In all creative projects, there is a time to dream, and then there is a time to do. When it comes to finishing your book, it's no longer time to dream. It's time to do.
I recently recorded an audio mini-series to accompany my most popular blog, 10 Ridiculously Simple Steps for Writing a Book. I've been sharing those on my podcast, The Portfolio Life. The first episode covered getting started and was aptly titled How to Start Writing Your Book.
Listen to the podcast
The second part of my post covered the actual work of writing a book and I broke it down into three sections. I won't give you the same information from my original post but instead, expand on the audio content.
- Set a total word count
- Give yourself weekly deadlines
- Get early feedback
The bulk of the writing happens here, in the messy middle.
Set a total word count
Whether you write for a traditional publisher or yourself as a self-publisher, the same rules of doing the work apply. You need to decide on a container for your art. These restraints will give you clarity and guidance. Mostly, they come in the form of genres and word counts.
You must know your genre to have an idea of what you're trying to create. Is it fiction or non-fiction? Is it a novel or a short story? What category does it fit in? Ask yourself if you want to publish your work as an e-book, a paperback, or a hardcover.
Answer what the measure for your genre is. I gave you arbitrary word count containers in my original article that give you a standard starting point. Having a rough guide for words isn't designed to get you bent out of shape. It's there to help you start with the end in mind and work backward.
For example, let's say you have a goal of 50,000 words for your book. Let's also pretend you want it completed in 90 days. Now you know you need 556 words a day, seven days a week to get it done. This will help you set your daily writing goal.
Every week, you need about 3,800-3,900 words per week. Hitting these word goals will give you feedback that lets you know you're moving in the right direction. I would even suggest aiming for something more significant like 4,000 words so you can cut some out at the end instead of working to fill it in.
Give yourself weekly deadlines
It's okay to embrace the editing process. Moving words around on the page is progress. I wrote about that in a recent post called Type, Delete, Type. But so is meeting your deadlines.
You can have off days and struggles, but this is the dull, blue-collar way work gets done. Set a deadline and meet them. This is the way to measure yourself. It's not exciting and requires tremendous discipline.
To continue our bicycle riding analogy, this is where most people crash. This is where they fail. Though the road is set and the finish line is drawn, they take their eyes off the path ahead.
Don't get in the habit of moving the finish line, or you'll be pedaling forever. This part is about discipline. 80-90 percent of the book gets done just by you showing up. Commit to your daily word count and weekly deadlines. Just get it done.
It makes sense that if you want other people to buy your book, you should see if it resonates with others.
Get early feedback
Not everyone agrees with me that getting early feedback is a good idea. But as new writers, our sense of what is good is not very strong. We need input from experienced authors and editors. It makes sense that if you want other people to buy your book, you should see if it resonates with others.
You don't need to go to the masses, but I would find a trusted, experienced, inner group of professionals who can share feedback with you candidly. My friend and writing coach, Marion Roach Smith, cautions against trusting feedback from anyone who relies on you for food, shelter, or sex. I think that's good advice.
Completing the first draft
If you meet your deadlines and get early feedback, does that mean your book is ready for prime time? No, but you will have a solid first draft completed if you stick to this writing system. What comes next after that?
Well, I wrote an article on this very subject called The Five Draft Method. I referenced it on the podcast and know it will get your project ready to share with the world.
Do you stick to your deadlines, or do you continuously move the finish? I would love to hear about it in the comments.