As the CEO of a publishing company, one New Year's goal that I hear over and over again is "I want to write a book."The biggest secret I have to spill here? The struggle is not in getting started; it's in keeping the momentum going.
As with many monumental undertakings, the best way to keeping your writing progress on track is to plan. Plan your content by writing a very detailed outline. Plan your time by scheduling blocks of writing time each week. Plan due dates for each chapter throughout the calendar year.
If writing a book is one of your goals this year, don't dive into writing right away. Instead, take January to create a roadmap that you can follow throughout the year. Here are a few things to consider.
Your book's genre is a high-level guide that gives readers a rough idea of what they're getting. When you pick up a business book, you expect some actionable advice that you can apply to your professional life, even if the book does have personal anecdotes and stories throughout. On the flip side, you have very different expectations for a memoir, which is meant to entertain, though it may have some lessons here and there. Get to know your genre by reading other books within it and look for commonalities.
You've got a rough idea of what you want to say. Now, decide how to say it. Over the course of your writing process, your writing voice will naturally change. Some days you'll be excited and enthusiastic. Others, you'll struggle to make it to your writing desk. How you feel will show in your writing unless you make a clear plan for your intended voice.
Think back to your readers. Who are they? What do they like? How do they talk? Create an avatar for your readers and speak directly to them. Maybe they're academics who require a more professional tone. Maybe they're mid-career, looking for a personal change which requires a more personable and supportive voice. Whoever they are, make sure that you're writing for them,not for you.
I've seen this scenario play out several times with authors: They're halfway through writing their manuscript. They feel good about the process. They have some momentum going and then ding! A light bulb goes off. What this manuscript really needs are case studies, they think. And now the project is behind schedule.
Before you start, spend time analyzing the kind of information you want to share. Do you want to speak solely from experience and research? Do you have respected peers you could interview? Does your company have case studies that would be helpful to the overall theme? What about charts and graphs?
Writing a book takes time. The best way to find out if your goal completion date is realistic is through simple math. Take your goal word count (if you're at a loss here, use 50,000) and divide by the number of weeks you think it will take you to complete it. That will tell you how many words you'll need to write each week.
Take an honest look at your calendar and block off some time to write each week. Will you be able to knock off your word count goal in that time? If not, adjust your expectations and remember that a book will be a part of your personal brand forever. Don't rush it.
Outlining is the most important step in the planning process. Most of us remember creating outlines in high school with Roman numerals for each section and sub-section. There are others ways to go about outlining, but the Roman numeral outline is still the most commonly used.
To start your outline, do a brainstorm of all the topics you want to cover. They don't need to be in order yet. Just get 8-12 down on paper and organize them into a logical order later. These big topics will be the basis for your chapters.
From there, think about how you would explain those big ideas to a friend. Where would you start? What examples would you use? What research would you need to pull out? These thoughts will help you form your chapter sections.
Moving down the line, start to think through how those subsections fit together. What purpose is your anecdote serving? What else do you need to say about the research for it to make sense to your reader? That's your supporting text.
A good outline is much more than a page or two of vague topics. A good outline goes into great depth and may take weeks to complete. That's because four months later, when you're looking back at your good outline, you will have no question about what you wanted to talk about in chapter three. A good outline keeps the momentum going, and that may be the key to finishing your book this year.