If you’ve ever tried to write a book, you know how it goes…You might stare at a blank page for 5 minutes, but it feels like hours. So you stand, stretch, and brew another pot of coffee. Surely, once you’re refreshed, the words will flow out of you. But first, it’s time to check Facebook. And then it’s time to watch your favorite TV show.
The following week, a friend asks how your book is coming, and you think, “Book? What book?”
There are plenty of reasons why writing a book puts most writers directly into procrastination mode. Maybe you’re just not sure how to get started. Perhaps spilling your guts onto the page for the world to see makes you want to run far away from the nearest computer. Or maybe you’re insecure about the quality of your writing, and you’re afraid of getting slammed by negative reviews. Or even worse: what if nobody buys your book and all your effort is wasted?
How to Write a Book in 30 Days
Take a deep breath (but no more coffee, you’ve had enough.) Just remember that all authors have been exactly where you are right now, at the beginning. Each and every author—from Shakespeare to Whitman to Grisham—all began by staring at a blank page. You’re in illustrious company!
I’m here to help. This IS something you can do, you just need to know the steps to get there. You can—and will—write your book in 30 days. I’ve got you covered on all aspects of getting started. Read on and crush your fear of writing and publishing your book.
The More You Write, the Better You Get
From the terror of the white screen to a completed book in 30 days—how is that even possible?
Practice, my friend.
You may be thinking, “I’m not even that good at writing.”
I repeat: practice.
As with anything we learn, writing is a skill to be honed over time because it requires practice to master. Letting go of this idea that you’re not good enough will help you make the mindset switch from “I Can’t!” to “Let’s Get This Done!”
When it comes to writing, the more you do it, the better you’ll get.
Purpose Driven Writing: What’s Your WHY?
Before you open your laptop and start day-dreaming about which professional photographer you should use to take your best-selling author headshot, you need to answer one question.
Why do you want to write a book?
Solidifying the purpose fueling your book will carry you through the sometimes difficult process of writing, and ultimately, the publishing and marketing process.
Ok, you’re thinking—”I’ve got this, I want to write a book to feel important!” Interesting thought, and feeling important may be a byproduct of becoming a published author.
That said, feeling important isn’t the same as your purpose—your WHY. Feelings are fleeting, whereas a purpose is a deeper, intrinsic motivator which will keep you burning the midnight oil to power through Chapter 23 when the rush of feelings have long dissipated.
While thinking of your own purpose, you may consider why other published authors have taken the leap to write their own books:
- Authority: To build credibility.
- Money: For financial gain or business success.
- Grow a network: To meet and connect with others in the industry.
- Passion project: To share an empowering story for the greater good.
Authority, money, networking, and passion may resonate with you; one of those might be your purpose. Or, your purpose may be something completely independent from this list. There are no wrong or right purposes for writing a book. Your WHY will be unique to you.
Sandra Bass Joines, a member of the Self-Publishing School community, wrote on Facebook about finding the WHY behind her book, and how it helped to fuel her creative process.
Sandra writes, “Having just gone through a pretty nasty spine surgery, I decided to write about that topic, although I questioned what I had to offer. After struggling through mind mapping and outlining and writing about 10,000 words, I still did not know why I was writing the darn book.
“I am a person who needs to know not only the what but also the why, how, when, where…all of it. Drove my teachers and parents crazy. Sitting in the waiting room before a follow-up appointment with my surgeon, I overheard two women talking. It was apparent that both of the women were recovering from surgery. One woman had legs and feet that pretty much resembled those of an alligator. She was telling the other woman how she had asked her husband to put lotion on her feet and legs, but he never got around to it, and she was so tired of not being able to do things for herself. The other woman agreed.
“Having discovered a method of putting lotion on my feet and legs without bending and therefore preventing pain, I asked the women if I could share something with them. So, sitting in the waiting room, I began to show these two women my method. Soon, there were others who were standing around. When I saw the surgeon, he smiled and said that he understood I was conducting classes in his waiting room.
