Write a book faster

7 Game-Changing Strategies to Write a Book Faster

“The faster I write, the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.” – Raymond Chandler

We’ve all been there: You finally squeeze in some writing time in between all your commitments. However, when you sit down to write, something odd happens. You thought that a torrent of words would flow out — after all, you have so much to say. Yet, each word that comes out of you is dragged out. Writing feels less like fun, and more like bleeding. At the end of the hour, you find you’ve only written 100 words, and not the 500 words you budgeted.

Any writer understands how frustrating it is to schedule time to write, but to have almost nothing to show for that time.

I have some good news: This doesn’t have to be the case. You can set up your writing process in such a way that it’s guaranteed you’ll find your writing flow and have words stream out of you faster than you can catch them. You can make sure that your writing session is as efficient and effective as possible so that not a single minute is wasted.

Writing faster will not only mean that you complete your book’s first draft, which can be a life-changing achievement, it’ll also mean that you’ll be quicker at anything you write. Your blog posts, emails, letters, and even your social media updates will be written faster.

Here are all the practical tips I’ve gathered over the years to help me and my students write book drafts in less than 30 days.

Write Every Day

I’m going to start with an essential tip: If you want to write faster, you have to write every day.

Writing, like any craft, gets better the more you do it. The more you practice your writing skills, the faster the words will come to your mind and your fingertips. You’ll get better and quicker at connecting different pieces of knowledge, forming new ideas and improving your natural storytelling abilities.

You’ll also get quicker at the mechanical process of writing. You’ll develop a muscle memory for your keyboard and your writing speed will go up. Soon you’ll wonder how you could have ever survived at your slower words-per-minute speed.

What to write? You could update your WordPress blog every day, or a chapter of your book every day. It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re writing.
Action Steps

  1. Choose what you’re going to write about every day, whether it’s blog articles, chapters of your book or even a personal journal.
  2. Set your word count goal for each day.
  3. Track how many words you are writing per hour or day.

However, even writing everyday won’t stop you facing that feeling you get when you see a blank page. To avoid that and guarantee your words flow every time you see a new page you need to create an outline.

Create an Outline

Here’s the writing world’s worst-kept secret: outlines work! To achieve any goal, you need to plan first. The same can be said for writing. Even if you’re able to crank out 3000 words an hour, it won’t matter much if your content lacks direction, as readers will get confused and drop your book. A solid outline gives you the direction you need to keep your readers engaged.

Writing a book is a lot of work, but we can cut out a ton of obstacles with a well-written outline that builds passion and purpose into your writing.

Here’s how an outline can double or even triple your writing speed:

1. Outlines Eliminate Writer’s Block

One of the reasons writers experience writer’s block is by not having an outline, or having a poorly written outline. If your outline is well-organized and fleshed out with all the ideas, chapters and sections flowing in logical sequence, chances are writer’s block won’t be an issue.

When you have to stop to think about what comes next, you’re no longer in writing mode. Instead you fall into confusion and frustration and then default to research mode.

“I know I can get through this if I just it look up…” You start doing everything else but writing. The next time you hit a wall, check the flow of your outline. Revise what you need to and keep moving forward. Be sure to do as much research as you can before the initial writing begins.

2. Outlines Provide an Organized Framework for Your Book’s Structure

Your outline is the roadmap for your book. Without it, your writing time is slow and grueling, like running up a mountain with a ball and chain. Sounds tough, right? A well-organized outline boosts productivity throughout the writing phase.

The secret to completing any big project is to break it into small manageable chunks, and an outline breaks this marathon project into small manageable writing tasks. You’ll write much faster when the chapters flow from one to the next and ideas are combined and clustered. When your outline flows with a well-organized structure you don’t have to stop to think about what to write next. Your fingers can keep moving in flow with the plan you created.

3. Outlines Give You a Bird’s Eye View

When you can see your book in its entirety on the page, you feel compelled to write as much as possible. Think of it as a race. You’ll perform much better knowing the exact distance you have to run — especially as you near the finish line and you have the end in sight.

Behind every great post and book is a bulletproof outline. Here are some steps you can take today to get started with this process.
Action Steps
For your book:

  1. Spend some time today and go back and revise your book outline. If you don’t have one, make one.
  2. Look at areas that could be better researched. Review the chapters that have ideas that require deeper development.
  3. The aim is to make your outline the best it can be. Revise your outline as you go, but make sure your words keep hitting the paper.

For other writing:

Commit to this rule whenever you’re writing anything: Five minutes of outlining for every 500 words of content. Writing a 1,000-word article? Spend 10 minutes developing an outline. Writing a 100-word email? Spend a minute outlining your points. Every minute you spend outlining will save you a heap of time later.

“Write Drunk, Edit Sober”

Want to write better quality stuff? Then you’re going to have let go of your inner perfectionist.

Hemingway is often attributed with the quote, “write drunk, edit sober.” While I’m not advocating you become an alcoholic to produce content, you can adopt the figurative meaning of the quote.

The largest obstacle to entering that zen state where the words zip out of us effortlessly is our tendency to censor ourselves. We continuously correct what we’re about to say before we put the words on the page. Us writers tend to be perfectionists, yet this self-criticism gets in the way of our creativity.

A better strategy is to write a rough draft first. Think B- quality instead of A+. This is what Hemingway means when he says to write drunk. During the drafting phase you let go of caring about the quality of your work, but instead focus on the quantity. Aim to finish your daily writing goal, no matter how bad the draft is. The goal is not to have a perfect manuscript.

Once you’ve finished, then and only then, begin the “edit sober” phase. Here you can engage your inner critic. You can cut what doesn’t work and polish what does. It’s best to begin the editing phase with a fresh set of eyes, usually after you’ve taken a break. If it’s a short article, then sleep on your draft before editing. If it’s a book draft, then take at least a week off the project before looking back on it.

It’s hard to let go of that inner judge when drafting our work, but once you do, you’ll write significantly faster. Often when you look back on the draft that you thought was horrible, you’ll find it’s better than you thought. Not perfect, but better than you imagined. You’ll also see that there were some ideas you put in there that couldn’t have happened if you were writing as a perfectionist.

Also, if you’re still worried about the quality of your book draft, remember that you’ll hire an editor to polish your book to be the best it can be.

Action Steps

  1. When you begin writing a piece, throw perfection out of the window and aim for a rough draft. Think B- work and not A+.
  2. If you find it hard to lock up your inner perfectionist, set yourself a challenge to write a word count in a set time, like 500 words in 30-minute chunks.
  3. After you finish your draft, put it away for a bit of time before you begin editing.

Write First, Research Later

Here’s a piece of great advice many journalists receive: write first and research later. It might be counter-intuitive, but before you close this page and think I’m crazy, hear me out.

When you begin writing you have one mission: enter flow. This is the state where the words come out of you effortlessly and you lose awareness of time flowing by. This is the key for quality and effective writing.

Once you enter flow, your mission is to stay there.

A sure way to get thrown out of the zone is to stop mid-sentence to find the capital of that country you want to reference, and then get sucked down a Wikipedia rabbit hole.

Instead of interrupting your flow of writing, use a writer’s tip I’ve talked about before: TK your research point.

TK is short for “to come” and is a handy placeholder to use for research points you want to look up later. There are barely any words in the English language that have those two letters next to each other, making it easy to use the Command+F function to find these placeholders.

