In my last post (Write The Book – Here’s Why) I let you all in on two very specific secrets that everyone who’s ever written a book learned along the way. The first secret was that writing a book is hard – it’s much harder than you think, and certainly harder than it looks. Even the ways in which it’s hard won’t be what you’re expecting. It is a process that uncovers your greatest insecurities and exposes your biggest weaknesses. It’s not a “fun” thing to do.
But the second secret was that all of that difficulty, all of the struggle that comes with writing your first book is absolutely and totally WORTH it. Why? Because the process of writing a book is the most effective way to turn yourself into a writer. It will teach you what you cannot be taught in any other way. It will test you and refine you. It will make you better and force you to grow. And most importantly, it will make every single thing that you ever write in your future (books included) THAT MUCH easier, stronger, and more definitively YOU.
Believe me – I’m speaking from experience here. The process of writing my first book was insanely difficult – it took me three years and probably 15 drafts to finish it. It was a miserable experience. But it left me with an indescribable sense of fulfillment when I finished. What’s more – the lessons I learned writing my first book made the second one so easy that it almost felt like I’d managed to cheat somehow!
But how do you actually get through the process of writing that first book – especially since it IS so difficult? It’s a good question, one that I’ve been asking myself for the last week or so. I wanted to be able to give my friend (remember Kelly – the one who’s just started writing her first book?) some tips that would serve as more than just generalized encouragement. I wanted to tell her something that would actually help her find success. Here’s what I came up with.
1. Find a writing buddy – You’ll need the encouragement and help of someone who’s done this before (or someone who’s willing to do it with you). Friends and family are great at being supportive, but you’ll want to be in contact with at least one person who understands the specifics of what you’re dealing with every day.
2. Create a plan – One of the best things you can do for yourself is plan what you’re going to write before you write it. The level of detail you go into will depend on the type of person/writer you are. But don’t make the mistake of going into your first writing project with only a vague sense of what you’re going to do.
3. Write every day – (or 4 days a week, or whatever works for you) The point it – you have to make it mandatory. You’ll have good writing days and bad writing days. Some days you’ll write entire chapters, and others you’ll struggle through a few sentences. That’s all fine (and it should be expected). But you have to make writing a habit, or you’ll never get through it.
4. Make yourself accountable – Again, how this happens will vary depending on who you are. Are you the type who won’t be able to sleep if you haven’t met your daily writing goal? Or do you need the pressure of external deadlines (like someone asking to see pages every week) to keep yourself on track? Figure that out – and then set up a system that works for you.
5. First write, then refine – If you’re busy freaking out over your chapter length before you’ve written your first 500 words, you’ll never get anywhere. You have to start by writing. Until you’ve written something down, there’s no way to assess its strengths and weaknesses. Don’t paralyze yourself with fears and worries before you get the words out. Just write.
6. Don’t give up – You’ll have plenty of opportunities. You’ll have days when you want to throw it all away. Don’t let those days get to you. Just keep moving forward. Eventually, you’ll reach the end of this journey, and when you do, you’ll have something to show for it all. You’ll have a book, and a wealth of experience and knowledge that you wouldn’t trade for the world. You’ll have that secret little smile that creeps on your face when someone tells you how they’ve always wanted to write a book – and you’ll have plenty of words of encouragement and sage advice to give them – because you’ll know exactly what they’re facing, and you’ll still be able to assure them that it’s well worth the effort.