“Well, the light went off. I could help people. I could write a book. I could share how I prepared my home and found efficient ways to take care of myself that helped relieve my caregivers of their duties and reduced my pain and stress.
“I went home, tossed my 10,000 words and started over. I had a why to my what. I had a purpose. And I think that is the secret. If there is a purpose, there is a book.
“Now, I have a book that has been through the formatting stage and it is almost ready to start its life, and I feel it will actually help many people.
SPS [Self-Publishing School] works. It is an awesome program. My comments to you new folks, find your why and follow the program. The rest will come. Best of luck to all of you.”
Once you’ve honed in on your WHY and your purpose, let your purpose help focus your writing. By keeping your purpose at the forefront of your creative process, you’ll make the writing process quicker and smoother than you thought possible.
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Excuses Be Gone
You’ve figured out your WHY and articulated your unique purpose for your book. And now, let the excuses begin.
When there’s nothing standing in your way, it’s sadly typical to start letting excuses become the obstacle to your success.
It’s worthwhile to address some common excuses so many of us make to prevent us from writing. Once you’ve cleared out the cobwebs and smashed those mental roadblocks, you’ll be better prepared for the writing process ahead. Getting your mind ready is one of the first steps to producing valuable work.
Excuse #1: I don’t know what to write.
You have a story. In fact, you may be pleasantly surprised to find as you write that you have more than one story and you’re having a tough time narrowing down the content.
Your first book should be about a topic you’re comfortable with. You can literally write a book about anything, so go with what you know. Start by brainstorming and let your thoughts run free.
Excuse #2: I don’t have enough time.
Today, we’re all busy. Writing a book takes less time than you think. Find an hour a day you devote to something mindless—social media, video games, internet, or TV—and start writing. You’ll amaze yourself at how an hour per day adds up to something productive!
Excuse #3: Good writers spend all their free time reading.
You might actually need to cut down on reading, at least temporarily, in order to give yourself time to write.
Besides, you don’t need to be a literary connoisseur to write. Your writing style is your own. As you write, you’ll find your natural voice; in fact, trying to emulate another’s style or tone will stifle your own process.
Excuse #4: I’m not an expert.
According to Google, the definition of an expert is “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.” Do you know a lot about a certain topic? Congrats, per the above definition, you’re an expert!
Excuse #5: The first draft must be perfect.
A draft is a work-in-progress, and the goal is simply to get it on paper. A draft will have mistakes and that’s okay—that’s what the editing process is for.
As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg said, “Done is better than perfect.” If it works for a multi-billion dollar company, it should work for your first self-published book.
Shedding these excuses should help get you into a positive frame of mind for the writing process.
Setting the Stage: Get Ready to Write
The day is here, the day that sets you on the path toward becoming a published author. How exciting!
We’ve talked about the WHY and obliterated your excuses. It’s time to start your prep work. Before words make it on to the page, you need to focus on three prep elements: planning, time, and environment.
Plan When You’ll Write
Without a plan, it’s too easy to let your book writing goals get pushed to the background, eventually fading into the soft mist of someday. Don’t let your book end up in the dream graveyard. To realize your end goal, you need actionable steps to follow. Here are three steps to follow so you can create your own customized book writing plan:
- Plan writing sessions using your calendar. Assess what’s going on in your life in the next 30 days. Block out when you can write, and when you can’t. It’s common for new writers to set unrealistic time goals, which in turn generates stress when it’s impossible to meet those arbitrary deadlines. You want to stay realistic. Thirty minutes (or even 5 minutes) spent writing is better than nothing, so resolve to make it happen and find the time.
Look at Laura Bennett, a Self-Publishing School student. She was working full-time, running a business, and working on her Master’s degree—busier than most people—yet she found the time to write her book Live Your Dream: How to Cut the Crap and Prioritize Your Purpose in two months! If Laura could make it happen, writing a book is certainly an attainable dream.
- Choose the time of day you plan to write. You might decide to get up early and write before the obligations of your day crowd out your writing time. But if you’d win the gold medal in the Olympic Sport of snooze-button slapping, then choose a different time or make sure you get to bed earlier so you’re fresh in the morning.