For example, let’s say you were writing about the Golden Gate bridge and couldn’t remember the date it opened and its length. You would write:

The Golden Gate Bridge was opened in TK and was the longest bridge with a main span of TK.

This takes 10 seconds to write, and you can stay in your flow and move on to the next sentence. If you had Googled each of those facts, the sentence would have taken you 60 seconds and taken you out of your flow. After you finish the draft, you can go back in and fill in the blanks:

The Golden Gate Bridge was opened in 1937 and was the longest bridge with a main span of 4,200 feet.

Action Steps

  1. When drafting, if you can’t remember a piece of detail, put TK as a placeholder, instead of going to Google.
  2. During your editing phase, use Control+F to search for “TK” and replace each result with the relevant piece of research.

Schedule Brief Typing Practice Sessions

Think of your typing speed as the bottleneck between your brain and your piece of content, like the narrowest part of the road that’s causing a traffic buildup. Your fingers simply can’t type as fast as your mind is working.

Unfortunately, technology hasn’t yet progressed to the point where we can think of the words and they magically appear on the page, but with the help of a few fun and simple online games we can improve our typing speed.

I’ll share a secret with you: I used to not be able to type very well. I was like someone from the early 20th century, using two fingers to pound out my content. My typing speed was barely above 30 words per minute. Yet, writing was important to me, like it is for you, so I worked at it.

Even now, for ten minutes a day I play online typing games to test my writing speed and provide feedback on how efficient I am a typist. It’s a great way to master the skill of getting your word count up. Check out 10FastFingers or Key Hero.

Use Proper Sitting Posture

The position of your body has a lot to do with typing speed and efficiency. If you slouch in your chair you’ll cramp up and find it hard to concentrate. Here is how you should position yourself:

  • Make sure that you are sitting up straight — don’t lean or hunch over towards the desk.
  • Position your elbows at right angles to the keyboard — avoid bending your arms upwards or downwards.
  • Properly position your fingers on the keyboard.

Buy a Standing Desk

It’s scientifically proven that the standing desk has major benefits for your health. Standing gives you higher energy levels and better blood flow. But that’s not all! It also boosts productivity and makes us more efficient when typing.

Challenge Yourself

Writing faster will not only allow you to finish your book’s first draft faster, it’ll make you quicker at all forms of writing. You’ll be speedier at composing emails, recommendation letters, cover letters, social media posts and articles. Writing is also closely related to thinking. Being a faster and clearer writer will make you a faster and clearer thinker.

Follow the above tips on your next great article idea or book chapter and see how many words you can get out in a timed writing session. You’ll be amazed at the difference in your writing speed. Instead of your draft taking months to produce, you might find that you’ll be able to pound out full-length novels on the weekends.

Book Writing Software: Which Is Best? self-publishingschool book writing software

The 11 Best Book Writing Software Tools For Authors

The right book writing software can make all the difference in the world.

With the right software you can write faster and more effectively. You’ll be more focused, with fewer distractions. And just as importantly, you’ll have an easier time keeping your outline and notes better organized.

But to get there, you’ll have to make some choices. Authors have all kinds of options when looking for the best book writing software.

Should you stick with tried-and-true Microsoft Word? Move to Scrivener, the software of choice for many professional authors? Or maybe it’s worth giving Google Docs a try, so you can easily share and co-edit your book with an editor?

We’ll cover the best options in this article. For a quick overview, here are the 11 best book writing software options for writers:

  • Microsoft Word – Word Processor, $79.99
  • Scrivener – Word Processor, $45
  • Pages – Word Processor, $28
  • Google Docs – Online Word Processor, Free
  • Evernote – Note-Taking Software, Free
  • FocusWriter – Word Processor, Free
  • FastPencil – Word Processor, Free
  • yWriter – Word Processor, Free
  • Freedom – Productivity Software, $2.42/month
  • Hemingway App – Style & Grammar Checker, Free

Let’s get started by comparing the 3 book writing software “giants,” and then I’ll share some less well-known tools that might help improve your writing process even more.

First, though, there’s one thing you should spend some time thinking about:

Which Book Writing Software Features Are Most Important to YOU?

I’m not trying to sell you on any particular book writing software in this article. Instead my goal is to give you an idea of what’s out there so you can weigh the options for yourself. Who knows—you may even discover a brand-new tool you absolutely love.

There are 9 things to consider when deciding which program to use for your book. Depending on your needs, some of these questions may be more or less important to you:

  1. How easy is it to format text the way you want?
  2. Does it have templates available? How many?
  3. How much does it cost?
  4. Is the program simple & easy to use?
  5. Does it offer any extra features or other bells & whistles?
  6. How about a distraction-free writing experience?
  7. Is the program user-friendly?
  8. Can you access your files no matter where you are?
  9. How easy is it to collaborate with editors & team members?

In the end, the truth is that there are many great writing tools out there. It isn’t really a question of which tool is BEST. What it comes down to is: which tool works best with YOUR unique writing process?

The Big 3, #1: Microsoft Word Review

Before any other tools came along, Microsoft Word was the only option available. Everyone used it.

Today, even though there are many other word processors out there, Word is still the most widely used book writing software in the U.S. Millions of people continue to use it for their writing needs.best book writing software: microsoft word

And it’s easy to see why. Word has a lot going for it!

It’s been around a long time. It’s trusty and reliable.

It also provides a relatively distraction-free writing experience. (Much better than working on Google Docs in your browser, for example, where you’re only an errant mouse-click away from the entire internet.)

If you just need to wake up in the morning and meet your word-count goals by keeping your head down and getting those words pounded out onto the page, then Word is a good choice. No fuss, no muss. It’s about as simple as it gets.

Word also offers some simple organization. Using headers, you can organize your book into chapters—and then you can navigate through them quickly using the Navigation pane:

You can create your own free book writing template using Word. And if you start writing your book in Word and don’t begin with the correct formatting, it’s pretty easy to clean up your formatting to make it “book ready” with a few simple steps.

If you’re a Word user and you’ve got your own system in place for writing books, then perhaps you need to look no further.

But Word does have some downsides.

For starters, it doesn’t always play well with Macs. If you use a Mac, then Word might cause you a lot of frustration with crashes and formatting. (Luckily, Apple offers a comparable program—scroll down to the “Pages Review” to learn more.)

Word is also pretty vanilla. That’s part of its appeal, sure, but it also means Word lacks some of the more advanced features you get with other programs like Scrivener and Google Docs.

(For example, Scrivener offers more advanced outlining functionality. And Google Docs makes it easier to share and collaborate on your files.)

All in all, Word is a solid contender for best book writing software. But there are many other choices out there.

Cost: $79.99 if purchased separately.

The Big 3, #2: Scrivener Review

You just learned that Microsoft Word is the most widely used word processor in the world. But does that mean it’s the best?

best book writing software: scrivenerThink about it this way. The fact that Word is so prevalent means that it has to cater to all sorts of users—students, businesspeople, writers, teachers, marketers, lawyers, the list goes on and on and on.

But Scrivener was created for one type of person only:

Writers.

And if you’re a writer, chances are you’ve heard of Scrivener. A lot of writers absolutely love this program, with its advanced features and distraction-free writing experience.

This 6-minute video gives you quick overview of Scrivener along with some highlights and screenshots:

In short, Scrivener gives you an insane amount of flexibility for writing, formatting, and organizing your book.

