Since my first two books were published earlier this year, I’ve met countless “almost-authors” who have one or more books that they haven’t finished for various reasons. A few have even bought my book as inspiration to finish theirs. They’ve said they need to stop being perfectionists, focus and find time to write, or get organized.
Schedule It or Forget It
I can’t help you with that first point. Your desire for perfection to bring your book the best of your standards is a personal thing. What I can tell you is that if you have anything important you need to do, and another year has gone by without you making strides toward achieving that goal, you need to schedule it. Break up your goal into small tasks you can do in an hour or two per week, and then add the tasks to your calendar or smartphone. If you’re like me, then what doesn’t get scheduled doesn’t happen.
A few other quick tips that have helped me with writing in general:
- Don’t get hung up on going from start to finish with a book or chapters or try to write your story “in order;” instead just pick a topic for your book and freewrite for a set time–maybe 20-30 minutes a day as it comes. Write the sections that come to you– you can always fill in the blanks later in your book “skeleton.”
- You must schedule time to write or it probably won’t happen consistently.
- Set up your writing environment for success. I have to keep other programs closed when when I try to write, or else cannot focus. No TV, no noise– just peace and inspiration.
- Keep paper/app handy just in case your muse strikes (it’s always when least expected). I have memo pads in my car, and I also use Evernote, which syncs between my computer and my smartphone. If I try to recall an idea later, I never do–I’ve got to capture inspiration as it comes.
As you evolve, you will learn the writing method that works best for you, whether it’s morning or night, 10 minutes per day or an hour on weekends, and so on.
Puzzle Your Book
Several folks have asked me how to write a book (a loaded question) or more specifically, how to get organized. I lost months of progress writing my first book because I didn’t have a mentor and I didn’t know how to organize my thoughts. I am a fan of outlining for writing anything whether it’s books, speeches, articles or blog posts. However, instead of talking about outlining, I’m going to show you how I sometimes take my jumbled thoughts out of my head and put the pieces of the puzzle together in a more coherent fashion.
Sometimes it can be daunting to organize your thoughts enough to lay out the flow of your book. My next book is a compilation of several independent interviews, but I need to make them flow together seamlessly for my dear readers. I want the book to read and sound like everyone mentioned in the book is involved in one big roundtable discussion.
If you’re puzzled by how to organize sections of a chapter/story in a book or just gotten stuck, try this:
- Write as much as you can, then print out the chapter/file in question.
- Cut up your story or chapter into sections.
- Rearrange them like a puzzle in a way that makes sense.
- Edit the work in your software of choice according to your newly completed “puzzle.”
“Puzzling” my work helps me be able to see it differently, and gives me a big-picture view of what I’m doing. This method also works great when developing speeches or any other type of long-form creative writing. It’s best to do it when you’ve come to at least a semi-stable point in your writing process, but you can try it if you’ve just gotten stuck as well. Make an outline of the sections of your book on a table or a poster and place sticky notes with parts of the plot, key points, stories wherever you think they should go.
As a writer, I live by outlines and puzzles of my work. I’m currently procrastinating against the next stage in my current project, but “puzzling” my work helps me get unstuck. I hope my tips help you puzzle the pieces of your writing back together.
NaNoWriMo is almost over, and I’m not sure I’ll ever participate. A novel in one month? Not for me, but at least you have a few tips to get to a strong start on the writing projects you need to finish.
This post was inspired by prompt #13 for personal branding on TheBloggingSchool during #NaBloPoMo: Teach your readers how to do something.