If your evenings are free, but by then your brain is mush and all you’re good for after a long day is sinking deep into the couch cushions, again, choose a different time or rearrange your schedule so you aren’t so burned out in the evenings.
Alternatively, you can grab some time on your lunch break, or sneak small blocks of time into your workday, such as when you’re transitioning between activities, or waiting for a meeting to start.
Whatever time of day is convenient for you, stick with it so that it becomes a predictable part of your day so that you can establish a writing habit.
- Set a deadline for your book-writing project. Setting an end date forces you to stay on schedule and keep the forward momentum going. How do you choose a deadline when you have no idea how long the book-writing process will take? Writing a book takes far less time than you might think!
Self-Publishing School recommends writing until you hit a word count of 500-1,000 words for the day. As long as you commit to one hour (or less!) each day, you should be able to reach that goal. After 30 days of daily writing sessions, you will have completed a 30,000-word draft.
If that schedule doesn’t work, then commit to a time period and a daily word count which does. It’s okay if that’s 15 minutes per day. The ultimate goal is your rear end in the writing seat for that allocated period of time each day.
Share the end date of your first completed draft with others so you have extrinsic motivation to keep moving toward that finish line. It’s a good idea to choose an editor for your book and schedule when you’ll have the completed first draft of the manuscript in that person’s hands. That way, if you’re tempted to flake out and put off a writing session, that looming deadline can help keep you going.
Create Your Writing Environment
The “best” writing environment is going to be personal to you. We all work well in different settings, so with that in mind, consider these general guidelines to boost your productivity.
- Minimize distractions. Laundry, kids, the dog that wants to go for a walk, email—nope, not during your writing time. Focus on your writing, and the rest can wait. Some like to escape to a coffee shop because the buzz from the crowd and the caffeine keeps their fingers flying across the keyboard.
- Choose a comfortable work space. Once your tush is planted firmly in your seat, you don’t want your physical discomfort to detract from your creativity. Pick a spot that’s not so comfortable you’ll fall asleep, but comfy enough to keep you typing for the duration of your allotted writing time.
- Pick your favorite background noise. Find your happy ambient background. Whether that’s total silence or Pandora’s Party Music, we each know what background noise keeps us focused. Consider some meditation music with binaural beats to get you in the zone. Again, some people find heaven while writing at a coffee shop, while others find the chatter distracting.
You might experiment to find the writing environment that allows you to focus and write freely. Bottom line: Find the writing environment that makes you comfortable, and go with it. Once you find the best creative process for you, you’ll even look forward to writing!
Strategic Writing Methods
Now we’re on to the actual writing (finally!) Without further ado, let’s look at 4 detailed strategies to make writing your book as productive and painless as possible!
1. The Mind Map Method: From Brain Dump to Book
First, create a mind map—basically, a brain dump—based on your book’s topic. Start your mind map by writing your intended topic in the center of a blank sheet of paper. From there, use lines and words to draw as many connections from that one topic as you can. Your mind map allows you to write in free-form, while diagramming any connections your brain makes to lend structure to your writing.
Once you’ve exhausted the number of topics in your mind map, it’s time to outline. Use the ideas and connections generated in your mind map to create a clear outline for your writing, chapter by chapter.
And finally, start writing. That’s it!
This method should work for you if you like to plan ahead. This method may also appeal if you’re not tech-savvy, since the “old-fashioned” free-hand mapping concept might allow more creative freedom than you’d find behind a keyboard. The ultimate outcome of using this method is the generation of plentiful topics and free-form thoughts.
2. The Sticky Note Method: Collect Your Thoughts
Instead of using the mind mapping structure, this method uses sticky notes to form an outline. For about a week, carry around sticky notes and write down anything and everything that crosses your mind regarding possible book topics.
When the week is up, organize all of your sticky notes in your workspace into sections and themes. Then, organize these themes into the patterns that would make sense in the context of chapters. You can then elaborate in areas where you notice missing pieces to the puzzle, and use all of the material you’ve gathered and organized to create an outline.
