5 Tips to Help You Write a Book, Too

Many people dream about writing books. I did for the first 34 years of my life. Seven years later, I just sent the draft of my fifth book to my editors last week. Thanks to independent publishing, writing a book is something anyone can do.

The trick is to demystify the aura of writing a book (featured books image by Moyann Brenn), and just do it. Publishing a book is similar to any other significant undertaking — such as learning a new language or hobby, training for a marathon, or surviving your first year in business.

Let me explain. The first time you finish writing a book, it’s a huge deal. You can’t believe that you actually did it, and you go and paint the town red.

After the fifth book, it’s less of a moment. I shut down my computer, and let myself read a little more of Plague Year, an awesome post-apocalyptic nanotech thriller. Then I went to bed a little earlier than normal. Woohoo!

Why the lack of emotion about completing the War to Persevere, a book I like better than my last two, Exodus and Marketing in the Round? A book drains you like any other major effort. So while this may be my last book (I doubt it, but you never know), one thing is certain: Rest is a great reward for me (A trip to Hawaii wouldn’t suck, either).

Now I see writing and publishing a book as an achievement, but one like other major undertakings in my life. With that mindset, here are five tips to get you started:

1) See Your Book

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One mark of successful novel today is a movie adaptation. When I consider a plot, I like to consider it as a movie.

A screenplay’s wordcount represents a fraction of a contemporary novel. And that’s much better than it used to be. Today’s novel is not yesterday’s, meaning that modern novels are shorter, more direct, less esoteric and more entertaining than your classic piece of literature.

Still it helps to think about how the plot would work on the big screen. While a hypothetical movie adaptation shouldn’t dictate character development, it does help me to eliminate unnecessary content that I really don’t need.

If you are writing a business book, a classic overarching theme/thesis and supporting chapters works well in this case. Theming a book with an overaching arc makes a huge difference froma readbility standpoint.

Hobiton image by Alison Thomas.

2) Peer Support

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Most people view writing as a solitary activity, but it doesn’t have to be. To help me get into the writing groove last autumn, I participated in NaNoWriMo and the Google+ Writer’s Group to help me work through kinks and barriers. It helped to discuss the mechanics of writing with peers at times. Though I didn’t complete the book for another eight months, peer support helped me realize my situation was far from unique.

One caveat here: Be careful sharing plot details and book concepts. I have been burned in the past by other authors.

3) Discipline

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If you commit to doing something, then it can happen. Every day activity makes a project like a book (or getting a training certification or…) become a reality. I maintain momentum by staying in motion. Discipline yourself and write each day or at least most days. One rest day per week is OK, but anymore than that causes my writing process to lose momentum, and forces me to write as opposed to it being a natural process.

With War, I stopped writing at the end of January because of my grandmother’s death and SxSW. I didn’t get back on the writing wagon until June. Life happens and I don’t regret that, but I must acknowledge that decision to focus on other activities caused the book to fall to the wayside.

4) Creative Mojo

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Part of writing is maintaining creativity. Do whatever is necessary to feel free, and keep the words flowing. Here are 15 methods I use frequently. Or if I am still blocked, I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I find her exercises to be extremely useful.

5) Put the Book to Bed

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These days I draft a book, then proof it, and move on. I put it to bed. I will never be 100% satisfied with a book, and there will Always be opportunities for improvements. Believe me, I know. I just read ExodusI, and want to rewrite it. Again. And I rewrote that damn thing several times over 20 years.

If you want to publish, then you have to let go. You are too close to the book. Finishing is important!

I personally use developmental editors to coach me. Get objective readers to help you shape your novel or business book, take their advice, make the changes, then press go. Lessons learned can be applied to the next book.

Those are my five tips for aspiring writers. What would you add?

Finishing Is Underrated

We live in a now world. If we don’t get what we want, we leave. The tyranny of now is particularly true online where a simple touch or click lets someone exit stage left at the slightest whim. Yet, this axiom also holds true in the real world.

Consider how many people start projects and never finish them because its too hard or unpleasant. Or they can see a losing effort in a game and quit. Or they find work is difficult, so they stop putting in the effort. One could go on and on with hypothetical examples.

For whatever reason, many people don’t finish. It’s a world of instant gratitude.

That’s too bad because finishing is underated today.

Finishing signals to those around you that you are reliable.
More importantly, it’s one of those character building traits that separates you from the pack, reflecting who you are. You see things through when others tank at the first sign of discomfort.

Finishing the War

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I am toiling through the final chapters of The War to Persevere, a book I should have finished last winter. There is a great sense of relief as I pen the final chapters.

People seemed to like Exodus, and asked when the sequel would come out. I promised a release at some point this year.

I began drafting The War to Persevere last fall during NanoWriMo and continued into the New Year. I was 2/3 of the way through the drafting process when my grandmother died at the end of January. That set off a series of events that basically distracted me from any extra curricular activities. Then work got crazy — the usual conference season stuff — which left me exhausted every night to the point that from a creative standpoint I could shoot phots, but was not able to write fiction.

June rolled around and I hadn’t picked up the book. A friend nudged me. The excuses were there. I could say forget it, it’s just a novel. Afterall, I don’t make any money from it and I’m really enjoying photography right now. But I know better. Not only had I committed to my novel readers, I had promised myself that I would finish the tale.

So I made a commitment to finish the book. I started drafting again during my vacation last month, and have not looked back. I write four or five days a week, and will complete the first draft by the end of the week. Most importantly, I will meet my commitment to publish this year.

Finishers Believe

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Image by Philo Nordlund

I had a friend who said that suiting up and showing up no matter the circumstance is half the battle in life. I have to agree. Showing up at the virtual till every single day is what lets you finish things.

One of the toughest things I experienced in life was completing my Masters degree. It took me four years attending school part-time while I worked a full-time job. I almost didn’t make it thanks toa dot bomb experience in California. Yet, finishing that degree was one of the most beneficial experiences of my life. Not only does the degree (Communications, Culture and Technology) still impact my work today, the thesis writing — an arduous process that required daily attention for months on end — showed me how to write a long-form piece, such as a book. I am amazed at how important my Master’s was from a character building standpoint.

Once The War is completed and published, I will have successfully written five books. That’s something that no one can ever take away from me.

When I finish things feel good about my efforts. I believe in myself, and know I can accomplish more. That’s why finishing that 10k, going back to school, completing that project gone bad no matter how effed up it is, finishing the novel, wrapping up that degree, etc., etc. is so important.

What do you think?