Blogger and author Jeff Goins swears by Scrivener after giving up Word. He says: “I wasted years of my life doing all my writing on Microsoft Word. But that’s all over now. I have finally seen the light.”

Entrepreneur Michael Hyatt says about Scrivener: “I now begin every piece of content—no matter what it is—with this tool. It has simplified my life and enabled me to focus on the most important aspect of my job—creating new content. I am more productive than ever.”

Scrivener has a ton of benefits for authors that we could fill up dozens of pages discussing. I’ll keep it simple and give you the top benefits here:

  • Helps with plotting for fiction authors
  • Easily export your data to other digital platforms such as Kobo, ibooks, etc. (this is one of the best features)
  • Provides outlining functionality that keeps your content organized
  • Powerful composition mode with distraction-free writing environment
  • Easily drag and drop to move sections around
  • Provides a collection of robust templates
  • Supports MultiMarkdown for bullets and numbers

Because Scrivener was designed for writers, it’s super easy to lay out scenes, move content around, and outline your story, article, or manuscript. Instead of keeping all your content in one big file, Scrivener allows you to create multiple sub-files to make it easier to organize and outline your project:

best book writing software: scrivener

Scrivener is a fabulous tool for plotting out storylines. Using the corkboard view, for instance, you can recreate the popular “notecard method” for outlining your project:

But as awesome as Scrivener is, it’s not perfect.

And the biggest downside to using Scrivener is the steep learning curve involved. You aren’t going to master this program overnight.

But if you’re serious about your writing career, then investing the time to learn this program will be worth it. You’ll save time and energy in the long run.

And if you want to learn how to use Scrivener as quickly & easily as possible, we can help!

We offer a free training called Learn Scrivener Fast, where we teach you how to use all the most powerful features in Scrivener to supercharge your writing process…all in just an hour. To watch that free training, just click this image (it will take you to a separate page with the video training):

best book writing software: scrivener

If you want to dig even deeper, you can also download the Scrivener Manual (550 pages), or watch the Scrivener YouTube tutorials they’ve put together at Literature & Latte.

Long story short: Scrivener is an investment. It will take some time to master. But once you do, you’ll never go back—it’s the single most powerful book writing software out there.

If you like what you see from Scrivener, you can buy it here:

Buy Scrivener 3 for macOS (Regular License)

Buy Scrivener for Windows (Regular License)

Cost: $45

The Big 3, #3: Google Docs Review

We’ve looked at the appealing simplicity of Word and the in-depth power of Scrivener, but there’s another writing software that more and more people are starting to use: Google Docs.

Essentially, Google Docs is a stripped-down version of Word that you can only use online through a Chrome browser. It’s a simple yet effective word processor.

The beauty of this program (and Google Drive in general) comes in the ability to share content, files, and documents among your team. You can easily communicate via comments, for example:

This program keeps a complete history of all changes made to a document, so if you accidentally delete something you wanted to keep, simply click the link at the top of the screen that says “All changes saved in drive.” That will bring up the version history, where you can review all the changes that have been made to your book file and revert to a previous version if you so choose.

Google Docs doesn’t require any installation and can be accessed anywhere via your browser (or an app on your phone).

And here’s one of the best features: everything is saved on the server frequently and automatically, so you never have to fret about losing a version or draft of your work.

(Anyone who has ever lost a draft of a book understands how valuable this feature is!)

Plus you can access your work when you move from one location or another—no carrying a laptop or thumb drive around with you. When you share a book draft with others, like test readers or your editor, they can comment directly on the draft using the built-in comment functionality.

Out of the “big 3” book writing software tools, Google Docs is probably the least sophisticated when it comes to formatting and outlining tools. But it makes up for that with easy collaboration, sharing, and online access.

Cost: Free

Pages Review

Think of Pages as the Mac alternative to Microsoft Word.

It has a variety of beautiful templates to choose from, has a simple design, and syncs with all devices from within iCloud.

Personally I love the ease of Pages. It works great for creating ebooks or manuscripts with a variety of tools you can get creative with.

Cost: $28

FastPencil Review

FastPencil is a nice little platform with lots of tools. You can also use it for distributing your ebook. It is free to start writing with, but they offer paid services as well.

Everything happens online in your browser, which means you can access your files from any computer (as long as you’re connected to the Internet). Here’s what the word processor looks like:

Cost: Free (or you can pay for more extensive features)

FocusWriter Review

FocusWriter is word processor for writers that is intended to eliminate distractions to help you get your book written quicker. It is a basic, lightweight text writer that was designed to to be completely free of the distractions.

In its fullscreen mode, there are no toolbars or additional windows, just a background and your text so that you can concentrate solely on writing your draft.

Here’s an example:

Source: https://focuswriter.en.softonic.com

You can customize the image in the background to suit your project to help inspire your writing.

Not much more to say about FocusWriter. It’s simple and effective. If you need a lot of features, it probably won’t work for you. But if simplicity is your thing, then you may have found your perfect writing tool.

Cost: Free

yWriter Review

yWriter is a really popular word processor (intended mainly for novelists) with some impressive features (especially for a program that’s completely free).

It helps keep your project organized by giving you space to include notes on all sorts of things, like character notes, scene notes, scene goals, etc. You can specify whose point of view each scene will be written in, and you can see the word count of your entire novel broken out by chapter—all at a quick glance:

Source: http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5_Screens.html

One thing that yWriter does differently than a lot of other programs is focus on scenes, rather than on chapters. A lot of writers prefer this, since scenes are usually fun chunks of story to work on. And using yWriter, you can rearrange all those scenes to compose a compelling novel.

I’d call it a Scrivener alternative that is free to use. But one downside is that it only works for Windows (at least, for now—an iOs version is currently in beta).

Cost: Free

Evernote Review

Evernote is a note-taking app. It’s a great way to keep track of your thoughts—like brainstorming ideas, outlining chapters, and jotting down inspiration when it strikes.

The mobile app is particularly useful for capturing new ideas when they strike, since most people have their phone with them 24/7. Here’s what Evernote looks like on a phone:

While you can use Evernote to write content—I’ve used it for writing blogs and other small sections of books—you wouldn’t want to use it as your main word processor. Its functionality is a bit too limited.

But as a way of keeping track of ideas, it’s a great find.

Cost: Free, but there is a cool upgrade for $5 a month that gets you Evernote Premium

Freedom Review

Freedom isn’t technically a writing tool, but it sure can help improve your writing. It’s a productivity app designed to help eliminate distractions by blocking certain websites.

For example: let’s say you have a tendency to get distracted by social media sites. All you have to do us start a Freedom session that blocks all your social media sites—and then you won’t be able to visit them even if you wanted to.

Here’s what it looks like when you schedule a session:

Notice that you have a lot of options. You can schedule one-time sessions (starting now or later), or you can set up recurring sessions (for example, to block distracting sites every day when it’s time to write).

When you try to visit a site that’s being blocked, you’ll get this message:

This is a really liberating tool. Once you know you don’t have the option of visiting those distracting sites, you’ll find it easier to keep focused on your writing and you’ll be able to get a lot more done.

Cost: $2.42/month and up, or $129 for lifetime access. (Sometimes they offer discounts, so look around for a coupon code.)

