writing productivity

How to Boost Your Writing Productivity and Write Your Book

When it comes to writing a book, we need three things; time, imagination, and a system to be productive during our peak moments of the day. But to get more done in less time, you have to know what is getting in the way of your most productive blocks of time. Are you trying to work in an environment that is cluttered, noisy, and constantly screaming for your attention? Do you set daily word goals and fail to meet them? Is writing an activity you do when everything else is finished?

If yes, then you need to read the rest of this post. I’ll show you how to get your book written without giving up large amounts of time and leaving you stressed with nothing to show for it.

If you are one of those writers that wants more time to be creative, get more written, and create a productivity funnel that gets the work done on time, you are in the right place.

Identify Your Best Hours of Writing Productivity

Your productive hours should be protected. You MUST know when you are operating at your best and then, schedule your writing into this time. You have to schedule it in every day, just like you would an important meeting that you can’t miss.

This comes down to your personal schedule, and for many, a preference. Many people wake up early and are most productive in the day. This won’t work if you have odd working hours [meaning anything out of the 9-5], so determine the time of day that you are most alert, energetic and creative. This is the time you will block off for writing. This is your peak moment of writing productivity.

Remember: “What gets scheduled gets done.”

In other words, if you schedule your writing time for one hour a day targeting 1000 words each session, you get your book finished in 30 days or less.

Writing productivity isn’t difficult. The problem isn’t that we don’t have the time to write; the issue lies in our inability to make writing a priority. To do this, we have to schedule it in like anything else. Being a productive writer is about protecting your time. That can be hard to do when you have so many time villains knocking on your door wanting to come in and play.

Now, here is a question for you: “How committed are you to writing a book?” on a scale of one to ten, ask yourself if you are all in for getting this done. If the answer is yes, then read on and you will have the strategies needed to be a productive writer that gets those words written.

In this post, I’ll share with you the strategies you can implement to get your book written without forcing yourself to give up the things you love. Yes, you can still enjoy Netflix and surf on Facebook, but before that, we have to set ourselves up for success.

The Struggle With Distractions

You can probably relate to this scenario.

You have scheduled the ideal writing time to start on your book. It could be early in the morning or late at night when everyone in your home has gone to bed. You show up at your keyboard, outline in hand, ready to get those words out of your head and down on paper.

But then something happens. Bing. Notification. You just got an email.

You decide to take a moment to check it out. What could that hurt? Seeing that it is an urgent message, you decide to reply. That takes ten minutes. Back to your writing. You are ready to get started again.

Ping.

Again.

Facebook notification. Quick check. No harm done. Someone liked your recent post. Comments were made. You feel your heart quickening. Someone likes what you wrote. Now twenty minutes is gone.

You now have less then 30 minutes for getting your writing done.

Ping. Again. Check. 30 Minutes gone.

Game over. Your one hour writing window just closed.

If this drama sounds like you, your case is not unusual. In the age of social media, email, notifications, and every other form of digital media that is wrapped up in shiny armor to attract users, we all fall into the trap of instant urgency. When it comes to time management, that is right out the window when it comes to our need to feed the instant gratification addiction.

But dealing with the online digital warfare is not the only obstacle. Many writers, either just starting out or who write for a living, have to navigate around family obligations, work schedules, and the multiple barrage of ‘life events’ that hold us back from working on our writing.

I know what it is like to waste time drifting down the river of endless distractions, feeling as if your limited time to write is being stolen from you every time you sit down to get to work. If you follow the strategies and key suggestion in this post, not only will you get your book written in 30 days but, you will create the productive habit of daily writing. But this isn’t just about being a productive typist. We will look at the tools to simplify and organize your work. You will be able to cancel out the time thieves coming for your valuable time over and over again.

Distractions are everywhere. We can’t avoid them, but we can limit the amount of influence they have in our lives. The good news is, you can control most of the devices and systems set up to pull you into a time-suck oblivion.

Let’s start with one of my favorite [and simple] strategies for getting writing done…

The ‘Block Your Time’ Strategy for Writing Productivity

“When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “One word at a time,” and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time.”

— Stephen King

You can only be productive if you are committed to a course of action for finishing your project. When asked, “How do you write so many books?” Stephen King replied: “One word at a time.” Sounds too simple but, when we narrow it down, there is no other way.

