Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Book Writing Tips That Work

I’m writing my first book. It’s easier than I thought it would be. And at the same time, harder. For me, the toughest part has been the daily discipline of writing — showing up even when I’m bored with the book and want to move on.

Book Writing Tips

Photo credit: Kheel Center (Creative Commons)

But apparently, my publisher isn’t cool with that. I guess that contract I signed actually means something. Weird. So I’ve had to force myself to do some things to stay focused

Book writing tips that work (for me and maybe you)

Here are some tips that have worked for me, allowing me to keep my head in the game. Maybe they’ll help you with your book, too:

  • Set a daily word count goal.
  • Write when you feel energized and inspired.
  • When you need to rest, rest. Just don’t use that as an excuse to be lazy.
  • Also write when you don’t feel like it. Some days, you just need to show up and put the time in.
  • Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t hit the daily word count goal, or miss a day. Give yourself grace. Tomorrow’s another day.
  • Celebrate small victories. Pat yourself on the back for 300 words. Today, it’s enough.
  • Set aside time to write. Protect that time at all costs. For me, early morning is best.
  • Don’t beat yourself up when you sleep in or miss your daily time. Just keep writing.
  • Get a feedback group to give you honest critique. Don’t be defensive; hold your work with an open hand.
  • Pray. Ask God for help. Or, if you don’t believe in God, pray. Trust me: you need it.
  • Allow yourself a few quirky indulgences. For me, it’s French Press coffee and ambient music to get into the mood to write.
  • Write in chunks. Focus on one section at a time. Don’t let the whole book overwhelm you. Today, just worry about your little section.
  • Go out of order, if you need to. If you are most excited about the middle of the book, start there. Follow your passion. You can always go back and write Chapter 1 later.
  • Don’t check email. I’m serious. Close it right now. Do not even leave it open. Email is a productivity-killer.
  • Don’t check Facebook. Again, I’m not kidding. Close that window.
  • Don’t check Twitter. Hey, what’s wrong with you? You’re starting to sound like me. Just get to work already.
  • Always have a way to take notes (I use Evernote on my phone). Bring your laptop or notebook with you wherever you go. Steal five or ten minutes wherever you can — in the car, waiting for the bus, on your lunch break, whatever. Every little bit counts.
  • Read books that inspire you. Read a piece of fiction or a memoir or whatever you find inspiring. And of course, I always recommend The War of Art.

That’s it. Remember, this is a marathon. Pace yourself. See you at the finish line.

Need help writing a book? Check out my free, 31-day writing challenge. Click here to get started.

What book writing tips would you add to the list? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. To get updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • justin

    You forgot don’t check G+

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      gotta leave a FEW guilty pleasures. ;)

  • http://godspotting.net Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Jeff, you’re making this sound like something I could do.

    Scary!

  • http://www.lifeaccordingtome.net/ Life According to Me

    Jeff, thanks for this helpful information, this will definitley help me on my project as well. I took the liberty of sharing on my blog.  http://www.lifeaccordingtome.net/

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    Setting aside time to write is so crucial, and I’ve found the early morning works best for me as well. The more you get into the habit of daily writing, the easier it will get. It has also made me love writing more.

  • http://www.distractedbyprayer.blogspot.com Shannon @ Distracted by Prayer

    Not checking email and facebook is key!  But I would add that you can do these kinds of things as a small “reward”.  Set up small goals, then reward yourself with 15 minutes of browsing, a cookie, whatever motivates.
    I’ll be using your suggestions in January when I set out to finish my first book.
    Thanks!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      i like that

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    I find I am easily distracted. I’ll start writing but then decide I need to research a bit more. Off to Google I go! Or Facebook. Or…

    I need to get in the habit of shutting out and down these distractions.

    • http://www.linchpinbloggers.com/ Don McAllister

      Me too.

  • http://www.paulawiseman.com Paula Wiseman

    Setting aside time to write is critical. If you expect it to “just happen” it won’t. I would add give yourself freedom to change. The creative process is as unique as the individual doing the creating. It takes awhile to find and settle on what works for you. Happy writing!

  • http://foxinteractive.wordpress.com/ Penney Fox

    I just discovered your blog and WOW – what great timing! I’m starting two new writing projects (including an ebook) for 2012 as well as updating the two blogs that I write (one for business and one is a personal quest started in 2009).

    I’ve been going around in my head for the past couple of weeks about how I was going to get all of this done AND working with clients, growing my biz, teaching workshops AND take care of my son.

    Thanks for the words of advice! I’ll see what suggestions will fit into my world.

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com Ricardo Bueno

    I haven’t written a book, so it feels silly for me to chime in. Still, I publish REBT weekly (my digital magazine). It’s about 1,000 – 2,000 words per edition. For me, I’ve learned to write first, edit later. 