Hemingway Editor Review

The Hemingway Editor is a unique kind of writing tool. It’s a style checker that’s designed to help tighten up your prose and make your writing clear and bold.

Simply paste your writing into the editor and scroll through. You’ll notice that the program highlights certain words & passages—like long, hard-to-read sentences, passive verbs, and phrases with simpler alternatives.

Here’s an example of what it looks like:

best book writing software: hemingway app

(Yikes. Too bad Dickens didn’t have this app.)

What I love about this tool is how easy it is to use. Everything is color-coded and super easy to understand, so you can see at a glance where your writing could use a little elbow grease.

Cost: Free, or you can purchase the desktop version for $19.99.

Dropbox Review

Reading this, you may be wondering:

Dropbox? How is that a writing tool?

Trust me—it is!

While it’s true that Dropbox isn’t a word processor like Scrivener or yWriter, it is a very helpful tool for writers. Especially writers who write on more than one computer, who need to collaborate with other writers or editors, or who want an easy way to back up their work.

Here’s how it works.

When you set up Dropbox and install it on your computer, it will create a new “Dropbox” folder on your machine.

Any files that you save in this folder will be automatically backed up to Dropbox’s servers in the cloud, and will be automatically downloaded to any other computers that are synced to that same Dropbox account.

A lot of writers choose to save their book on Dropbox, so that it will be automatically backed up. And as you can see, it looks the same as any other folder on your computer:

Using this strategy, you can make it easier to share and collaborate on your files—even if you aren’t using Google Docs.

Cost: Free for a basic plan, or $9.99/month for extra storage.

Pricing: How Much Do These Book Writing Software Programs Cost?

I would recommend not worrying too much about the cost of these programs. After all, dropping $100 or less on a program is not that big a deal if it is going to help improve your writing for years to come.

That said, I know you work hard for your money—and you want to get the best deal you can! Here are the most recent prices for all of the tools in this article:

  • Scrivener costs about $45.
  • Word costs $79.99 US.
  • Google Docs is free, but you have the option to pay for more storage in Google Drive.
  • Evernote is free, but there is a cool upgrade for $5 a month that gets you Evernote Premium.
  • Pages costs about $28 for Mac.
  • FocusWriter is free to download.
  • FastPencil is free, or you can pay for more extensive features.
  • yWriter is also free to download.
  • Freedom costs $2.42/month and up, or $129 for lifetime access. (Sometimes they offer discounts, so look around for a coupon code.)
  • Hemingway App is free to use online, or you can purchase the desktop version for $19.99.
  • Dropbox is free for a basic plan, or you can pay $9.99/month for extra storage.

What’s Your Favorite Tool?

Take some time to check out each of these tools if you aren’t already using them. Stay focused on crafting your next book and stick with the book writing software that gives you the best results in terms of saving you money, time, and frustration.

Keep writing. Keep it simple. Best of all, enjoy the creative process!

Now that you have these awesome tools at your disposal, what is your favorite writing tool? What best suits your needs as an author? Can you speed up the writing process with any particular tool?

Like what you read and want to learn more? We’re holding a FREE online workshop where Chandler is revealing the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row… and how he used them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years. Click here to save your spot now!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in June of 2016. It was most recently updated for accuracy in April of 2018.

how to write a novel

How to Write a Novel: The 5 Key Milestones All Your Favorite Stories Hit

Are you a plotter or a pantzer?

If you’re new to writing fiction, I may have just offended the pantz off of you — but hear me out!

Fiction authors tend to fall into one of two buckets when writing their books:

Bucket One: Pantzers are writers who basically only have a few vague elements about the story in mind when they start writing, but nothing else.

Armed with almost no details, they hit the keyboard, banging out a magnificent novel in no time. One of the most famous pantzers is Stephen King. In interviews, Stephen King has said that he often has an idea of the beginning, the premise, and a vague idea how it’s all going to end – and that’s all he needs to start writing his book.

Bucket Two: Plotters are writers who need to know every piece of their story, down to the minute detail, before they will write a single word.how to write a novel

They will know who each and every one of their characters are, what their motivations are, the chapters needed for the book, chapter sections, and in some cases, even paragraphs. Probably the most famous plotter out there is James Patterson.

Clearly, it’s possible to be successful whether you’re a plotter or pantzer. But here’s the harsh reality: whereas Stephen King and James Patterson sit on opposite extremes of the ‘Outline Spectrum’, most of us fall somewhere in between.

If you are a new author who has never written a piece of fiction before, how can you know if you are a pantzers or a plotter?

The answer is unfortunately you don’t. And the deeper answer is, the more you write, the more you will tend to go to one end of the spectrum or the other. I started out my writing career as a pantzer, but the more I write, the more novels I publish, the more and more I’m becoming a plotter.

So, who you are as an author changes.

But that still doesn’t answer the question: Are you a pantzer or a plotter?

My best advice is to be something in between. Someone who looks beyond the “outline” of a novel, and identifies something much more important in their story…

The 5 Key Milestones.

How you outline your novel is absolutely moot if you can’t identify these five critical milestones in your story — and that’s what we’ll be discussing today.

Got your pen and paper ready? This guide will not only cover the milestones but challenge you to start documenting your own. Once you’re done, you’ll be ready to get down and dirty with your novel’s outline… pantz or plot style.

How to Write a Novel: The 5 Key Milestones of Every Successful Novel

Most novels and movies have five key points that make up the core of their story.

What’s more, these milestones are something that readers have subconsciously been trained to look for when digesting a piece of fiction. In other words, if you don’t have these five key moments, your reader is likely to turned off of your story because it didn’t meet expectations set by the hundreds (if not thousands) of stories they have already digested before yours.

Let’s take a look at the milestones:

How to Write a Novel – Key Milestone #1: The Setup

This is where you make your story promise.

how to write a novelYou tell your reader what kind of story it will be – a comedy drama, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi – and you give a few clues as to what they can expect. Whatever you said in these initial pages must be followed to the end of your story.

A stone-cold drama cannot turn into a slapstick comedy by the end of the story. That doesn’t mean a stone-cold drama can’t have humor in it, it just means that you can suddenly pivot and become an Adam Sandler movie.

Also, during the setup, we learn a little bit about…

  • The characters
  • Their challenges
  • The world they live in

We get a sense of where the story is heading.

One mistake made by first-time fiction authors is that they do not properly set up the story expectations and the reader goes in expecting one thing, only to get another.

Nothing annoys readers more and so it is essential that during the setup phase of your novel, you set the expectations that you will meet during the book.

(RELATED: How to Get Amazon Reviews For Your Book: Top Strategies for Targeting Quality Reviewers)

Example: In the Hunger Games, we meet Katniss. From her surroundings, it is obvious that she is poor, and as soon as she steps outside of her wooden shack we see hovering drones.

  • Within the first few pages of this book, we have learned three essential things:
  • This book is a drama
  • Katniss is our heroine and she has a miserable life
  • SURPRISE! There are drones and other technologies that indicate this to be a sci-fi
  • We are about to read a dystopia set sometime in the future

Challenge:

  • What does your story’s setup look like?
  • What happens?
  • What story promises do you make?

Create a list of everything your reader needs to learn in order to enter your story’s world.

How to Write a Novel – Key Milestone #2: The Inciting Incident

The inciting incident is the moment in your story when your hero’s life changes forever. It is the ‘no-going back’ moment, where nothing that happens afterwards will return your heroes world back to normal.