Here is what you do: Block in your time.

Set up a 30-minute block of time to write. I would recommend not using your phone for this. I used to do that and what happened is, I continuously checked it for messages. If I had one, I got sucked into responding. So the first thing is, phone off. Non-negotiable. You might think you need it for using some fancy app but actually, people have been writing and publishing books for thousands of years. They had nothing but basic tools. We can do the same.

Buy an alarm clock. Use your watch. Whatever it takes, but use something not connected to the Net. isolate your writing time at all costs. Now, you might not be using the Wordstar 4.0 like George R.R. Martin, and that is okay, you don’t have to.

So the next step is to disengage from the internet. Turn off the wifi. Pull out the hardline. Disconnect from that monster. You can still write your book offline. Later I’ll introduce you to my favorite distraction free apps.

You might be asking, “But what if I need to research or check something while I am writing?”

There will be no research while writing. You are writing one word at a time until you hit 1000 words. Research comes later. Make a notation in your book that you have to check something. Then, when you have several items that need to be researched, block in a time for that.

I know what you are thinking. This system is too easy, it can’t work. There must be a trick. The only trick is to isolate yourself for a very limited time from the world that is robbing you of your one precious resource: Time. Yes, it is being taken from you, and now, you are claiming it back. That’s it.

Don’t allow anything to dictate your schedule during this valuable block of time. Treat it like real estate. Mark it into your calendar. Be diligent with this habit and you will stop the excuses for why you didn’t get your work done today.

The Best Strategies of 2 Influential Writers: Wordstar 4.0 vs. Don’t Break the Chain

in the mega-popular fantasy series Game of Thrones, bestselling author George R.R. Martin has sold over 60 million books published in 47 languages. His latest book A Dance With Dragons averages around 1040 pages. In fact, all of his books combined are nearly two million words in length. How does he write so much material?

George R.R. Martin and Wordstar 4.0

First of all, George doesn’t use the same computer for writing that he does for checking email or web surfing. He isn’t using Scrivener or Google Docs, either. How did one of the best selling authors of the past two decades manage to write 5 mega-bestselling books with a word count close to two million words?

For writing, George R.R. Martin is using an ancient system known as Wordstar 4.0, an old DOS machine that, for all intensive purposes is good for just one thing: writing. George isn’t connected to social media, he doesn’t use distraction free apps, and he works on a machine that doesn’t send email.

George R.R. Martin has created an environment that, instead of trying to manage his writing productivity and work around the various distractions that are pulling many off course, simply set himself up with a system that eliminates the need to worry about pings and notifications. He writes in isolation an he gets the work done.

So, this brings us to the question: How much technology do I need to write? How many apps must I download? What is the best environment I need to create to stay focused and get the work done?

But first of all, let’s be honest with ourselves. Most people will not be buying a Wordstar 4.0 even if it is the ultimate solution to writing massive amount of material. So, how do we manage our day to day productivity without isolating ourselves totally from the internet?

The Best Apps for Distraction Free Writing

We know that George R.R. Martin uses an old system for isolating his writing time, and while that works for him, it isn’t something most people can do. So, we need to work from a platform that can help us to isolate from the distractions that threaten to steal our time and focus.

Here are 7 of the best productivity tools you can use to boost your word count and stay focused on the work. These apps, by stripping down the word processor to its bare essentials, puts your eyes on the screen and focus on the words, instead of chasing ‘digital rabbits’ leading nowhere.

3 Distraction-Free Writing Apps

The Hemingway Editor is a simple word processor that is ideal with a distraction-free place to compose. Conveniently placed at the top of the screen are the formatting tools for HTML. The real advantage to this app is the editor function displayed on the right side of the program. It provides you with a readability score and a breakdown of the grammar structures in the composition.

Byword for Mac is a markdown app for writing in plain text. It works best for writing blog posts, writing a short story or daily journaling. The easy-to-use format menu has options for lists, quote level, and paragraph indents. Another solid feature is you can preview your documents in app, export to HTML, PDF, rich text, or publish directly to Medium, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr and Evernote.

