doesn't allow you to stop during the day and jot down your thoughts, take 20 minutes at the beginning of your day over your first cup of coffee and record your thoughts. They don't need to be in any particular order, just as they come to you.
- When you feel you have exhausted your ideas, go to the next step.
Organize Your Thoughts
- Set aside 30 minutes per day to organize your thoughts.
- Go through your notes and start logically grouping and sequencing them.
- Each group should equal a chapter of your book.
- Organize what logically should go from first to last.
- Create a logical outline for each chapter. Mmake sure that the sequence of your total outline flows in logical order.
- Schedule out a time every day to write, even if it is only 30 minutes. I recommend at least an hour daily.
- Follow your outline and just start writing out your thoughts.
- Don't worry about grammar, spelling and punctuation. Just get everything down.
- Read it to make sure that you haven't omitted important parts.
- Now go back and polish it. Wordsmith it, clean up the grammar and spelling.
- Tweak it until you think you have included all the details or story sequences.
- Focus on making it a fun, interesting read.
- Contact and negotiate with a professional editor to go through it with a fine-tooth comb.
- Be aware that you shouldn't just expect to give it to an editor to proofread. What you need is an editor who can comment on content (and suggest what needs to be added to make it better) AND your writing style. You need an honest evaluation; not just someone who thinks everything you do is wonderful.
The Editorial Process
- Plan on two or three rounds of editing. The first round will be filled with tons of comments on how to more fully develop the book. (Don't be surprised.) My editor always has me write more than I originally do!
- After you've more fully developed the book content, send it back for round two. You'll find lots of sentence structure and wordsmithing suggestions in this round. Most likely, you'll be asked to write even more detail.
- Once you have gone through the edits on round two, send it back for a final tweaking. If you are anything like me, the first book required SEVEN rounds. All subsequent books have taken three rounds.
I have to share a funny story. A friend of mine keeps threatening to write a book. His comment, with tongue in cheek, is: "I'll write it over the weekend; you can edit it on Monday, and we'll get it published on Tuesday. By Friday, we should have sold a million copies!" Right! If only. If you aren't Stephen King, Dan Brown, James Patterson or Dean Koontz, forget about it!
Plan on it taking you six months to a year or longer to get the book written, particularly if you have a full-time job! The actual publishing process always takes longer than you anticipate. Realize several facts: 1) the hardest part of writing a book is finding an agent and/or a publisher and getting published; 2) deciding whether you want to go that traditional route or be self-published; 3) and marketing the book after it's published. Numbers 1-3 are much harder than actually writing the book. Oh, and did I mention that you shouldn't plan on getting rich either?
And, I'll leave that for another day!
Til Next Time,