At this point, you have an idea for your book and a long list of resources to help you through the process. You are probably more than ready to begin, but wait a few moments. There are some things you should know and some important questions for you to consider:
- What should you know?
- Why should you write your book?
- What’s holding you back?
- What does it take to write a book?
What should you know?
- Books are a labor of love. The first thing you must love is your subject. It has to be something you are compelled to write. If you are lackadaisical about it, you won’t make it to the finish line. If you think of writing an article as a sprint, writing a book is a marathon.
- If you have never written a book, the process may seem mysterious and perhaps even impossible. It is neither. It follows a logical and orderly process.
- All along the route from start to finish, there are choices to be made. Some are small; some are complicated; all are worth taking the time to think through.
- The best part of being an author should be the process, not the end result.
- Writing a book is not rocket science, but it is hard work. It sounds a bit glamorous to be a published author, but behind the glamour are months and months of hard work.
Why should you write your book?
People write books for many reasons. Some love the process (I am one who does); others know the benefits and think they are well worth the effort; still others take on the challenge because their audiences or constituencies expect them to. There are as many reasons to write a book as there are books. Here are just a few of the most compelling.
- Credibility: Whether you are truly an authority on a subject or not, just put that subject between book covers, and people will assume you must be. After all, only experts write books. True? Well, no, but the myth persists. So, you might as well ride the wave. If you are an expert, all the better.
- Money: If you do a good job of promoting your book, you may actually make money on it, but writing books does not guarantee that you will get rich quick, or at all. It takes an enormous amount of time and effort to market a book successfully, most of which you will do yourself. Even if you have a publisher, don’t expect much help
- To share knowledge: A book is one of the best ways to convey information. More and more professional speakers are finding that having a product to sell in the back of the room often commands higher speaking fees.
- To pass along wisdom: High-profile CEOs often write books to convey their business philosophies and practices to the next generation of leaders in their organizations; to articulate to significant stakeholders their personal visions for their companies; or to apply the hard-won lessons of their lives to the broader context of business, society, academia, or government.
What’s holding you back?
There are endless reasons why you may not have begun your book. All big projects seem overwhelming before you begin. But you have to start somewhere. Athletes train, performers practice, industry leaders work their way up the ladder, writers often write many drafts before they are satisfied. They all do it one step at a time, and that is exactly how you write a book.
Finally, let me shatter the mystique associated with writing a book. Anything you do for the first time has an element of mystery, simply because you haven’t done it before, but one step inside any bookstore will clearly demonstrate how many thousands of people have solved the mystery.
What does it take to write a book?
- A concept
- A plan
- A long attention span
- Support and guidance
Desire, of course, means that you really want to write this book. Once your idea begins to take shape, your desire should grow until you can’t think of much else. Desire leads to self-motivation, which leads to obsession, especially in the beginning. The challenge is to keep that desire alive through all the stages of your writing, even if no one else seems excited about your idea. J.K. Rowling was turned down by twelve publishers before someone said yes. Her books became the best-selling series of all time and spawned six blockbuster movies. Rowling is now a billionaire.
A concept is another word for idea. It is the message you are trying to get across, and you have to be very clear when you explain it. If you can’t do that in one sentence, you need to go back to square one and redefine your concept. In the early stages of my writing career, when I got stuck on an article, my twelve-year-old daughter would ask, “What is it about, Mom?” Keeping it short enough to hold her attention was good training.
A plan is a roadmap for your journey from idea to completed book. many first-time authors go wrong because they don’t have a plan. They have the romantic idea that one begins a book by sitting down at the computer and just “letting it flow.” If you ever hope to finish your book, it is essential to have a plan.
A long attention span means that you can focus on what you are doing for as long as it takes to do it. Writing a book may take months or even years to complete, and during that time, you need to keep your mind engaged in the process. There will be times, when you sit down to write, and nothing happens. There are two schools of thought on this: muscle your way through it, even though you are producing garbage that you will have to rewrite later, or get up and take a break. Do something else, preferably something physical. I subscribe to the latter idea. Having to rewrite something you knew was bad seems a ridiculous waste of time.
Self-discipline is doing what has to be done, sticking with it even when it’s not fun, and reasserting your commitment as often as necessary. That definition applies equally to dieting, exercising, climbing a mountain, and writing a book. Once you commit to an activity, whatever that may be, self-discipline will keep you on track.
Support and guidance are the ingredients authors rarely think about, but they are as essential as any of the above. No one goes it alone, especially when you undertake a project of this magnitude. No matter which book you’re working on—your first or twenty-first—you need to feel that others are in your corner and rooting for you. That’s support. If this is your first book, guidance from a knowledgeable source is a gift. Guidance comes in many forms and from many sources—teachers, fellow writers, writers’ groups, writing classes, and professionals—especially book-writing coaches.
OK, now, you’re ready to start.