Trello is a cork-board like structure that is excellent at organizing ideas and outlining your book. Its main function isn’t for writing a book but rather, plan out the chapters or scenes of your novel.

Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain” Strategy

Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most successful comedians of all time. The Seinfeld show that ran from 1989 to 1998 has earned a whopping 3.1 billion dollars to date. There is no arguing that the show was one of the most watched shows on television. In fact, it was so popular in its final season that Seinfeld was offered $110 million for a tenth season. Seinfeld turned it down.

One of the key strategies to Jerry Seinfeld’s success can be niched down to a simple productivity habit. By repeating this habit consistently he was able to come up with the material that made him one of the top comedians in the industry. Seinfeld called it the “Don’t Break the Chain” strategy.

Jerry used a calendar system to write his jokes everyday. He said that the best way to be a better comic was to write every day. Well, the best way for you to become a better writer [and publish books] is to write every day.

This is how it works. Buy a big wall calendar with the whole year on it. If you can’t find one, buy a large monthly calendar. Anything is better than nothing. Get a big red marker. Hang the calendar up in a place where you will see it.

Schedule your writing blocks and, for every day that you meet your daily word count, with your marker put an X on the calendar for that day. The idea is to not break the chain. This builds the daily writing habit and, if you continue this for thirty days without breaking the chain, you have just completed your book.

If you skip a day, be sure to take action the next day. Too many misses feeds into procrastination. By building this habit consistently over the long-term, how many words could you write in a week? A month? How about the year?

Creating a Clutter Free Writing Environment

How about the environment you are working in? If you are surrounded by clutter — loose papers, stationery supplies scattered about, or clothes laying around — you are working in an environment that is begging for your attention. Your writing environment has a big impact on how your emotional state. If you are living in a clutter free zone, you have less to focus on. Surround yourself with stuff and every time you look at it, you feel stressed.

Part of being a productive writer is identifying the areas in our mental and physical spaces that is pulling our attention away from the habit of writing. How do we take care of the clutter that has piled its way into our lives? Here are 4 simple strategies to get working on right away.

Within a week you’ll have a clutter free space, or, at the very least, you won’t be fighting for space with the things that belong filed away, either in a box or a closet.

Decide what to keep. When it comes to decluttering, the difficulty lies in what to keep and what to throw away. For this you will need two boxes. Then, go through the room and, when you come to an object, make a decision: keep it or toss it. Mark one box “Keepers” and the other “Toss it.” You either need it or you don’t.

Then, with the box of keepers, go through your stuff again and decide if you need it now or later? If the answer is later, it gets boxed up and put away. Don’t leave it hanging around where it becomes a distraction.

This could be for notebooks you aren’t using now, DVDs that you don’t plan to watch anytime soon, or things that you consider valuable but can be stored away safely for when you need it.

For items that are old, broken, or simply are no longer being used, you can consider the best way to remove them from your space.

Living clutter free will not only make you feel better mentally but, you’ll have a stronger sense of focus and be less anxious surrounded by non-essentials.

5 Daily Practical Productivity Tips

It is the little habits that steal away our time. These are so natural to our routine that most of them go unnoticed. By working to eliminate these mini habits from our system, we can give back the time that is taken from else.

It is time to stop giving up your time to lesser habits.

  1. Check email after writing. One of the worst habits that I struggled to break was checking email first thing in the morning, just before I was committed to start writing. This trapped me into spending the morning responding right away to people who could have waited a couple hours for a response. Action: schedule your email time, like you do your writing time. Responding to mail is a massive time waster in many cases. Keep your responses short and to the point when you can.
  2. Internet Off. This is simple. You either turn off your Wifi, or you unplug from the hard line. There is nothing to negotiate here.
  3. Set your word count and schedule accordingly. If you are targeting 1000 words a day, set up your time block to cover the amount of time needed to hit your target. If you can write 500 words in 30 minutes, do two time blocks of 30 minutes each with a short 5 minute break in between if needed.
  4. Boost your energy. There is more to writing than just showing up and sitting down at a computer. If you are tired, fatigued, or lacking mental stimulus, you’ll struggle to start the words flowing. Before you write, spend ten minutes: 1. Reading a passage from a good book. Reading stimulates your mind and gets you thinking about your topic. 2. Brief exercise session. This can be 5 minutes stretching, push ups, or jump rope. There are a lot of at-home exercises you can do without a gym. Boost your energy by stimulating your mind and body before writing.
  5. Visualize the completed draft of your book. Visual imagery is a powerful tool that you can implement to achieve any goal and turn a dream into reality. When it comes to book writing, you can put yourself into a positive, productive state by visualizing yourself actually sitting down and writing. Take it a step further and imagine what it would be like showing up at a book fair or a signing of your latest book. Then, start to work backwards and create all of the steps needed to take you there.

