How to Write a Book – Part 6September 7, 2013 2013-09-07 15:51
How to Write a Book – Part 6
Writing isn’t easy. One thing you can do to make is a little easier is to be able to concentrate on what you are doing. If writing is difficult to begin with, don’t add any more stress. One of the easiest things to control is where you do your writing. The place must feel good to you and be an environment where you can be creative. Your perfect writing environment will be different from anyone else’s. You may like to write in bed, or at the kitchen table or at a coffee shop. Maybe the beach is your favorite place to write. The ideal place to write would be where you know you will not be disturbed. If you have an office where you can post a do not disturb sign on your door that might be ideal. Then you know you won’t get any interruptions. If you know for sure that you will not be disturbed, then there won’t be that little part of your brain waiting for the doorbell, or the familiar scream from a four year old. Your brain can focus. All other activity stops. You are there to write. Airplanes provide a background hum, and if you wear earphones, you will not get any disruptions. It could be costly, though, to buy an airline ticket every time you needed to write. As long as you are producing, it doesn’t matter where you are. If you can write in the middle of a shopping mall, then go for it.
Your job is to write. There are other people whose job it is to format and edit. It makes no sense to try to format the book as you are coming up with content. A proper word processing software program will handle all the necessary formatting until it gets to the publisher. If you feel you must have a hand in the formatting you can deal with it after the book is written. There are software programs that handle all the formatting details.
When to Write
How many times have you thought you should get to that mess in the garage, but then you notice that the DVD shelf is out of order, or the blinds need dusting? You decide to get those things out of the way before you tackle the garage. Before you know it your whole house is clean but the garage is still in the same state it was hours before. It’s easy to leave the hard stuff and find some less difficult things to do. Writing can be like this. If you find it easier to clean the gutters than get to your writing it may help to have a schedule. Often when you write things down on a calendar it makes them important enough to get done. If you put your garage cleaning on the calendar you would probably get to it at the appointed time. Then you’d feel much better after you’ve completed your assignment. It’s the same with writing. Set up a schedule of times to write. This sets aside a time that you will be unavailable for anything else, because you will be writing. And you feel the same satisfaction of completion you got from cleaning the garage.
Where to End
Rather than write your book from the beginning, think about what your book is about, and there, you have your end statement. If your book is about how to improve your golf swing, your last sentence may be, “And that’s how you improve your golf swing.” So if that’s the end of your book, what is the beginning and when do you write it? The beginning is the introduction and you write that at the end. You will have amassed and sorted all your information and you will know what direction your book took. If you try to write your introduction at the beginning of the process you will get stuck staring at a blinking cursor on the screen and not know where to go. If you are following these steps in order then you have already found your voice and thrown out that chapter. It’s time to start writing, so pick a chapter that contains information with which you’re comfortable. Get an easy one out of the way. Have some friends help by reading what you have written so far to get some support. Don’t put your research off any longer, now that you’re on a roll. Research can be a tedious job, but it’s necessary to make your book authentic. If you wait to do the research after you have finished most of the writing you will feel like you’re doing the work over. If you do the research before you have started writing you will get bogged down and may never start the actual writing part.
The Odd Bits
Now that you are a writing machine you will notice a paragraph or two that seems out of place. It was great at the time it was written but now it just hangs there, not connected to anything. It’s okay to cut these bits out and paste them in a notepad file. Periodically, you can go back and check on them to see if there is anything that you can use. It’s better to have a notepad full of stragglers than it is to have an odd paragraph that just floats in the middle of a chapter. You don’t have to be married to every word that comes out. Even after you find the precise place for your floating paragraph, it may need revising to fit perfectly. The flow of the book is important. You may realize that you actually got the information that was in those floaters, into the book in a different way, and so you don’t need them after all.
The most important rule is to get feedback, often. You need to know what the reader thinks of your writing. You are writing for the reader. Ask your friends or colleagues. If you trust your family to be objective, ask them to review your work so far. Check to see if your publisher has a bet-book program and get involved.
Do You Have to Start Over?
What if after you’ve spent months of your life writing the perfect book, your hard drive goes down? If you remembered to save a copy you’ll be okay. If you didn’t, you will probably need years of therapy to recover. Even if your software program has an auto-save function, be sure you copy it to an external device on a regular basis, several times a day. If you are working with a publisher, ask what their system is for archiving ongoing work. Hopefully, you will be able to save it in a version control system.
For content you have yet to write, use cross references as placeholders. Outlining Paragraphs? Remember in school when you were taught to write, you were told to make an outline? Then as you progressed in your writing you took that wisdom with you. Some people take it to the extreme so that by the time they have finished outlining all they have to do is add a few “ifs, ands and buts.” You do not have to take your outlining so seriously. If you get a brief outline of what you expect the reader to have learned by the end of the chapter, and make some points from there to get your paragraph topics that should be more than enough outlining. You want some flexibility to let the chapter develop on its own. There has to be some breathing room. Think of your book as a living thing that emerges and grows and changes. You don’t want to limit the directions it’ll take you. . Find what works for you and keep an open mind. Search out more experienced writers to glean information from. If you already have an editor, ask what tips they can offer. There are untold books written on how to write a book. This is a learning process. Writing a book isn’t easy. Try to make it a little simpler on yourself.