Make A Plan To Start Writing Your Book

start writing

If you don’t know how to write a book, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. After making a decision — a commitment to share your story — you just need a process and a plan to start writing your book.

Some people are lifelong learners and love the process of going from not knowing anything about a particular subject to being proficient — even an expert. That makes sense. We all want to be the best we can be. But along the way, we have to learn a lot of little things, and that takes time and commitment.

But here’s the deal: I hate the learning curve. I only want to know as much as I need to know to use a tool for my intended purpose. I generally try to find every possible way around studying more than I need to so I can get on to the using stage. Learning frustrates me; knowing satisfies me. But that’s not the way the world works. To know something, I must go through the pain of learning and I have to follow a process. But I can’t even do that if I haven’t first made the decision to try something new and follow through.

The hardest part is making the decision

You know what the hardest part about writing a book is? It’s making the decision to do it. You’ve probably had the idea for your book for some time. I bet it’s been percolating in your head, begging to come out. At times, it probably drives you crazy. But books don’t write themselves, so the only way yours is going to get written is if you make the decision to do it. It’s your story. Only you can write it.

Whenever I travel, it seems I’m seated next to a chatty type, and I find it fun to get acquainted. On one flight, I sat next to a fellow named Don and he and I discussed the usual “getting-to-know-you” topics. When he asked me what I do for work, I explained that I help people who aren’t writers become authors of high-impact nonfiction books.

“Really?” Don replied. “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

“Then why don’t you?” I asked.

“I’ve never really looked into it,” he said.

Don’s answer spoke volumes. He’d flirted with the idea of writing a book but had never taken it further than just that — the idea of writing a book. People tend to glamorize the writer’s life; they don’t realize it’s a lot of hard work and it takes a lot of time. Don never made the decision to write his book, so it’s unlikely he ever will.

Make a plan, write your book

Some people just sit down and start writing. But they soon discover that all the ideas that have been rattling around in their head have no form, no shape. What comes out is a spaghetti mess — a bunch of unconnected threads. They have a message, but they don’t know how to get it down on paper. The problem with the “write-first” approach is that it’s like trying to build a house without any plans. You have no blueprint to follow, no foundation poured; and you don’t know what the house will look like when it’s finished.

I don’t know a lot about building, but I do know that you don’t put up the walls first. The walls have to be attached to something solid. Before you build anything, you pour the foundation. But even before that, you need a comprehensive plan — a blueprint that shows where each room will be and what features it will have. Before you pull out your hammer, you have to have a plan.

The same is true for your book. If you want to save time, energy, money, and frustration, you begin with the end in mind. You take the concept for your book and turn it into a concrete plan. To do that, we start with the foundation. You may know the topic of your book, but do you know what you want your book to accomplish? If the book doesn’t have a purpose, why write it?

If you don’t know how to write a book, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. After making a decision — a commitment to share your story — you just need a plan and a process.

Drop the perfectionism

Before I became a nonfiction book coach, I spent many years trying my best to be the perfect child, perfect teenager, and later on the perfect wife to please those closest to me and gain their approval. I didn’t know that some of the people I was trying to please were emotionally and mentally sick themselves, so trying to please the un-pleasable was physically and emotionally exhausting. I felt like I was stuck on a hamster wheel, always striving for, but never attaining, perfection.

I misspent too many years bringing untold grief on myself because I refused to be me. And I’m amazed at how many other people have done the same thing. And once they’ve figured their lives out, they are doing what they were meant to do and are rejoicing in doing it, but they don’t step back to consider how powerful their story is and how it could help others.

I guess it’s easy to undervalue what’s inside us because it’s all we know, so it doesn’t seem special, it doesn’t seem significant, and it doesn’t seem to offer a path that others can learn and grow from. Don’t fall for that way of thinking! Think about what you’ve learned, what you’ve developed, and what you’ve overcome and be willing to give it to others. Be you! That’s all it takes.

Well… that and a plan.


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  1. Nancy,
    Your advice is spot-on, but all to often ignored. I’ve published four books — the first was written without a plan and I found out that I had given the publisher 30,000 too many words. Ugh! Cutting out that many words was painful (and should have been unnecessary.) I got better at planning, but it’s still not easy living the plan. Book four was self-published and I was determined to keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Each part had a plan and I worked the plan. Much better!

  2. cant wait for the pantsers to start screaming how it kills their creativity or isnt any fun or one of their other excuses to justify playing walter mitty as an author

  3. Delay, put off, bury self in existential frustration cluttered with ideas without meaning. I’m describing myself. When I retired (seems like a hundred years ago) I wanted to write a story. I’d written nonfiction, well sort of. Nine years ago I decided to try fiction. I joined a writer’s group and walked away angry, frustrated and not sure if I should go any further. In May 2018 my ideas began to jell. I had a lot to do, more to learn. I had a story so what will I do with it. Write it. After five months I began and then structure emerged and along came two of the most fascinating young people I could imagine. Except there was a problem, potentially devastating. As much as I liked her I found at some point some one wanted to kill her.

  4. You have given good guidelines for beginners as well as long time writers. I have benefitted greatly and so will my writing by utilizing your ideas. Now back to my ‘writing board’. Thanks for your guidelines.


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