Don’t write a book, build your book. That’s my advice. Whether its a story you are weaving or a non-fiction book you are conceiving, KISS your reader and kill your excuses – Keep It Short & Simple! Write your book already!
Many people have a book rumbling in their belly, but it feels more like indigestion than a baby that needs simple nourishment. I want to encourage you today that the idea you have in the womb of your imagination is not a monster to be feared, its an embryo that will grow naturally and find its way into the world. IF you tend it well.
Here’s how 5 simple steps …
1. Don’t try to write an epic
You are welcome to create the next epic fantasy. If that’s your thing, of course, I don’t want to dissuade you. For most of us, however, the idea of a 100,000 words is a horrifying mountain to climb.
The best way to scale the mountain is to chop it down to size.
A decent book or story can be as little as 10,000 words and still make a massive difference in people’s lives. Carve that 100,000 word tome into ten and create ten 10,000 word books instead.
People consume content differently nowadays. Short is the new long. Short books are easier to write, easier to read. They actually get finished!
Fiction writer, create a series of short stories.
Non-fiction writer, stick to one big idea and don’t stray from the path.
2. Your ONE Big Idea
A mistake many make is to try and stuff everything into one tome. Instead of concentrating their efforts to shoot one arrow and hit the mark, they shoot in all directions and try to tell everything they know in one book. This may be good if you want to create a market-leading never equaled classic, but let’s be honest these are few and far between.
I encourage writers, especially ones that are stalled or caught in the headlights wondering what to do, to choose ONE big idea.
Consider this idea like a cut diamond.
Each chapter you write will highlight one facet of your big idea. One diamond, many facets.
In fiction, this is a little different, but not completely. Fiction is story, and story has a purpose. The purpose is to carry the reader to a satisfying ending. Ask yourself, does this idea or plot point further the story, or is it irrelevant and not required. Every single point and facet of your writing should move the story forward.
For non-fiction, drill down into your chosen subject. Every chapter should highlight a specific aspect of your big idea, and at the same time clearly connect to the whole. Readers are turning the diamond in their hand with each chapter they read, and by the time they turn the last page, they should have a fuller appreciation of the beauty of the complete jewel idea that you shared.
The one big idea is the foundation upon which you will build.
3. Don’t write, build your book.
Sitting at the desk with a keyboard shaming you for the 20,000 words you haven’t written is not a great way to stay motivated. Instead of looking at your book as a mountain to scale, carve it down into small 500 word rocks, and knock those 500 words out each day. Some days maybe more, but always your 500.
In 30 days you’ll have 15,000 words. That’s a book.
Build your book out chapter by chapter, plot point by plot point. Don’t excuse yourself because you don’t feel inspired today.
I think novelist William Faulkner had it right when he said,
“I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes at nine every morning.”
Place one brick on top of the other until the whole book is built.
4. Don’t edit while your write.
The editor in you is a critic not a creative. He or she will cramp your style and cripple your voice. Lock the temptation to edit as you write in a dark room somewhere until it’s time to cut their leash and let them loose on your completed first draft.
It’s difficult to allow the painterly wordsmith and the pinickity inner critic loose on the page at the same time. Let them take their allotted turn at the right time.
Don’t judge your writing, don’t second guess, don’t return and spin every sentence to perfection. Get real and raw and punch the keys with heart and soul. The Bible says that life issues from the heart, and you want your words to be filled with vitality.
Then bring your head to the game afterwards to shape that raw material into something more pithy.
5. When you finish, finish.
A thorough edit is important, absolutely. But left alone for too long the critic will whittle your book back to just a few perfect sentences. Do your edit in three phases.
High touch – Does it flow? Does the book cover the One Big Idea well, and leave the reader satisfied that the promise on the cover has been fulfilled? Is there any glaring omission that must be added, and are there any Frankenstein limbs that need to be lopped off (eg: flabby stuff that’s not needed!)
Mid touch – Move through the manuscript to tidy sentences, clear ideas so they absolutely sparkle, add finishing touches to the prose you have written
Low touch – Down in the thick grass of grammar and typos, tidy every detail on a very practical level to make the book the best it can be. Believe me, it will never be perfect and some mistakes will slip even the finest net, so be happy and content with good enough is good enough and getting better every day.
If necessary, get someone else to then do an edit for you. Get a qualified friend, or jump on Fiverr or Upwork and hire some talent to give your tidied manuscript a once-over.
Book writing is journey sharing. It is creative legacy building. Know that this book is not the last book you will write. That way you’ll see it as a stepping stone to the best you can bring and be actually willing to release it to the wild world so it can do some good!
Need Some Help Writing Your Book?
I have a couple of courses that will definitely help you if you are struggling to get your book written, one for non-fiction, the other covering building a book based on the famous Hero’s Journey framework.