Has it been a dream of yours to write a book? Have you previously had an idea for a book but didn’t know where to start? Writing can be such a rewarding experience and it’s a chance to let your imagination run wild.
I recently spoke with Steph, founder of Creating Happy Writers, who helps coaches and consultants to develop the confidence and skills to write their first book. She kindly shared some great tips on how to write your first book and how to get started.
Why consider writing a book in the first place?
You might want to write a book for many reasons. For example if you’re an expert in a particular area then why not share your expertise with everyone in the form of a book? Sharing your knowledge is not only powerful but very helpful to others.
The process is dependent on you as a person but here are Steph’s top tips to writing your first book:
1.Plan, plan plan!
Just like you brainstorm for a new product range you should also plan out your book. Find a way that works best for you, this could be a mind map, a list or even a spreadsheet. Brain dumping can help you choose chapters and also eliminate areas you might not want to use for the book.
2.Look at the bigger picture
Before beginning to write your book it’s important to look at the bigger picture of everything else you might need. Do you need an editor? Contact one in advance with your deadline and book them in early enough. Do you have an idea for the cover and need an illustrator? Contact designers with your ideas, it may even help with your writing if you have a visual ready! Do you need contributors for the book? Book them in early enough so that you can work out where to fit them in. Having all of these ready before will take the pressure off a little, as you’ll have a plan, and also hold you accountable.
3. Give yourself a deadline.
During the process of writing your book, it’s important to set yourself a self-imposed deadline. Having a deadline means that you have something to work towards instead of thinking you will get round to it one day! A good way to set yourself a deadline is to work out how many words you need to write per week. Books vary in length – there’s no ‘one-size fits all’ answer to how long one should be. But, if the average is 50,000 words, you can break that down to 4000 words a week as your first draft, and your deadline would be in 12 and a half weeks.
4. Pick an area you are comfortable with.
For your first book, Steph recommends choosing a topic that you’re comfortable with and competent to write about. Choose your niche and narrow it down to specific topics within that niche to create a detailed view on your chosen topic. Make sure you are excited about the topic and that your passion comes across within your writing – this will make it a lot easier!
5. Think about the reader’s journey
Always have your reader at the forefront of your mind. Who is your ideal reader? Just like you have an ideal client, who would be your ideal reader? Write your book as though you’re writing to that one reader. A great way to think of the reader’s journey is to have the end of the book in your mind. What do you want your reader to be thinking and feeling once they’ve finished your book?
6.Embrace the journey.
Your first draft will not be the best, be prepared! Once you’ve finished the draft, another part of the process is self-editing, including how the book ‘flows’ from start to finish, as well as checking grammar, punctuation and spelling etc. Steph recommends hiring an editor to look at the overall structure, as well as the smaller elements of your copy, such as fact-checking and syntax. A proof reader is also an integral part of the publication journey. Every part of the process is an exciting step to your book being finished, so enjoy the journey as it comes.
7. Battle your inner critic
It might feel daunting at first to write a book, you might think you don’t have the knowledge or mindset to finish but one thing to remember is that you’re only battling your own inner critic and you can overcome it by accepting that it’s going to be part of your journey. Rather than trying to reject it and ignore it, Steph recommends inviting it along for the ride, but not allowing it to alter your direction or give its opinion on your writing. Your inner critic comes from a place of protection – trying to keep you safe from new things. Acknowledge this and reassure it that you’re okay – it makes a big difference.
8.Use your time wisely
If you only have a set amount of time per day or week to write then a great way to get into your mindset is to use a timer. Set up, sit down and set a time for X minutes on your phone and then get started. Don’t panic if you freeze up whilst writing, you can always come back to it. Steph recommends using X X X for sections you need to add to later, which is a very simple but effective way of using your time wisely and taking pressure off yourself.
9. Don’t edit as you write
One mistake a lot of people make while writing a book is editing while they write. You’re much better off thinking of writing and editing as two separate things. Writing is a creative process, whilst editing is an analytical one. Trying to use both skills at the same time leads to frustration.Edit once you’ve finished writing your first draft. Otherwise you’ll waste time thinking about it as you go, which might disrupt your flow. Imagine your first draft as a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel. Editing is shaping it and moulding it into the final work of art.
Self publish or traditional publishing?
If you want to go down the traditional publishing route then Steph recommends you pitch your idea before you start writing. You’ll have to pitch your idea to the publishers and sell it to them in a proposal. If they want to buy your proposed book, they will then commission you to write it.
If you already have an audience then you’re more likely to be able to self-publish successfully and this will also help when you want to market your book and get reviews. Royalties are better within self-publishing too, with 70% of the cover price paid to you, rather than the 10% you’d get from traditional publishing.
The key to successfully writing a book is to plan and outline your ideas first and foremost. Have everything in place before you start and contact everybody you need to help. Enjoy the journey and embrace everything that comes your way but most importantly good luck! I hope you found these tips helpful and I’d love to know if you’ve got an idea for a book or have already written one.
Here’s the link to Steph’s masterclass – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Zf4fccwowI