Writing a book is a long and laborious, yet fulfilling undertaking. But before you continue reading any further I must confess that I have yet to complete my first book. I am, however, doing well on my current book, so I’d like to share some ideas from my own experience so far—on how to not run out of steam.
I can imagine that stamina is one of the worst obstacles of newbie writers. The word count for novels starts at roughly 75,000 words, but even a smaller manual or report of 15,000 words or less can be a daunting task for fledglings. If you’re used to writing long emails or blog posts of about 500 words each, getting over the hurdle to book writing can be exciting at first, but also poses the danger of getting overwhelmed in the long run. Even blog posts can be sometimes hard to finish. And while a high word count doesn’t guarantee good content, a story of 15,000 words will definitely not be be seen as a novel. Reaching a comfortable length can take many months, depending on consistency and effort. But unless you are already a professional wordsmith, you should consider developing a few habits that will tremendously help your writing.
I have actually started a couple of book projects over the years, but sadly, none of them even reached the rough draft status. I had a lot of enthusiasm to write the texts, but the nonexistent planning that I did was probably the primary reason why they ended up permanently in the unfinished books folder (aka trash). And if you’re like me, similar works will probably remain there for all eternity simply because later you probably won’t be in the same mood anymore; your thoughts and interests tend to change over time, which means that continuing an old work requires the kind of editing an adjusting that can easily kill your enthusiasm. So, my first piece of advice is: maintain consistency, and try to work on your book as often as possible.
Structure is key
As I mentioned, I failed to do any significant planning for my previous books. This eventually led to lack of focus, lack of ideas (because the topic became too diluted), and the inevitable burnout. The wise thinkers have kept repeating that a well-planned project is half done, and this is also my advice here. When you have a clear picture of what you are supposed to write about, the writing itself suddenly becomes a whole lot easier when you have roadmap. Having a skeleton for your book keeps you mentally sorted and focused. The best way to plan your book is to structure it properly.
The first step, therefore, is to brainstorm the chapters, and order them in the most coherent sequence so that the reader will be able to easily transition from one idea to another (the same thing applies to paragraphs, by the way). You don’t need much more than this to stay focused on your ideas and keep yourself fueled.
The second step is to write a short summary (3–5 sentences) of what you will discuss in the chapter. You shouldn’t worry too much if the ideas are not the final concepts that you want to include in your book. They should, instead, serve as a guideline for you to focus your writing or overview the contents of the book.
I am, in fact, now writing an ebook (which I am planning to offer as a free download) based on a blog post, 44 Skills Every Successful Person Should Learn, I published in January earlier this year. The reason why it’s progressing so much better than my last projects is that I have a clear structure. The 44 skills also function as individual chapters. And since I’ve already written in the post the essence of what ideas every chapter should include, I have a clear picture of what needs to be written.
If you are planning to write a book or a report, or if you are currently stuck, I recommend that you invest some time in preparing the foundation for your work. You might be tempted to write impulsively without structuring your text, but creating a table of contents alone will definitely make you notice how much easier and more comfortable the writing process becomes.
If you have additional tips, I’d be grateful if you could share them in the comments below. Thank you.