The idea of writing a book is a daunting one. We hear from would-be authors every day who tell us that they've been thinking about it for years, but just can't get started. There are many things that can get in the way of starting a book, ranging from fear of criticism to lack of time to devote to it.
Every solid business has a mission statement and a vision, and a book is no different. Establish your reasons for writing before diving in, and the content will come much easier. Understanding that urgent need for your content can also light a fire under you to stop putting it off. When you're ready to put pen to paper, here are eight tips to keep that momentum going.
1. Move Past Fear
Criticism is part of the game when it comes to writing a book. You will receive feedback throughout the process, and sometimes the thought of it can be paralyzing, especially with more personal content. Tell some people that you know will be supportive of the idea and let them cheer you on.
2. Ask for Help
Most non-fiction authors are not full-time writers. They are experts in the field on which they're writing, and writing may be a secondary hobby. Enlist the help of an editor or ghostwriter who knows the industry and can guide you through the manuscript writing process so you don't make costly mistakes while working in a vacuum.
3. Make an Outline
Everyone brainstorms differently, but creating a detailed outline is one of the simplest ways to visualize your book's content. Start with the main ideas you want to cover. Those will be your chapters. Then break it into sub-sections and determine what evidence you need to share with readers to support your claims. Keep going until you have a very granular outline.
4. Schedule Time
Busy leaders and entrepreneurs often don't have the time to write a book unless they block off a few hours on their calendars. Make the effort to block off several hours each week to work on your manuscript, and use your outline as a guide. Do you want to knock off one chapter in a big block of time? Or a few smaller section or paragraphs each day? Do what works for your schedule but remain consistent.
5. Change Your Environment
Nothing kills productivity more than the ping of an email or a hallway conversation that draws your focus away. As hard as it is to disconnect, try to write in a distraction-free zone. Whether you have a home office or workspace you can dedicate to writing or you change the lighting and turn off your internet, establishing a dedicated writing space will help your brain switch into writing mode and tune out all the potential distractions.
6. Leave Yourself With Something to Think About
Writer's block is an inevitability sometimes. There may be days when you struggle to get any words on paper or you feel your tone is off. Don't scrap the entire writing session. Try instead to do some brainstorming. What are the key points you want to cover in this section? Write them down, do a free write, or doodle your ideas. Do something new so that the next time you sit down to write, you will have something from which you can hopefully draw some inspiration.
7. Don't Make it Perfect
When you're just starting on your manuscript, the commas and periods don't matter. Basic rules of grammar are important to making sure that you can clearly communicate your ideas, but you don't need to stress about perfection. Small typos and errors can (and should) be cleaned up later with the help of an editor. Trying to make one chapter perfect before moving on to the next can waste time and interrupt the creative process. An initial draft may go through rewrites and heavy changes. Why bother polishing a paragraph that may ultimately be cut? Focus instead on getting your ideas down.
8. Ask for the Right Feedback Along the Way
The operative word here is the right feedback. Getting the right feedback means two things: asking the right people, and asking the right questions. It may seem natural to ask family for feedback first, but you will be better served asking a colleague or someone in your field to review your ideas. Asking people who are more closely aligned with your target audience will help ensure that any feedback you receive will mirror your readers' thoughts. And rather than leaving your ask for feedback open ended, turn your ask into a yes/no question. Does this section make sense to you? Is this example clearly demonstrating the point?
There's no denying that writing a book is a lot of work. It's a long process from idea to finished manuscript, but with these tips in mind you'll be able to finally start (and finish!) your manuscript.