    If you do both at once, you make very little progress because you get busy caught up in being perfect instead of getting the words down on paper. 

  • http://swordinfire.blogspot.com Theron Mathis

    Add Google Reader to the lists of banned places while writing.  

    The Internet was the biggest time waster when writing my book, and it often disguised itself as research.  I would often leave the computer become a luddite and pull out a legal pad to write.  This kept me honest and away from the net.  Also, it helps to have a wife that says, “Shouldn’t you be writing?”

    • http://www.TehLemonsmith.com Tyler Smith

      Aye, Google Reader is dangerous. I waste way too much time not only reading through it, but also refreshing it in anticipation of a fresh blog to read.

  • http://www.findingfruit.net Jen

    Sitting at my desk “writing my book” but obviously needed to read your tips about not checking twitter and then clicking on the link to a post about book writing tips. Oops. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Get outta here! ;-)

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ HopefulLeigh

    All great tips.  I got to a point in my novel where I felt stuck. Instead of letting myself get bogged down, I skipped forward several chapters, which energized me.  I then went back to the point where I was originally stuck and the words flowed again. 

    I’m hoping to finish my WIP by the end of this week!  Somebody pinch me.

  • http://davidsantistevan.com David Santistevan

    Ambient Music – a man after my own heart. What are you listening to these days?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Christmas music. ;)

  • http://www.TehLemonsmith.com Tyler Smith

    some solid tips.

    I’d be interested in how everyone goes about getting a feedback group. Do you recruit some friends and meet once a week? Or are we talking about joining some kind of writing club? or is it a mixture?

  • http://www.brookegale.com Brooke Gale Luby

    Good tips. I have to trick myself by writing somewhere where there is no internet access. (These places do exist, in the country, usually.) And even going as far as hiding my Iphone in the other room. I get too distracted. I also like to reward myself with hot drinks and chocolate things once I reach a certain word count. It’s like the responsible person in me somewhere has to deal with the child that is writing. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      i do the same. all productivity (for me) is tricking myself.

  • http://taminprogress.com tam

    Again, always an informative post.

    Thanks so much, Jeff!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, Tam!

  • http://KatieAx.blogspot.com Katie Axelson

    I’d like to add: change the scenery.  Some days working from your desk will be productive but other days it’s  much better to go to a coffee shop or library. (Just make sure to pick a seat with a great view of the wall so you’re writing not people watching).
    Katie

  • http://shewritesandrights.blogspot.com Bethany Suckrow

    All of these tips are so great. I think my tip for writing would be to pay attention to the details. The details are where I begin with writing. And by details I mean anything that can be expressed or felt through the senses – taste, touch, sound, sight, smell. 
    I have a big idea I want to express, but trying to express grandiose ideas without first taking note of the details is like trying to leap to the finish line in marathon – it’s impossible. You get there one step at a time, and those steps set the pace and tone for the journey to the finish line. 

  • http://www.linchpinbloggers.com/ Don McAllister

    Great list of tips! In writing my own book, I have learned a great deal from Saul Bellow. One of my favorite quotes from him: “I think that art has something to do with an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction.”

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      very good!

  • http://DavidNevin.net David Nevin

    Hi Jeff, just got this on your mailing list, great post.

  • http://joyfulmothering.net Christin

    These are great tips, Jeff. You sound like me…once the excitement of something new wears off, you want to move on to the next project! I’d love to write a book, but I’d be terrified at the same time!

  • http://barefootonsacredground.wordpress.com Michi Lantz

    Great tips right there in my inbox! :) But…very valuable to me, as I am to continue my working on my book I started writing on NanoWriMo. I did over 50k words in a month and it was my first time. I am proud of me :) But the even more challenging part begins now – continue!!!! Get the first shitty draft to become a finished great book!

    So I am very grateful for having your email tonight, reminding me to focus, write, breathe and have faith. Persevere, not resist!

    Thanks :)

  • Kim Rempel

    Great tips!   TOtally hear the facebook, twitter and email thing. They swallow hours if permitted. 

    Thanks for sharing the motivation :)

  • http://avajae.blogspot.com Ava Jae

    Firstly, good luck with your first book! That’s very exciting–even more so as you already have a contract. :) 

    I agree with your list, especially the word count bit. When I’m trying to get a draft down, I aim for 1,500 words a day. As a goal-oriented person, it really helps my productivity to have something to aim for, and it also helps me at the end of the day so I feel that I’ve written “enough.” 

    My main tip would be to try different writing productivity techniques, especially if you’re hitting a difficult spot. For example, I use the Twitter hashtag #wordmongering, which is a thread where writers get together and have thirty-minute word sprints every half hour starting at the top of the hour. The support system there is fantastic and I’ve found writing in thirty minute chunks helps me not to get tired so quickly. Another example is the Write or Die app. I haven’t used it myself, but I know many writers who swear by it. 