Katniss volunteers, Neo takes the blue pill, Dorothy lands in OZ … the aliens are here!

As soon as your inciting incident happens, your story should be full throttle towards the climax.

The most common mistake first-time authors make is that their inciting incident is reversible. That means that something could happen that would return the hero’s life back to normal.how to write a novel

No, no, no!

Your inciting incident should as final as the severing of a limb or a death of a loved one. Nothing should be able to reverse the effects of your inciting incident has on your hero.

Example: Katniss volunteers! In the Hunger Games, the inciting incident is irreversible because – quite literally – soldiers grab Katniss, whisk her away from her world, and into the world of the games.

There is no escape.

And even if she could get away, she would be hunted by the Capital for the rest of her life. With those two simple words, “I volunteer!” her life has changed forever.

Challenge:

  • What is your inciting incident?
  • Is it strong enough?
  • Are there ways you could up the stakes or shorten the timeline?
  • How can you make it your inciting incident as impactful and irreversible as possible?

Brainstorm several inciting incidents… Don’t settle for one. Take a look at your inciting incidents and ask yourself this: Which one of these is the harshest, deadliest inciting incident of the bunch. Then pick that one.

Note: There is an exception to this rule when it comes to romances.

With romances, the inciting incident is almost always win the two lovebirds meet. (Not always, but for the vast majority of romances, this is the case.) With romances, try to create an inciting incident that simultaneously shows how perfect these two people are for each other while setting up the numerous reasons why they can’t be together.

How to Write a Novel – Key Milestone #3: The First Slap

Now, we are away to the races!

Over the next few chapters, your character should be making a series of gains and losses, where the aggregate result is that their situation is slightly better than what it was at the moment of the inciting incident.

The reason why we need this upward trajectory is because we are setting up the reader for the first slap.

how to write a novelThe first slap is the moment when everything that our hero has gained is lost in fell swoop. Your hero is brought down to zero. In other words, all gains are lost, and your hero’s situation has never been bleaker.

The greater the fall, the more engaged your reader will be.

Example: In the Hunger Games, Katniss’s world is brought down to 0 when she actually enters the Games.

Between the inciting incident on the first slap, Katniss has made several gains, garnering the attention of the Capital and making some friends along the way. But none of that matters the moment she enters the Games – and what a moment it is.

Challenge: Brainstorm what your first slap can be. Like with the inciting incident, try to come up with 3-5 scenarios and pick the one that is harshest.

Take a look at all the events that could potentially happen between the inciting incident and the first slap. This is a loose mind map as you are not committing to anything at this point, but do try to get a sense of whether or not your hero will be making gains and losses (with a net value of gains) and try to assess whether or not the first slap is harsh enough to truly wow your reader.

Remember, you want your readers to hate you for what you’ve done to the characters they love.

How to Write a Novel – Key Milestone #4: The Second Slap

Your hero has rose to the challenge! She has successfully thwarted the big evil that has been thrusted upon her by the first slap and she is doing well.

…Now it is time to bring her back to 0 again.

The second slap should be as harsh, if not harsher, than the first slap. This is the moment when the reader should be looking at your book and thinking, “Wow, this author is mean. Diabolical villain mean!”how to write a novel

But there are two essential differences between the second slap and the first. In the second slap we are setting up for the climax, which means that the hero needs to have an out. In other words, there should be some semblance of hope.

Example: In the Hunger Games, the second slap is when the Game Masters announce that two tributes can survive the Games should they both be from the same district.

Katniss goes looking for Peeta, only to find him mortally wounded – he is bleeding to death and won’t survive the next few hours, let alone the rest of the Games. We know enough about Katniss to realize that Peeta dying is the worst thing that could happen to her (besides her own death).

But there is hope!

An announcement is made that there is something at the cornucopia that the Tributes need, and Katniss just knows that there is medicine there for Peeta.

Challenge: Brainstorm several seconds slaps and pick the harshest one. Then ask yourself – where is the hope and how will it lead into the climax?

(RELATED: How to Get an ISBN: Cracking the Code for Self-Publishers)

How to Write a Novel – Key Milestone #5: The Climax

The rollercoaster that you’ve put your reader on is almost over.

The reader has gone from an engaging setup where they get to learn about your characters and world to the inciting incident where everything is turned on its head. Then they are subjected to the first and second slaps where you embrace your inner sadomasochist in order to punish your hero and give the readers the thrills they so richly deserve.

Now it is time to wrap it all up with the climax.

There is only one rule to the climax. A rule that must be adhered to, no matter what genre you are writing in…

Make it amazing! The climax should be the moment where your reader puts down the book and goes, “Holy S&*%! That was awesome!”

Example: The climax in the Hunger Games is the final confrontation between Katniss and the remaining Tributes, as well as the monsters that the Game Masters send after her. It is wrought with danger and excitement. But what makes the climax truly kickass is the poisonous berries at the end.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, pick up a copy of Hunger Games today and read it! You’ll immediately get why this scene is so amazing.

Challenge: Brainstorm your kickass climactic scene! Show us how amazing, smart, resourceful, powerful your hero is when overcoming their final obstacles.

There you have it, the framework to creating a kickass story. This method is particularly effective for first-time authors who are still finding their writing feet (or should I say typing fingers) and is an awesome resource that experienced writers can rely on time and again when planning their stories.

The 5 Key Milestones combined with a spot-on Premise and A-Story will tell you where your story starts, where it is headed and how it will end. In other words, if you do the exercises above, you should have everything you need to get your novel to the finish line.

(If you haven’t planned your Premise and A-Story, do so using these guidelines.)

And with those elements in place, there’s nothing stopping you hitting that keyboard.

Before we go, I’d like to leave you with one last piece of advice. All of the above are guidelines … a roadmap, if you will, to help your story stay on track and get you to the finish line. But be warned, your characters will surprise you, your plot will take unexpected twists – don’t worry, that’s where the magic is.

If your character does something that you didn’t expect, then your reader will most likely be blown away by their actions.

If your plot has a twist worthy of Six Sense or Fight Club that wasn’t in your outline, then your reader will walk away, entranced by your writing skills.

Go with it, enjoy the process, because your readers certainly will enjoy what you produce.

[READ NEXT: The Story Foundation Trifecta: 3 Critical Elements Every Novel Needs to Succeed]

That said, do pause for a moment to take a look at the unexpected elements and see if they affect your 5 Key Milestones. If something unexpected happened somewhere in between Key Milestone 2 and 3, for example, then see how, or even if, it will affect Key Milestones 4 and 5. Adjust accordingly – then write boldly.

how to write a novel

And if you need a bit of extra help, I’m going through these 5 Key Milestones in a lot more detail in an upcoming webinar I’m going to conduct with Chandler Bolt. Get the full scoop and register to join us (before we fill up!) here.

how to start writing a fiction novel

The Story Foundation Trifecta: 3 Critical Elements Every Novel Needs to Succeed

Want to write a compelling, dramatic story?

One that draws readers in, takes them on a roller-coaster ride of emotions and thrills, then leaves them hungry to devour your next book, and your next, and your next?

If so, then I have good news:

With the right understanding of story structure, I believe anyone is capable of writing an amazing story.

Yes, that includes you.

And the key to making this process as easy and natural as possible is to start every novel with a good story foundation.

