We’ve noticed how most people write books.
Their strategies (or first impulses) of how to write books don’t work.
Which is not to say these first impulses don’t come from a good place.
Something we love about writers is how big they dream. Writers want to capture the complex, difficult, beautiful, deep parts of life on paper. They want to make transformation possible for the everyday person. They want to help people get further in life. They are passionate about their project or topic. It’s something we never get tired of.
But, for whatever reason, these grand plans can get first-time authors into a bit of trouble as they start to write their book. They’re caught up in the excitement, and they forget three essential pieces of the writing process.
Over and over again, we see first-time authors make the following crippling mistakes:
1. They start with chapter one.
The first chapter is exciting. The first scene of a book is fun to write. It’s exhilarating to dream up different opening sentences (“It was a dark and stormy night” comes to mind).
But starting with the first chapter guarantees a re-write. The author has no idea where their book is going or how it will develop. They will waste time imagining and re-imagining their first chapter without making actual progress.
2. They wait for inspiration.
Most book ideas are, in some way or another, inspirational: that’s why the author picks up the pen in the first place. The problem is, the “inspired” feeling won’t last throughout the entire writing process. To write books and edit them is difficult work. In order to finish a book, a writer has to show up to the page, even when they do not feel like it.
To wait for inspiration to write may mean taking years to write something which could have taken only weeks.
3. They retreat.
In the excitement of creating something special, it can be tempting to retreat away: to go “make it perfect” before showing it to the world. But cutting other people out of the process actually robs an author of valuable feedback. Even worse, when alone, writers get stuck circling the same few paragraphs. Outside input is the best cure for writer’s block, and when a writer leaves society completely to go write their book, they have no access to any perspective but their own.
At Find Your Voice, we’ve helped thousands of first-time authors write books. We intentionally approach book-writing differently.
Here are three pillars of book-writing which counter the first impulse strategies above:
1. Start with an outline.
Instead of starting with “Once upon a time,” we teach authors to develop their idea by outlining their entire book in detail (every chapter). That way, they know exactly where they are headed from the very first words of the book.
2. Carve out writing time.
The beauty of having an outline in place is that an author can dedicate hours to writing and actually utilize that time well. Instead of writing and re-writing one chapter, an outline directs a writer so that they get a first draft down even when the muse leaves.
3. Write in community.
There’s a myth out there that writing is a solitary activity. It’s simply not true. Much of the best writing owes its greatness to a community of people: editors, agents, friends, followers, readers—anyone helping an author better their idea and articulate it with more clarity. The sooner an author gets feedback and the sooner they workshop their idea with readers, the better.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of writing, and that’s a good thing. In fact, when it comes to a first book, we think it’s best to shoot for the stars. But we never want to let that excitement keep writers from execution. We want to see that book actually in the world. We want to see that big dream come to life.
Ready to outline your first book? Check out Prepare to Publish Self Study, and get started today.