    Find what works for you and try new things when the writing comes slowly. As long as you keep to it, you’ll reach your goal! 

    Best of luck!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Wow. That’s audacious!

      • http://avajae.blogspot.com Ava Jae

        Thank you! If done in spurts, it’s not nearly as difficult as you might think. :)

  • http://thomasmarkzuniga.com TMZ

    Loved that part of going out of order. When I first started my novel a couple years ago, I couldn’t find the motivation to write it chronologically. So I just skipped around all over the place and later filled in the gaps. It felt weird and “wrong” at first, but it’s definitely how I’ll write future books from now on!

  • http://enreachinglives.blogspot.com/ jamie

    There’re so many distractions these days. One of them is the Internet. While it is a haven of information, it can also be a robber. Hours and hours are lost in the Internet. I think the most important is discipline, and acting like a boss. We have to ‘boss’ ourselves because no one’s watching our back. You can do it, Jeff. I’m still searching for my niche…

  • Mike Zserdin

    Jeff, thanks and congrats.

    Question: what is your daily word count goal? What is the rest of the group’s daily output?

    I really love Evernote. So solid. Also, Scrivener helps me write scenes or character sketches in pieces.

    Thanks again. Great post.

    Mike Z.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I shoot for 1000. Some days I write 3500, others 350. Really, I just try to show up.

      • Mike Zserdin

        Thanks. I’m latching onto the wisdom of simply “showing up” Appreciate your output very much.

  • http://www.frymonkeys.com Alan Kay

    Here’s how I did it, i.e., finished writing my book. My book publishing advisor asked me, ‘When do you write most productively?’ I said, ‘An hour at Starbucks provides a blog post’. He did some calculations and urged me to spend 90 minutes a day, every day for three weeks. I did it. Later, when I asked my doctor about concentrating on things like writing, he said that I probably have mild ADD so the white-noise of Starbucks helped. Every case is different. Thanks for your list Jeff.    

  • http://www.frymonkeys.com Alan Kay

    One more thing from my publisher advisor that helped…he said, ‘Don’t write this book for your colleagues – that will make your thinking fuzzy. Pick a clear target and write passionately for them’. The writing became better right away.      

  • http://Cannabis-Country.blogspot.com Shawn

    Great read. I am a new blogger, just started blogging about 3 weeks ago. Its going pretty good. Already have daily visitors and even a few comments on my posts. Eventually I plan on monetizing my blog. First I want to gave plenty of content and followers then I will start monetizing my blog slowly.

    I have thought about writing a book. My sister is a published author and a Dr. In Bio Chemistry. She is very smart and very successful. Thankfully I also have the smarts, I just never really applied myself.

    I have one question for you. If you don’t mind answering what are you writing a book about? How close are you to finishing it? Is it a long book?

  • http://tejisunflower.tumblr.com Teji

    Something that helps me is writing with a group. I hopped onto Meetup.com several months ago, found a writing group in my area. There are several meetings a week where we talk about our WIP or writing in general and then spend a good hour+ just writing. It’s wonderful to write in the company of other writers – I get so much moral support and try to give an equal amount back.

    Also, it isn’t always feasible to bring a laptop everywhere, but I always bring a mini notebook and a pen if I’m carrying a smaller purse or my iPad if I’m carrying a slightly bigger purse. It definitely does help.

    I agree with a great deal of your tips. Thanks for the great post!

  • Anonymous

    You make it sound easy. Well, except for that no facebook no email no twitter part. :) I’m excited about this book adventure you’re on!!

  • http://www.melissamarsh.net Melissa Marsh

    Good tips! I echo the whole “grace” thing. We are so hard on ourselves when it comes to writing. We need to treat ourselves better. After all, if it were our best friend going through this, we wouldn’t yell at them and call them stupid!

    Another tip I use…I only write on a laptop that does not have Internet. That has really been a blessing to me as I’m not tempted to check my email or Facebook every few minutes.

  • Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 12-22-2011 « The Author Chronicles()

  • http://danieldarling.com Daniel Darling

    This is great stuff Jeff. One thing I would add is that I often use what I call the “write, edit,write” method. Essentially I begin each day be editing a chunk of my writing from the previous day. The editing spurs the creative juices and then I just keep going with the chapter. That has always worked for me and served two purposes: 1) it allows me to continually edit my work and 2) It allows me to quickly get into the creative flow. 

    You’ll be surprised how editing is a wonderful creative spark. 

  • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler Braun

    Agree 110% with you Jeff. I especially agree with the coffee and mood music. I owe plenty of solid writing days to both of those things. I also wouldn’t underestimate prayer either. I have tons of days when I have literally nothing coming…no inspiration no thought to get things rolling and then by the time I come to the end of myself and enter into prayer, usually clarity comes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Caroline-van-Kimmenade/100002610173955 Caroline van Kimmenade

    what was that quote about writing is easy, you just sit behind your desk and bleed? I’m nowhere near a book…but I find it really helps when I am writing for someone. Someone who would actually read it, or someone who might read it, but either way, it helps me to have a real person/audience  that I am writing for. I find it really motivating and helpful in determining how to say things. 

    It’s always so helpful and encouraging to hear other writers talk about the process, thanks for this post…and the comments!

  • http://www.outsideisbetter.net/ chadbrooks

    I wrote a 30,000 word Master’s Thesis last spring and I followed many of the same rules myself. Here are a few things that really helped me out.

    1. I wrote in rhythms..much similar to point about writing in sections/chunks. Some portions were more enjoyable to me, so if I finished a couple rough portions I allowed myself to work on a more interesting. The scope of the paper kept it somewhat compartmentalized, so this worked well.

    2. I planned a “writing day” once a week in a location with absolutely no internet and my phone even got shoddy service. Holed up in the basement at my church I worked on longer sections and other places that needed editing. I could get as much done in 4 hrs there as I could in several days at home.

    3. Plan out what you are writing. Make outlines/mind maps/charts…whatever helps you to see through your logic. It is much easier to write something when you know where you are ending and how you are getting there. It was downright essential for me.

    4. Don’t be scared to scrap things or start major sections over. There were several places I realized I needed to rethink foundational portions or find a better way to explain them.

    5. If you have a background, theory, worldview or specific area that should be assumed by the reader…tell them early on. It lets you do and say things that might otherwise be confusing or seem highly broad.

    Great tips Jeff. Thanks as always for sharing them with us.

  • A Person

    i am young, only in my early teens (Not tellin my age for saftey reasons) and i have been told i am a very good writer. and my teacher (A great insparation) has even requested my first published book. ive been told this by everyone who reads my starts of books (because i have dozens of them, and then i get bored of them and give up) said i should become a writer. I am glad i found this. I am not a beginner, ive been writing (or trying to write) books for years now, (and drawing for that fact)

    Thank you, i was seeking for a long time good tips.

  • A Person

    So, Jeff i have a question. What if in my story i have to much diolouge. not enough detail

  • http://twitter.com/InverseDream Meg Davis

    Love

  • Tess

    I am pasting these tips on my wall, where I can see them every day.
     
    As always your book writing tips make perfect sense, and if they work for you who are we to not try them. I definitely will.

    I relate to ‘do not even open your email’, as then you have to answer them, and follow up, and get led all over the place with interesting bits of information, which lead to more sites. [I might be an ‘information junkie’.

    I try to learn from the professionals.  And what I have discovered in my research of  writers today, the famous bestseller ones:  write a chapter as one ‘sequence’.   One chapter a day more or less 7 to 10 pages per chapter, 25 chapters to make a book of  50,000 words .

     Sounds like a marathon, but all done in little bites, which is do-able,  if done every day.   Check out http://www.spacejock.com for some great tips on writing.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Tess!

  • cushionedasphalt

    Great list Jeff. I recently found your blog myself and have found several of your articles helpful and inspiring. Thanks a lot.
    Oh, and I’m inspired when I’m in the shower! I usually get the best ideas when I am cleansing me body so I usually end up writing after getting out. Ha!

    http://explanation-not-relevant.blogspot.com/

  • Tessa

    First the idea for the book, then the plot, then the outline, then the chapters and if you pinpoint one idea to base each chapter on, flesh it out, set up your index accordingly, the writing should be a breeze. Outline, chapter by chapter is the secret to fast e-books.  The difficulty is not in the planning, it is in the sitting down to finish what you started, and then shipping as Jeff says.

  • Teeni

    i like the list but i was looking for ideas to get started on a book like monsters

  • kkkkk

    are you ronald weasley?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      :)

  • author101

    ive not started yet but ive been playing things like skyrim to boost my ideas ofor the novel and now i just feel like copying the idea but i know im not supposed to

  • author101

    sorry for spelling mistakes: ofor is supposed to be for soz

  • JordanZ

    These are great tips for a budding writer like myself, whom has a lot of ideas floating in my head and never thought of putting them to paper until now. Thank you!

  • Patricia Reszetylo

    The biggie for me is eating right – and getting exercise. If I eat sweets, my brain exits stage left, and anything I do write is garbage. Exercise doesn’t have to be MUCH – even a 20-minute walk is good. But I need it to get and keep the brain firing.