What it takes to write a book

The hardest part of a writer's job is sitting down to do the work. Writing happens in three phases.

  1. Beginning: You have to decide what you're going to write and how you're going to write it.
  2. Staying motivated: You will face self-doubt and overwhelm. Planning ahead will ensure you won't quit when the obstacles come.
  3. Finishing: Nobody cares if you almost wrote a book. They want to read what you actually finished.
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  1. Decide what the book is about. Write the argument of your book in a sentence, then turn that into a paragraph, then into a one-page outline. Then write a table of contents to help guide your writing. Break each chapter into a few sections.
  2. Set a daily word count goal. John Grisham began writing when he was really busy as a lawyer and new dad. He got up an hour or two early and wrote one page a day until he had a novel. A page is about 300 words.
  3. Set a time to work on your book every day. Consistency makes creativity easier.
  4. Write in the same special place every time that is different from where you do other activities.

Your book could have helped people, brought beauty or wisdom into the world, if only your book came to be. Or worse, you wrote a book, but nobody cared about it.

Producing a work that sells is not just about writing what you think will work. It's about finding an idea that will excite you and your audience. You have to write a book that is worthy of being sold. To maximize your chance of finishing your book, you need a proven plan.

  1. Write and publish one chapter at a time, using Amazon Kindle Singles, Wattpad, or sharing with your email list subscribers.
  2. Start small. Write a shorter book of poems or stories.
  3. Start a blog to get feedback early. Eventually publish all the posts in a hardcopy book.
  4. Keep an inspiration list to keep fresh ideas flowing. Read regularly, and use a system to organize and find the content you've curated.
  5. Keep a journal, then rewrite the entries in a more polished book format, but use some scans of the journal pages as illustrations in the book.
  6. Deliver constantly. Don't wait for inspiration. Inspiration is a byproduct of hard work.
  7. Take frequent breaks.
  8. Remove distractions.
  9. Write where others are writing, like a coffee shop or library.
  10. Don't edit as you go. Write without judgment first, then edit later.
  1. Set a total word count. 40,000 - 60,000 words = standard nonfiction/novella book. A long nonfiction book/standard-length novel contains 60,000 - 80,000 words, and a very long nonfiction/long novel contains 80,000 - 100,000 words.
  2. Give yourself weekly deadlines. Make it a word count and celebrate the progress you've made.
  3. Get early feedback. Have a few trusted advisers such as friends, editors, or family that will help you discern what's worth writing.
  • Commit to shipping. No matter what, finish the book, then release it to the world.
  • Embrace failure. Writing a book will be hard, and you will have failures. Be okay with that and give yourself grace.
  • Write another book. Most authors are embarrassed by their first book. But without a first book, you will never learn the lessons. Put your work out, fail early, and try again. It is the only way to get better.

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