This method may be helpful if you’re struggling with the notion of committing to writing a whole book, since it lets you break down the process into manageable pieces. The ultimate outcome of using this method is deeper thinking and clear, concise organization of thoughts and patterns.
3. The Speaker Method: Write a Book Without Actually Writing
This method gives you two options to start your outline process: either mind map or sticky note. Once you’ve organized these thoughts into an outline, you’ll then use a transcription app or device to record your spoken words to create your book draft.
This method works if you’re a strong speaker, and you prefer speaking to writing. The ultimate outcome is that you can create your book draft as quickly as possible, with no actual writing on your part. Writing a book without writing—clever!
4. The Transcription Method: Record, Then Write
The first step to this method is to organize your brainstorming and outline using, again, either mind mapping or sticky notes. Then you’ll speak your first draft aloud into a recording app or device, which you’ll then transcribe yourself into written copy. This differs from “The Speaker” method because, instead of using an app or service to transcribe your words, now you’re the one transcribing and typing the written draft.
Why would you bother taking that extra step? For those of us who have tons of ideas but can’t winnow them down or organize them cohesively by speaking alone, this method can help us get the words out, and then decide what to toss once we hear the playback.
This is also a method to consider if you’re struggling with stagnant writing and need a fresh way to spice things up.
Pick the strategic method that speaks to you and your process, and get started on that book!
Overcoming Writing Challenges: Solutions to Common Problems
It’s not a matter of if, but when you’ll face adversity during your book writing process. Most commonly, writers struggle with getting a manuscript finished in a reasonable length of time; or they’re making no progress whatsoever when faced with a dreadful case of writer’s block. Here are cures for both issues.
How to Write Faster
Writing faster means getting to publication—and to profits—that much sooner. Try these pro tips to maximize your daily word count.
- Flex your writing muscles each day. The more you work, the more efficient you’ll get. Create your writing routine and stick to it!
- If you get stuck on a particular section and stop making progress, find a different part of the book that appeals to you today and write that section.
- Planning and research can be necessary—or a method of procrastination. Limit your prep work to a reasonable timeframe so it won’t preclude you from writing. Use a timer if it helps you stay on track.
- A partner to hold you accountable to the goals you’ve set for yourself can keep you on track. Set up weekly meetings to review work and cheer each other on.
How to Beat Writer’s Block
Writer’s block can rear its ugly head in many ways. For some, blocked means no words at all, while for others, it means trying to nail down a functional draft in the midst of a tornado of swirling ideas. For an unfortunately high number of people, writer’s block is a symptom of a paralyzing fear of others’ opinions. The harsh reality is, if you write, at some point you’ll be on a first-name basis with a bout of the block.
5 Way to Beat Writer’s Block:
- Circle back to your mind map or outline and see if there’s useful info that sparks fresh inspiration. Sometimes it just takes looking back at the bigger picture to remind you where you’re going with your draft.
- Change up the physical way you’re writing; sometimes a simple shift can boost creativity. If you use a laptop, put pen to pad. Try some new music, a new location, or new beverage to sip at your desk.
- If you find you start writing slowly and warm up as time goes on, allow adequate time during your writing sessions to get the creative juices flowing.
- Review what you wrote the day prior to refresh your memory.
- Talk it out. Sometimes a quick conversation with yourself is enough to work through writer’s block. Or call a friend and bounce some ideas off them if you’re truly stuck.
Now that you know ways to work around common writing challenges, there’s no excuse for throwing in the towel when the going gets tough. Keep pushing forward and you’ll be printing out the last page of your book before you know it.
Keep Going: You’re Almost There!
Now you know not only how to get started writing your book, but how to complete your book project in a mere 30 days! Remember to keep your WHY at the forefront of your mind, and you’ll be able to crush any and all obstacles that get in your way. With just a little bit of time and a lot of determination, you are on your way to being able to officially call yourself an author.