This is where most new writers struggle. Either they have trouble getting their story off the ground, or they can get it off the ground, but it nosedives partway through the book.

Either way, the cause is the same: they didn’t start their book from a good story foundation.

In other words, they were missing one or more of the three critical elements that every novel needs to succeed. I call these foundational elements, “The Story Foundation Trifecta.”

Let’s talk about it…

The Story Foundation Trifecta

First off, what IS the Story Foundation Trifecta? It’s a combination of three things:

  1. An interesting premise
  2. A sympathetic hero
  3. A clear & compelling “A-story”

As you’re about to learn, these are the most critical and fundamental pieces to any successful story. As long as you have these three things in place, your story is bound to be engaging and entertaining. how to write a fiction novel by r.e. vance

In the rest of this post, I’ll explain what these things are and how you can improve these elements in your story idea. And to help you understand, I’ll be using examples from well-known stories such as The Hunger Games, The Matrix, and my own series GoneGod World.

Foundation #1: An Interesting Premise

Your premise is the foundation of your plot. The collection of situations or presuppositions that make up your story world.

That sounds complicated, so let’s put it in simpler terms:

Your premise consists of 2-3 seemingly unconnected ideas that have been meshed together to make something truly unique.

If you analyze really popular stories like The Hunger Games and The Matrix, you’ll realize they have great premises. And that’s a big part of the reason why they were so successful.

So how do you come up with an awesome premise of your own?

One common method is to use the “What If” technique. Here’s how that might look using The Hunger Games as an example:

The Hunger Games: What if, sometime in the future, there is a society which demands children must fight to the death once a year?

Immediately, the premise opens up a hundred other questions that your story may or may not answer.

  • What happened to create this world and contest?
  • Why children?
  • What happens to the victors?

Your story may not answer all of these questions, and certainly Suzanne Collins – the author of The Hunger Games – doesn’t answer all of them. See how that works? You take a few different ideas and combine them. See how they might fit together.

In this case the premise is using the familiar idea of a gladiator story…but it’s mish-mashing that concept by having the gladiators be children.

Then when you throw in a couple extra elements, like…

  • Setting the story in the future
  • Including a love-triangle with the main character
  • Having a power struggle behind the scenes only the audience knows about

…you end up with a really great premise for a story.

Here’s another example:

The Matrix: What if reality isn’t what we think it is, and in fact we’re all connected to computers as human batteries for the robot world?

Here we’re taking the idea “reality isn’t what you think it is” and mashing it together with “we’re human batteries connected to computers.”

These are cool ideas on their own. But when you put them together, they become something really fascinating. With a premise like this, is it any wonder why The Matrix was so successful?

And here’s one more example, from my series of books:

GoneGod World: What if all the gods are gone, and when they leave they force all their denizens to go to earth?

Here I’ve combined the ideas of “divine creatures” and “refugees” to create a unique story premise out of two familiar ideas.

In this story, every sort of magical creature you can think of—dragons, faeries, etc.—is forced to become a refugee on earth. As you can imagine, this opens up all kinds of possibilities for interesting storylines and conflicts.

So that’s foundation #1 of the Story Foundation Trifecta: create an interesting premise. Now it’s your turn:

  • Exercise: Take a look at your favorite stories and identify their premise. Turn those premises into “What if” statements.
  • Bonus: Among the premises that you have identified, see if you can alter them slightly to turn them into something completely unique.
  • Challenge: Create 3 to 5 premise statements of your own, statements that ultimately create world, you’d love to write in.

You’ll be surprised at how quickly you start cranking out really unique story premises.

Foundation #2: A Sympathetic Hero

Foundation #1 focuses on your plot. It’s a big-picture statement of what happens in your story.

But remember, stories don’t just happen by themselves. They happen to characters—to people. To human beings. (And sometimes, to elves and aliens.)

At the heart of every story is a hero who strives to meet an important goal. And the more your audience can understand and identify with that hero, the more likely they are to become engrossed by your story.

Now when you’re creating your hero, the three most important things to figure out are your hero’s…

  • Key traits
  • Outer journey
  • Inner journey

“Key traits” refer to your character’s distinguishing features. Is your hero…

  • Brave?
  • Intelligent?
  • Beautiful?
  • Charming?
  • Underhanded?
  • Strong as an ox?

Your character’s journey refers to the challenges they will be forced to overcome throughout the story. And we break that journey up into inner and outer journeys. how to write a fiction novel

A few examples:

The Hunger Games: Katniss’s outer journey is to survive the games. Her inner journey is to mature as an individual, to let other people in, and to learn to accept help from others.

The Matrix: Neo’s outer journey is to defeat Agent Smith and the robot forces enslaving humanity inside the Matrix. His inner journey is to believe in himself and accept that he’s the only one capable of saving the human race.

Make sense? Great. Now go figure out who your hero is, give them a few key traits, and most importantly decide on their inner and outer journey. Then when you’ve completed that, you’re ready to move for…

Foundation #3: A Clear & Compelling “A-Story”

Once you know your story’s premise and have identified your hero, your next step is to use those 2 elements to create your “A-story.”

Loosely defined, your A-story is the main storyline in your novel. It’s the one story we need to see resolved in order for us to put down your book and feel satisfied at the end.

Your book can have multiple storylines—maybe you have a romance subplot, for example—but your A-story is the main story. The big problem that gets resolved at the end.

In most cases, your A-story is going to be the same as your hero’s outer journey. In The Hunger Games, for example, the A-story is Katniss’ trial to survive the games. 

But your A-story can also tie into your hero’s inner journey. In The Matrix, the A-story deals in part with Neo’s struggle to believe in himself and become “the one.”

Here are some common A-stories for different genres:

  • Sci-fi: Repel the alien invasion
  • Action: Get revenge on the bad guys
  • Romance: Finally succumb to the love of your life

It’s important to know your A-story. This is the storyline that you need to focus on, to keep coming back to. This is the major conflict of your story, so don’t lose sight of it.

Exercise: Identify two or three unique A-stories that fit could each premise. Spend a few minutes contemplating how the premise and the A-story work together. (And also relish is how your A-story is better than the original 😊.)

Bonus: Could you alter one of the premises to fit with your own unique A-story? If so, you very well may have the a kickass story on your hands!

Challenge: Now that you have defined your premise in step one, identify 2-3 A-stories that could work within that premise statement.

You Know Your A-Story…Now, What’s Next?

OK, so you’ve gone through the Story Foundation Trifecta and figured out your premise, hero, and A-story. What should you do next?

In a word, you need to start outlining.

Now this does NOT mean you have to go through every single part of your story and create a step-by-step outline of everything that will happen.

You can do that, but you don’t have to.

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of writers out there:

  • Plotters (like James Patterson)
  • Pantzers (like Stephen King)

Plotters are people who like to plot their stories in advance, while pantzers are people who don’t—they “fly by the seat of their pants,” coming up with their story ideas on the fly.

You might think that outlining is only important for plotters…but actually, that’s not the case. EVERY writer needs to come up with at least a basic outline before they start writing.

Even Stephen King, the most well-known pantzer out there, has admitted that he writes his stories with an end in mind.

So whether you want to write an in-depth, blow-by-blow treatment, or just a general outline to help give some direction to your pantzing, there are 5 Key Milestones that you’ll need to include in your story outline.

