With two books under my belt, a lot of hard work, and self-publishing, I know now that the written word is just as important as the spoken word.
How to Write a Book
I have heard it said that we all have a book inside us. If you believe this is true for you, as it has been for me, here’s what I recommend you do: write and write and write.
20 years ago, when I got the cockamamie idea to write a book, I was clueless and a bit scared, but determined. Most of all, I wanted to know how to start.
So I began asking questions. I invited a dear friend (and writer) over for lunch.
Here, I’ll share with you what I learned, what I did, and what I suggest you do if you’re truly serious about writing your first book. Make a sandwich and read on:
In ink — or in your favorite technology — mark your calendar for the same two hours of writing time everyday for the next two months. But be patient. It will take a while to move things around.
It took me six months to clear my calendar so I could begin writing. Six whole months! Of course, depending on your desire and lifestyle, it could take you less or more time. It’s a big deal, so stick with it and make it happen.
Be selfish about these two hours. It’s the time when you will allow yourself to think and write. This is a very important standing appointment you have with yourself. It’s a commitment, and a commitment is sacred. So respect it.
Turn everything off. Let nothing interrupt you during these two hours. Not the children, your spouse, the doorbell, the phone, pets, television, the Internet, texting — nothing. Lock yourself away in a room somewhere and create.
Some days, I found myself writing nothing, but I was thinking about it for two hours, and that thought process was crucial to my writing process. Other days, I would write a sentence (maybe two). On a good day, I would write a whole paragraph.
But as I began to truly absorb the beauty of these quiet hours, my ideas came more easily, and my writing started flowing and improving. I was working it—not just dreaming about it. And it felt fabulous.
I want to share with you my greatest discovery about making your dream to write a book into a reality: Keep your mouth shut. Put all your energy into the doing, the writing.
Don’t talk about writing a book. Just write the damn thing, and when it’s completed, tell the world. The accomplishment will flip you out. There’s a delight in personal follow through that’s impossible to surpass.
Jotting your ideas down is huge. Once your mind makes a habit of thinking about your book, ideas begin arriving at every turn, so keep paper and pen everywhere you are.
Write your ideas on everything. Write them big or small. Sometimes I even use a voice recorder. You’ll discover what works best for you as you continue on your writing journey. Whatever tools you find easy to use and carry with you will help you blackboard your thoughts; this will free up your memory and cement your ideas.
As you begin your precious two hours each day, take all your notes from the last twenty-four hours and write them down. File these notes into your story, your book. Tuck them in where you think they fit best.
Of course, your placement might change down the road. Your goal for now is to give your ideas a playing field for the time being. The more notes you have, the more you write. And magically, your story will begin to take shape.
Here’s another lesson I learned along the way: Do not write what you think people want to read. Do not worry about what the reader will think of your written word or of you as a person. Write what you want, what you know, what your heart and story tell you to write.
On occasion, I’m weirded out by what my mind comes up with as I write, but I still get it down. And it’s often the weird stuff that becomes the perfect hook later on. If you discount or delete your thoughts, there’s a good chance they’ll be gone forever. Trust me. It’s always better to be “safe” than sorry.
Do not discount anything you write. (Besides, your editor may love it!)
Okay, here’s the scariest part of all: Handing your written words over to be read and evaluated. In other words, asking for constructive criticism. Yuck.
Here’s where my defensive mechanism comes into play. So, I take a deep breath and remind myself that this is necessary for growth—and that it’s not about me but about my book. Are you reading this closely? It’s not about you. It’s about your book, your written words.
So go for it: Ask twenty or more diverse friends to get reading. It gets easier as you go. Diversity is defined as variety, unlikeness. This is what you need when choosing a friend, colleague, or family member to read your book. You want readers from all walks of life because each evaluation will be different and will enrich your rewrites.
Consider taking a cue from me on this. I asked a group of fifteen diverse readers to review my finished manuscript. I gave them two weeks to complete it and a date to meet at my home for dinner and a round-table discussion about their findings.
When that night came, I stepped back and let my critics talk amongst themselves. And I took notes. Lots of notes. (That voice recorder really came in handy.)
I tried really hard to stay objective. I kept reminding myself that this was for the betterment of my baby, my book. This exercise catapulted me to the next level as a writer and moved the book nearer to reality.
It also created more excitement and more work. You may find, as I did, that you’ll have several series of round table discussions before a book is ready to move on to an editor. Take your time. You want to create a page turner.
I pray a few of these points prove fruitful for you. This is far from all the nuts and bolts you’ll need to get your book published, distributed, and marketed, but I sure hope it gets you started off on the right foot. It’s a good, solid way to begin the process.
Stop dreaming about writing a book; stop telling people you’re going to write a book. Just write the book from beginning to end. Create some quiet, put your energy into writing, and let your story unfold for two hours every day. Do this for two months. You’ll be gob smacked with your results.