Whenever I talk to people about writing books, I hear the same sentiment, “I have a great idea for a book. I just need the time to write it!” Inevitably, there are a dozen other priorities that stand in the way, and the book gets shoved off, year after year.
Why do so many people spend years trying to write a book?
Most people have a thousand ideas, swirling in their heads, but they sit down and try to start writing “Chapter 1.” They attempt to pluck out one of a thousand ideas to write about, but they start doubting themselves immediately. “Is this the right idea to start with? How is it going to flow to the next idea? And how is Chapter 1 going to relate to Chapter 2? And how the heck am I going to write a whole book?”
The self-doubts kick in immediately, and it feels so much easier to flip to the next tab over, where Facebook or the email inbox offer a distraction.
It’s easy to spend years in this spin cycle.
But what if there were a proven method for writing books quickly and efficiently?
Honestly, there are many methods for writing books, and any one of them might work for you, but I’d like to share with you the method that I use myself and with clients. Let’s call it the quick start method, and there are four basic steps.
None of these steps is complicated, but the beauty of the method is this: We begin with idea generation, then create a flexible structure, and then move into writing. This allows for your creativity and all your ideas to come out at the beginning, so that you can narrow your focus to start writing with confidence. Here are the four steps to the quick start method for writing books.
First, free write for five days.
I’ve done previous posts on free writing (here and here, but let my give you the short-hand version. To free-write, set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes, bring your book topic to mind (don’t free write on what you had for breakfast, free write with purpose on your book topic), and start writing as fast as you physically can for the full timer allotment. No backspacing, no re-reading, just continuously typing or writing as fast as your fingers move. Then, when the timer rings, you stop.
I’m going to ask you to suspend your disbelief and just trust that this type of free writing is a cognitive game-changer. If you have ever struggled with staring at a blank screen, free writing is the answer to get the ideas flowing. You will be amazed at the insights that pop into your brain after even one session, and doing this once a day for five days in a row will absolutely rock your writing world.
Second, brain dump all of your ideas.
The second step in the quick start method is to do a brain dump of all your ideas. So, get out a blank piece of paper or pull up a new Word document. Then, write out every idea, story, bit of advice, information, and inspiration that you want to include in your book. It’ll be messy and unorganized, just write the thoughts as they come. And, yes, it’ll be a long list, probably four to six pages at least.
Third, organize the brain dump into a “rough organization.”
The third step in the quick start method is to create a rough organization. So, take that unorganized brain dump and read through the list again. Look for ideas that are related. Cut and paste those ideas into a group together. Maybe you’ll put a sub-heading on that group of ideas, if you’re inspired. Then, after you have a few groups, look for groups that are related, cut and paste them together. Maybe you’ll put a chapter heading on those groups, if it makes sense. But don’t put too much pressure on yourself, here.
The goal of the rough organization is to provide an initial structure for the book. It’s okay if it’s not 100% perfect. The rough organization just gives you the confidence to start writing.
Fourth, start writing, using the rough organization as your guide.
And that’s exactly what you do next, you start writing. You set a timer for 25 minutes. You look at the first item in the rough organization and write out that first idea to completion. Cross it off the list and move on to the second item. Keep writing until the timer rings, then stop. You just completed a successful writing session for the first draft of your book.
Continue scheduling writing sessions into your calendar until you’ve written all the way through every item in your rough organization. At that point, you’ll have a completed rough draft! And that is a huge accomplishment.
Let me know how you get on with your first draft!