These are the 5 Key Milestones that every story has to hit in order to reach a satisfying conclusion. Luckily, I’m hosting a new (free) workshop where I’ll teach you what the 5 story milestones are and how to work them into your story.

Once you know the 5 Key Milestones you need to include in your story, you’ll NEVER again feel lost while you’re writing. You’ll always know where to go next to keep your story moving in the right direction.

fiction writing webinar

As a result, you’ll find it much easier to guide your readers through a story that feels complete and satisfying. So that when they finish reading the last page of your book, they’ll feel like they went on a meaningful journey with your hero—and that nothing was missing or incomplete.

Click here to learn more and register for the free webinar now, before you forget.

Writing a Book? 9 Killer Research Tips self-publishingschool

Writing a Book? 7 Killer Research Tips

“Pencils down.” The phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of students. What if you didn’t write enough? What if all the answers are wrong? Too bad; you’re stuck with your final essay. There’s no going back.

There’s something about the finality of closing the door on any knowledge work that’s tough. We don’t want to miss anything—whether it’s a witty quote or that perfect case study. The same with writing books—ending your research and starting your draft is daunting.

It’s possible to go on researching forever, really. Countless book ideas remain unwritten and unpublished because the writer is just looking for that perfect piece of research. But with that attitude, you’ll never publish your book!

We’re not asking you to abandon the research process. Virtually all non-fiction work and most fiction works require at least some research to complete a final draft, but it does require moderation.

This post is split into two parts. First, we’ll show you how to carry out a comprehensive research process in as little time as possible, then we’ll show you how to fine tune your research once you begin drafting your book.

The Research Process

Many writers fail to publish or even begin drafting their books because they’re stuck in the research process. Here we’ll show you three critical steps you can take to make your research as thorough as possible, and to avoid the trap that many writers fall into–researching their books forever.

1. Plan Your Research

Research is a necessary part of writing, and with some genres (e.g. historical fiction), it’s impossible to start without research. However, before you pick a single book or open a new tab in the name of research, there is something you have to do: Plan your research.

In academia, there’s an entire subject called research design, which teaches researchers how to choose their research methods, scope out their timeline and outline their research process. Professional researchers have to plan out their research before they carry out any research. Not only does this tick the check boxes for funding, but it also helps them stay on track and ensure their research project is valid.

Notice what they don’t do. A researcher doesn’t just blindly pick up a book and follow where their gut tells them (though this does make up part of the process) or start experimenting and follow what’s interesting. First, they plan, set a specific end date, and then execute.

Instead of approaching your book research in an ad-hoc manner, putting in research time when you feel it’s warranted, we advise that you design your research process. We’re not asking you to leave no room for spontaneity, often the best ideas come from the most unlikely of sources, but there should still be some structure to your research so, you don’t waste any of your precious time.

Remember many writers have still not begun their manuscript years after they started working on their book because they’re “still researching.” You want to avoid this trap.

This means you should set a clear end date for your research process, where you promise you’ll start drafting no matter how little, how much, or what kind of data you’ve gathered. It also means that before you start, you think about where you’ll gather your research from, and how much you’ll gather. As interesting as a side tangent can be, you don’t want to wander too far. Keep your research focused on the subject matter. If something seems interesting, note it down for the future. Maybe it could be your next book.

2. Outsource Your Research When Possible

Often, writing feels like a solitary endeavor, after all it is just you and yourself staring at a screen, tapping away at a keyboard for hours on end. But just because it feels like a lonely mission, doesn’t mean it has to be one. Especially in research.

No matter your subject, there’s an almost certain chance that someone else has done the heavy lifting for you. Someone who has immersed themselves in the field, found the dead ends, the wrong turns and the secret passageways. So why not tap into their knowledge?

When thinking of where to begin your research, tap into the human capital available before books or the internet. Are there any professors at your local college you can ask? Any editors in your domain that you can first reach out to? A great place to find names are the references used in journal articles or the authors of literature reviews and book reviews.

By asking them for help you can save yourself miles of wasted research, get an expert’s perspective on the topic (differentiating yourself from many other self-published books), and save yourself time. Often, as long as they don’t have a demanding schedule, they’ll be happy to respond to an email or two.

Don’t forget to remember them in your acknowledgements!

3. Ignore Your Inner Perfectionist

There’s a chance that if you’ve always wanted to write a book, you’ve got a perfectionist streak. And when it comes to book research, you’ll want to keep it under control.

You want to be a laser beam in your research. Focus on the best books for the keywords you’ve identified and don’t get sidetracked. Practical research is the key–find facts and data that will make your book more interesting, not analysis that you find interesting. It might not necessarily be the same thing.

This also comes in when you’re writing your book. Ignore the temptation to include all the research found in your book. Often 20% of your research efforts will form 80% of your book. If you found some piece of research you’re just dying to get out there, maybe package and release it as a bonus eBook for the thorough minded amongst your audience (and build your email list,) or have it in the appendix of your kindle edition.

7 Killer Tips on Researching Your Book 

Now that you know the critical steps to carry out your book research, it’s time to look at ways to improve it. Some of these will save you time during the research process, others will help you to finish your manuscript as fast as possible, and yet give you that sense of completeness and thoroughness once it’s done.

1. “Backload” Research

There’s a secret to mastering the craft of research when writing your book that might strike you as controversial: Write first, fact-find second. 

You may think that’s odd, but first hear us out. Consider this scenario: You’re working on your draft and you hit a spot where you feel stuck. You don’t know the answer to a question that arises in your manuscript, so you switch over to Google and start poking around for the answer. Soon you find yourself wandering around the internet as if you came into a room to find something, but you can’t for the life of you remember what it was.

And here is where you find yourself at the end of your writing time–watching cat videos– and you don’t even like cats.

The problem with researching while you’re writing is that you squash your momentum. Your draft will take longer to finish and it will be harder to write if you need to jump out of your writing mindset to switch over to research.

The solution: Don’t research at all once you’ve started writing until your rough draft is finished.

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2. “TK” is Your Friend

Here’s an editorial trick: When you hit an impasse in your draft and you’re tempted to look something up, whether that’s a quote, a proper name, or details about a location, mark that TBD spot with the letters “TK.” TK annotates a spot in your draft to return to when it’s time to research. Then keep writing!

Why the letters “TK”? There are no words in the English language that have the letters “TK” next to each other, making it easy for you to use the Control+F command to find your TBD spot later on.

By setting aside your research for later, you can keep moving on your draft and fill in the small details later. This prevents you from taking up all your time with research and avoiding writing. 

3. Turn off the Internet

Turn off the Internet while you’re writingMadness, you say? Well, why do you need the Internet? You’re going to do your research when you’re done writing, so the Internet is just distracting you. Write now. Google later.

Some pro writers say they like to take their laptop to a locale with no Wi-Fi so there’s zero temptation. Try an Internet desert for a day or two and see if it improves your writing pace. 

4. Keep it Organized

When you find a key piece of research, file it so you can track it down later. Whether you do this with a virtual folder on your laptop, an actual folder in your desk, or with a tool like Evernote or Scrivener, the idea is the same. You need to compile all your resources together in one place so you can find it later.

Organization now will make adding research to your manuscript later easier and quicker. When your draft is done, you can put your hands on your resources right away.

