I break the writing process into two parts. Part one includes planning, organizing, outlining, researching, reading, and taking copious notes. The second (and most important) part is writing.
A dear friend of mine from college recently reached out via email with a request. “My goal this summer,” she wrote, “is to start writing a book! Any advice on time management would be appreciated.”
She’s much smarter than I am – and a far better writer – so soon enough, she’ll be giving me writing advice. But until then, I figured I’d offer counsel based on what has worked for me.
Identify your high-energy time
I’m a morning person, so my high-energy, high-focus time is first thing in the morning. I get most of my meaningful work done before noon, and when it comes to my book writing and creative time, it all has to be first thing in the morning. That won’t work for everyone, but identifying your optimal working hours is a good first step.
Develop a writing ritual
My writing ritual involves rising way too early, freebasing coffee, playing great tunes on the stereo, and getting down to business. When I first started, I tried putting in long writing days, but that was counterproductive. I never have a problem filling the page, but clarity and focus are the real goal, not just hours invested and word counts. I focus on a one-hour slot that I dedicate to writing first thing every morning. Ideally, I turn my Wi-Fi and phone off, so no email, social media, etc., so I don’t become distracted. If I get into the groove, I can write longer than an hour, or come back to it later in the day. If you stick to a similar plan, you can write a book over the summer, one hour a day, five or six days a week.
The writing process, Part 1: Plan and organize
Loosely speaking, I break the writing process into two parts when I’m writing a book. Part one includes planning, organizing, outlining, researching, reading articles about the craft of writing, and taking copious notes. Because inspiration sometimes hits when you’re in line at the bank or in the middle of the night, I jot ideas down as a memo on my iPhone or in a notebook and refer to them later. But the organization part really helps keep me on track and prevents me from devolving into a crazy person spewing nonsense (OK… the jury is still out on that one). This part can be done after the designated hour – in the morning, at night, or whenever. It doesn’t require the same focus as part two.
The writing process, Part 2: Write!
The second part of writing a book (and the most important) is writing. I’m not being a wise ass. During the designated writing hour, the goal is to get started and not stop. When I start a book, it’s impossible for me to sit down and jump in with “Chapter one page one… The night was hot and humid…”
I begin the writing process with a stream-of-consciousness brain dump about the ideas of the book: the themes, conflicts, dialogue, and especially the characters. Well in advance of actually writing any material that will serve as the actual words of the book, I’m purging my mind of ideas and developing them with these brainstorming sessions. Since characters are so important, I’ll spend a lot of time on characters, fleshing out their lives and desires, values and fears, quirks and characteristics. Ninety percent of that will not end up in the book, but I believe it is important to really know and understand your characters before you set them into action.
The natural flow
So every morning I’m just hacking away at this, fingers on the keyboard for an hour, without many breaks, and then one day it just happens: I start producing the content that will be in the book. Whether it begins with page one or whether I’ve jumped to a pivotal scene or important piece dialogue doesn’t matter: I’m writing.
Ease off the pressure and high expectations
For me, great is the enemy of good. If I feel a ton of pressure to write well, it comes out like crap. So by practicing first, and then focusing on one scene or conversation or whatever to get started, I remove that pressure. I also remind myself daily that the goal is just to get started, not produce a polished, finished book. Everything will be edited and rewritten, several times. So that way I’m not worried about making mistakes or writing crap, and I’m free just to be productive.
A percentage breakdown of the book writing process
This isn’t exactly scientific, but for me, the book writing process is 10 percent preparation and 30 percent writing the first draft. The other 60 percent is spent rewriting and editing (that process sucks, by the way). But it’s encouraging to know you are fixing mistakes and tweaking your text to get it to a place where someone will actually enjoy reading it!
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Don’t Start Cold – Five Ways To Ease Into Writing A Book
Develop Your Characters’ Goals And Discover Your Story