Writing a book is not as complicated as you think it is

I know the struggle to start writing a book. You feel the need to write the book, rising up at the strangest moments. You want to talk to others about your book, only to be embarrassed that you haven’t really started writing the book, yet.

What do you do instead of writing?

You research the publishing process. You fiddle with the idea of a website or social media presence. You sketch rough outlines and then throw them away. You read about writing.

I’ve coached others who were in the same spot, and I’ve been there myself.

I’ve been a writing coach and editor since 2007, so I’ve seen procrastination bubble up in all sorts of forms. I’ve also written my own book (and am in the process of procrastinating a second), so I’m intimately familiar with the push-pull of this torturous cycle.

But you can easily move from a cycle of constant procrastination into a cycle of progress.

You just need an intervention, a light bulb moment, a way forward.

Now, you could wait around for this intervention to find its way into your life. That could (and often does) take 20 years. Or you could be a bit more proactive.

That’s what I’m here for.

Because the simple truth is that once you see the bigger picture of how to write a book, you’ll realize that it’s just a large project that you can break down into doable pieces.

Writing a book is not the complicated, over-your-head task that you imagine it is. Sure, you’ll have to learn a lot along the way, but that’s the case with anything worthwhile. Be willing to ask questions, mess up, and figure out new skills, and you’ll make a fine author.

The first question people often ask is, “Do I self-publish or traditionally publish?”

I wrote about this more extensively last week, but my ultimate answer is that traditional publishing is great for prestige and hitting the New York Times bestseller list. But you’re going to sacrifice a lot of money and invest a lot of your own time publicizing your book, so just be ready for that.

If you are building your own business or platform, I highly recommend that you self-publish. Is it a bit scarier? Yes. Is it possible that you’ll completely muck it up and fail the first go-round? Well, yes.

But your first self-published book is the platform on which you will build your author platform. And when you’re ready, with 5,000 to 10,000 subscribers and an equal social media following, then you can choose to traditionally publish, and that book will be a bigger success because of your experience from the books you published earlier on.

The second question often is, “Well, if I self-publish…how the heck do I do that?”

It comes down to four phases:

1. You organize your thoughts. You go back through all of your notes, journals, and papers. Create a new digital note-taking system in Evernote or Google Docs or anything else you like. Spend a few days just freewriting about your thoughts and sketching out a rough structure of the book. Don’t dwell on this phase, just get far enough that you feel confident there’s a book in there, somewhere.

2. Write your first draft, fast and light. Do not edit in this phase. Just write chapters or sections of chapters as they come to you. Write in 25-minute increments of time, and aim to write three to five hours per week. You do not have to make sense, you do not have to write perfectly, you do not have to run spell-check. Get the first draft out as fast as you can.

3. Edit and revise. Now, you go back through your first draft. Create an outline of what you’ve written, and make notes to yourself about what you should change. Slowly, move around sections, paragraphs, and sentences to be in the order that will make the most sense to the reader. Bring in a professional editor, then bring in three to five beta readers.

4. Publish. This phase is so much easier than you would imagine! Hire a cover designer and a formatter (trust me, this will save your book). Upload the cover image file and the PDF file to Amazon CreateSpace. Upload the cover image file and the Mobi file to Amazon Kindle. Wait three to five days for the book pages to merge on Amazon. Viola! Tell all your family and friends. And ask for reviews. ;)

Granted, that’s a very rough overview. But doesn’t it make you feel a bit better, seeing it all in the light of day, rather than hiding in dark corners of mystery?