“The hardest part is starting. Once you get that out of the way, you’ll find the rest of the journey much easier.” — Simon Sinek
Statistics say that the majority of Americans want to write a book. The stats change according to the source, so I won’t bore you with that. But if you ever thought it might be fun to write a book, or you have ideas that won’t let you sleep at night. Maybe you have an idea nudging you.
Even with so many wanting to write a book, 97% of Americans never finish writing their book. And while I can’t find any information regarding it, I’m betting most of those are people who have never even started.
As quoted above, starting is the hardest part. How does one start to write a book?
While this may be the first step, I’m not saying to start in with your story directly. The next few steps will deal with that.
But just like anything else you do, writing takes practice to improve. I have journaled since I was about 8 years old. This doesn’t make me perfect by any means. What this much writing has done is given me a clear voice when I write, as well as shows me when the writing flows easier, so I know the best times for me to write.
Something also incredibly helpful is what Julia Cameron calls morning pages. In her book, The Artist’s Way, she explains that first thing in the morning while the brain is still groggy, pull out a notebook and pen and just notice the thoughts going through your mind. Write those down.
Write with no filter. Some authors call this free writing. There shouldn’t be an agenda. Whatever is on the brain comes out, whether that is how angry I am at someone, how tired I still am and wish I could go back to sleep, or even how this is a stupid exercise and I don’t want to write these stupid pages. These are all actual topics I have written about.
Don’t just write a sentence or two. Write three pages front and back. It doesn’t matter how well it flows. I jump from topic to topic all the time. This comes back to the no filter idea. It doesn’t have to be coherent, but you will notice patterns popping up and ideas that you might not have recognized without writing them down.
This is great no matter your genre. At one of my writing retreats, one author was writing fiction and he was able to find a solution for a problem he had been struggling with for months. The nonfiction author realized she still had a lot of anger about her topic and realized she might need to step away to do some healing before putting it into a book.
You never know what is going to come out in the morning pages, but I’m certainly a better writer (and human being) as a result.
Start with the Ending
I’m not talking about the end of the story, that comes later. Start with the end result. You may be thinking, “Duh, a book.” I’m asking you to go beyond that. What happens once you have the finished copy in your hands?
Writing a book is a lot of work. And once the writing is finished, the real work begins. So what do you want to accomplish with writing the book? Just to say you did? Awesome, many people don’t have that kind of bragging right.
But also consider these questions: Do I want to sell copies of the book? Will there be another book after this one? Am I using this as part of a business? What genre will benefit the audience the most?
Be sure to consider what happens AFTER the book is finally published because otherwise, it’s going to simply collect dust on the shelf. Selling a book is a continuous process. Writing a book is going to be a career move. Either by beginning a new career as an author or enhancing a business by establishing you as an authority.
Don’t just read whatever for kicks and giggles, you will need to read with a purpose. Look specifically at the genre you are wanting to write in. What covers entice you to buy? What blurbs make you curious? How did they organize the book?
I’ve been a reader my entire life. I was even grounded from books for an entire summer in middle school because my parents were concerned with the level of reading. Because I’ve read anything and everything, I’ve learned the difference between good writing and mediocre writing, as well as knowing what to look for in genres and the subtle differences in each sub genre.
Reading helps you find something that you want to aspire to. Want to write a fantasy novel? Do you aspire more to something like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter? They are very different, and that affects how you are going to organize the book.
Some people are lucky enough to skip this step. I am not one of those. I have to have my book outlined. If you are writing nonfiction, this actually makes it super easy to write. It becomes your table of contents, then I copy/paste it for the actual content and just fill in each section.
Even when I write fiction, I’ve found I need to outline. I need to know where the story is going in order to write anything worthwhile. I have several manuscripts that are three quarters of a full novel, but I have to stop because I don’t know where it goes next or how the story ends.
Maybe one day I’ll get back to those.
In the meantime, I still outline my fiction novels, which allows me the freedom to jump from scene to scene and always feel oriented. I know where I have been and where I am going.
And while, yes, things do change, they are more just details and the overall story line stays the same. I’ve had names change, charcter’s careers change, once the villain even changed. However, I still have the overall concept and formula in place, and my brain needs that structure.
While everyone is going to have a different process when they write, this is a formula of the overall process that is going to help you get started. The order in which you do these steps may change, that’s cool. But each step is going to be there at some point, and this is the order that works best for me.
Knowing the purpose and where you are going, reading, writing, and organization is going to be the best way to start your book. If you aren’t sure which order is going to work best for you, start with each step as I have written them, then feel free to play with them and change it up. As Sara Zarr said in her book Courageous Creativity, “tools not rules.”
You are the author and you are the one in charge. How you use those tools is entirely up to you.
I can’t wait to see what your story and hear what you come up with!
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Then send me a message. I’d love to hear what your story is and help to make it a reality. I host 2 writing retreats per year where you can get your book written and get one on one help with your book. Find that info here. You can message me here through private comments, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.