5. Red Text Marks the Spot

If you’re humming along in your draft and hit the crossroads of a quote or stat, switch your text color to red to highlight that you need to come back. Red text marks the spot that needs later attention and you can keep drafting.

Of course, if you used the “TK” tip above you don’t need this step, because then you can just use Control+F to find where you placed “TK” in your draft. However, the red text will give you a visual STOP so you know this is an area that needs more research just by looking at it. Call it extra insurance so you don’t miss anything.

6. Hired Guns

There’s no shame in outsourcing the manual work of research. For the most cost-effective resource, consider a college intern. When looking for interns, make sure they have a background in your field. If your book is about demographic trends then look for qualitative researchers, perhaps someone with a major in the social sciences. If, however, you need to do some number crunching then look for some more quantitative oriented interns.

Or, if you need to hire a pro, look to Upwork to find a good researcher—be sure to check ratings and consider giving applicants a short test to make sure they’re up for the task.

7. Add it All In

Batching your work is a trick of the productive. By segmenting what you need to get done, you maintain focus without the need to switch from unrelated task to unrelated task. When your first draft is finished, return to the designated areas that required research, which you marked with “TK” or red text. Fill in these gaps and add in all your research at once.

Start

Remind yourself that your goal right now is not the most perfectly researched book, it’s a finished one. You’re not going to be selling your research on Amazon, you’re going to be selling your story.

Writing a book is a mind game. Don’t let the lure of research (or cat videos!) distract you from finishing your draft. Plan and set an end date for your research process, and then put all your energy into research. When that’s done, begin writing your first draft no matter what, and hold off on any research until you’ve got a finished rough draft. Use our tips to manage your research efficiently and get to work on writing.

Don’t let research be the death of your book.

13 Reasons Why You Should Write a Book This Year

Deciding to write a book is analogous to the decision to become a parent. You can weigh the pros and cons and read all the expert books on parenting. You’ll try to decide whether you’re emotionally, financially, and physically ready to take the plunge. But until you become a parent, you’ll never know how amazing, enriching, and challenging your life could be. Once you become a parent, you know that your life will never be the same.

These same concepts apply to becoming an author. Until you’ve ushered new creative life into the world you have no idea the incredible, myriad of ways writing a book can better your life. You’ll ask yourself why you waited so long to make it happen.

We’re here to tell you that you should write a book, and you should do it this year. If not now, then when?

Here are 12 reasons why this is the year you’ll write your book.

1. You are a writer (you just need to write).

Listen, everyone can be a writer. Each one of us has a story to share. In fact, most of us have more than one story to share.

The simple truth is that in order to be a writer, you just need to write. And to become an author, you just need to publish. At Self-Publishing School, we’re here to tell you that both of these worthy goals are within your reach. You just need to start—today.

2. You’ll discover who you are.

By it’s very nature, writing is an introspective, thoughtful activity. The process of writing a book will force you to turn your thoughts inward. Through writing, you’ll gain perspective about what really matters to you.

Writing a book will also teach you about the unique value of your own willpower. The simple act of committing to a writing project, and seeing it through, will measure the depths of your discipline.

Writing a book can be a powerful way to get in touch with your thoughts, values, and motivations. Plus, writing is cheaper than therapy!

3. You’ll have created a professional-quality, ready-to-sell book.

It used to be that only writers with a publishing deal or those who paid for vanity publication ever got to see their books in print. Those days have changed. Thanks to the rise of self-publishing, any person with a story to tell can become a published author and sell their book.

Self-publishing is now affordable, easy to implement, and requires only basic computer skills. If you can type your book on your keyboard, you can figure out how to self-publish. As your own publisher, you call the shots. You’re the CEO of your own destiny. Even better, you get to retain more of the royalties if you self-publish. What’s not to like?

4. You’ll pocket a healthy chunk of change.

The brilliant ideas you have kicking around in your head aren’t earning you any money. Only once you commit those ideas to paper and hit publish will you earn income from your thoughts.

Your book can earn you a stream of passive income simply by existing. And then there’s the future—audiobooks, courses based on your book, and speaking gigs! And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can make money off your self-published book—but you need to write it first.

5. You’ll let Amazon do the heavy lifting.

Amazon is the King of the self-publication market. Amazon makes it intuitive and straightforward for authors to upload and sell their books. They’ve also made it easy for readers to find and buy your book. It’s a win-win.

That’s not to say that you can set up an Amazon page and let it flap in the breeze untended. In order to sell your book, you’ll need to do some marketing and PR. The good news is that Amazon gives you the tools and resources you need to succeed.

6. You’ll embrace the mantra, “nobody lives forever.”

Nobody’s getting out of this life alive. Our time here is finite. It’s our choice how we want to spend our time.

If you’ve ever wanted to write a book, don’t wait for a life crisis to force your hand. The time is now. You have a chance to share your words, thoughts, and passions with the world. Don’t let that chance slip through your fingers.

7. You’ll reignite a passion.

Each one of us has a passion for something—whether that’s rock-climbing, organic cooking, or comedic storytelling. What’s your passion? You already know the answer to that question.

Here’s our next question: When’s the last time you stoked that passion? If that answer is, “you can’t remember” or, “it’s been years,” then you’ve got some work to do. You owe it to yourself to explore your passion and write a book. We promise that when you’re writing about something you love, it won’t feel like work.

8. You’ll be a pro author.

Only 1% of the world’s population ever publishes a book. That’s a heady statistic. By writing a book, you set yourself apart from the masses.

Even if your book is fiction or a memoir, the fact that you’re now an author lends an air of authority to your professional endeavors. You can now add “author” to your CV, LinkedIn, and professional website.

In short: No matter what you write a book about, becoming a published author boosts your professional authority. You’ll have accomplished something few other people have. Our preemptive greeting: Welcome to the Author Club! We guarantee you’ll like the rarified air up here.

9. You’ll tackle a new challenge.

Life has so many obligations—taxes, school pick-up, miles on the treadmill—it can be easy to fall into a daily rut.

Writing a book is leaving your comfort zone. Trying something unfamiliar can be scary—we get it. But, that’s precisely why it’s exciting. The only way you grow as a person is by forcing yourself to leave your comfort zone.

Time to jump off the cliff—write a book and become an author this year. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll gain by pushing the limits of your own self-imposed boundaries.

10. You’ll become smarter.

Writing a book requires research. No matter what topic you’re writing about, you’re going to have to research new concepts and topics. By opening the door to new ideas, you’ll educate yourself on a broad array of ideas. You’ll be invigorated by how much you learn while you’re writing, and emerge much brighter for having done so. And when you’re done, you can assert yourself as an expert in your field.

Your book can then open the door for speaking engagements, conference presentations, and other professional networking opportunities.

11. You’ll stop making excuses and just do it.

We know, we know, you’ve been mulling over the idea of writing a book for months (years?) now. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article. How long are you going to give yourself permission to keep quashing your dreams? It’s time to commit and just do it.

12. Because you can!

And you will! No more excuses. You can’t afford to put off writing a book any longer. All that counts is that you get your first word on paper, and then a word after that. Before you know it, you’ll have a completed first draft. Think about how amazing you’ll feel?

Don’t put it off another day. Write your book today. This is the year for you to finally become an author.

Like what you read and want to learn more? We’re holding a FREE online workshop where Chandler is revealing the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row… and use them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years. Click here to save your spot now!