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How to write a book in less than 3 months

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I wrote my book, Start Writing Your Book Today: A Step-by-Step Plan to Write Your Nonfiction Book, From First Draft to Finished Manuscript, in less than 3 months. Part of me still thinks that’s crazy!

People have been asking me questions about my own writing process and how to write a book quickly, so I thought I’d take the time to write out my answers here. I’m going to open up here and be real. Talking in abstract, general terms can be helpful, but sometimes you just really need to know what someone’s life looks like, in specific terms.

Where do you find the time to write?

I have three kids (ages 5, 3, and now 8 months), a growing business that requires me to be “on” all the time during my regular work hours, and a husband with a demanding job (read: “not around to help out much”). The oldest kiddo is in school, and I have the most amazing nanny who comes to watch the younger two, but only during my regular work hours.

So, I pulled out my schedule to find extra time. Where would it come from?

I essentially had these options:

  • Early in the morning
  • During my brief lunch break
  • After work, before dinner
  • After the kids were in bed
  • On the weekends

The weekends were out. My husband often works weekends, and when he’s not working, we try to get out and do something fun as a family. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice that time.

After the kids were in bed would not be my best option, I knew, because I am tired after 8:30pm.

After work, I decided wouldn’t be that great, either. Yeah, I could put them in front of the TV, but I knew the writing would get crowded out with “urgent” tasks, like grocery shopping, cleaning the house, and making dinner.

During my brief lunch break was a decent option, but it’s hard to type and eat at the same time.

Early morning it was. Luckily, my then 4-month-old baby woke me up between 4:00 and 5:00 am every day. So, I’d feed the baby and instead of going back to bed for a quick snooze, I’d stay awake and write my book.

My primary goal: 20 minutes of writing before 6:30 am, when the older kids started to wake up.

My primary back-up: 20 minutes of writing during lunch.

My secondary back-up: 20 minutes of writing after the kids were in bed, around 8:00 pm.

Not complicated, but would require intense commitment on my part.

But I was willing to devote this time to writing because I knew that it was for a short season. During what I consider “normal life,” when I don’t have a newborn and I’m not writing a book, the early morning hours are devoted to my morning run.

So, just to show you what I mean by seasons, from November through January of this last year, I was in full force “newborn” season, with little sleep and just trying to keep up. February through early June of this year was full force “book-writing” season, where I devoted my prime morning hours to writing. Now, I’m back in a “normal” season, and I’m using my morning time to run. I’ll stay in this mode until I’m ready to write my next book or different top priority comes up.

Life is a constant shifting of seasons, and we devote different seasons of life to different priorities. You can shift time to your book for a short season and return to a “normal” season later.

How do you stay motivated?

A big part of staying motivated during any long project is to constantly remind yourself why this project is important for you and why it’s important to finish now. Ask yourself every day, “What will this book do for my readers? What will this book do for my life?”

When I would wake up in the morning and I was (very!) tempted to go back to bed after feeding the baby, I would ask myself those exact questions. And as I thought about why I wanted to write my book, a sense of urgency—the good kind of urgency—would well up and motivate me to write.

I wrote out why I wanted to write the book and stuck the note on the coffee table, where I would see it every morning. Here’s the note that would bring me full-force into a motivated state:

I am writing this book to encourage and inspire writers to stop procrastinating and to give them the tools to write their book. This book will CHANGE some writer’s life; she’ll write the book she’s always wanted, and that book just might change the world. This book will help me to connect with authors and grow my business so I can support my family and work from anywhere in the world.

My heart resonates so strongly with those intentions, that I get excited reading it, even now, even though my book is already finished! Guess that means I may have more writing to do. ;)

Find the reason why this book is important to you, right now. Write it out, and post is somewhere (maybe several places) that is highly visible. Read it out loud to really get your motivation going.

How do you make yourself finish the book?

Remembering why the book is important definitely worked to keep me motivated, but I know that I could have dragged the whole process on and on with endless edits and proofreading.

How did I make myself finish the book? Accountability and deadlines.

I joined a writer’s group and teamed up with a fellow writer, David. We checked in with each other once a week to share our progress on our writing. His inspiration was invaluable to my steady progress. He would email me during the middle of the week, just to say, “No slumps!” Thanks, David. :)

Then, I hired an editor, and we set a date for her to start editing before I’d even finished the first draft. So, I knew I had to hurry up and finish before then!

On my Google calendar, I had an event in red and all caps “MS DUE TO EDITOR.” (“ms” stands for “manuscript” in the publishing world.) Every day that I checked in with my calendar, I would see that date getting closer and closer, and that really encouraged me not dwell on endless edits. It was also reassuring to know that someone else would be helping to make my book better.

Finally, I set up a date to send the manuscript to my formatter/proofreader, so the book had to be finished, completely edited, and in her hands by a set date. So, you guessed it, on my calendar, two weeks after my editor due date, I had another event in red and all caps, “MS DUE TO FORMATTER.”

Nothing like hard-nosed accountability and firm deadlines to keep you going!

What surprised me most about writing this book?

Several people have asked me this, so I wanted to include my answer here.

First, I was surprised that I was able to write this book so quickly. February 16 to April 21, that’s how long I spent on the first draft.

Second, I was surprised at how fun the process was! I had prepared myself for it to be all doom and gloom, woe is me, writing is so hard, blah, blah.

Guess what? Writing my book was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life.

Writing a book is exhilarating, invigorating, purpose-driven work.

And I can’t wait to write my next book.

What about you?

Are you writing a book? Do you want to write a book? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Publishing Success Blueprint

Get our blueprint for the journey from book idea to published, successful author and everything you'll need to think about along the way. (It's free!)

GET THE BLUEPRINT NOW