Wrapping It Up

Let’s quickly recap the action plan for becoming a productive writer.

  1. Declutter your working environment. This reduces stress and increases focus. You will get more writing done and increase your creative energy.
  2. Schedule in your writing time with time blocking. Set a timer for 30 minutes and for this time, focus only on your writing.
  3. Turn off the internet and all digital distractions during this time. Protect your time block.
  4. Challenge the Don’t Break the Chain strategy. Buy a wall calendar and for every day you hit your word count, mark it down.
  5. Write with a distraction free app. These apps are designed to get you focused on one thing: Writing. Try out one of the apps and increase your writing output right away.
  6. Follow the daily productivity habits and visualize the action steps for getting your book done.
writing a book

8 Steps to Start Writing a Book

One of the biggest challenges to writing a book is starting. Putting actual words to “digital” paper can create stress, anxiety, and instill that fear of failure.

Writing in and of itself isn’t that hard but the trap that many people fall into is, where do I begin? Do I write chapter 1 first? Should I start without an outline? Do I need to finish that course on book writing before doing anything?

Resistance to the craft just seems to show up at the beginning of each writing session as we become flooded with feelings of overwhelm, perfection, and the fear of failure. We want to do everything right, to navigate around potential mistakes when writing your book. But this could be the very thing holding you back from starting your book.

So how do you start writing? How do you keep the momentum going each day until finished? How do you deal with the most common sticking points for writers and creatives that show up disguised as procrastination, self-doubt, and uncertainty?

Why do we stop ourselves from starting the things that would bring us the most joy?

If we procrastinate and put off the writing by telling ourselves “I’ll do it later” or “I I’m just not in the mood today”, you’ll walk away from your writing project full of frustration.

Writing a book is like any other project: You have to stick with a schedule, be resilient, and push through the resistance when you get stuck. Small details and not sure what to do next can keep you from making progress.

If you are feeling overwhelmed when it comes to starting your book, you are not alone. This is a common obstacle for most authors, even after they have been doing for years. But there are a few effective strategies we can use to get over this hurdle and become book finishers instead of book dreamers.

In this blog post, I’ll give you some simple strategies for:

  • Getting started on your book
  • Building momentum
  • staying focused on your writing project.

We will look at 8 strategies you can put into action to assure you show up again and again with a game plan to get your thoughts out of your head, down on paper, and into the minds of your readers.

Develop the Writing Habit

To get started on your book, it requires the mindset of “just do it”. Remember the Nike commercial? Doing it means you are moving beyond just thinking about your book. By taking action, you can immersing yourself deep into the process of putting words to digital paper. But to get there, you have to show up and do it. Write that first word, first sentence, and first page.

This can be accomplished with building the writing habit. The #1 reason authors fail to publish a book is because they never finish the book they intend to write. Why? They didn’t do any writing. Or they tried for a few days but realized that, unlike the myths of a writer creating the great American novel and earning millions of dollars from a book deal, writing is hard work.

But you can do this. The resistance you have towards starting your project is just fear. Do you know what the cure is for removing fear? Yes, taking action and just doing it.

Every book I wrote has been published. Why? I finished it. How does a book get finished and ready for publishing? One word at a time. Where would you be if you could write a thousand words a day? One thousand words a day is about an hours work. We spend longer than that a day watching TV or surfing the Net looking for mindless distractions.

Your writing habit can start small. You can commit to five-hundred words a day first thing in the morning. Build up to a bigger word count over the days and weeks to come. If writing is difficult for you, write a page of three hundred words. If that is difficult, write a paragraph of one hundred words. If it still persists, make it a sentence.

Keep breaking it down until you can show up everyday to work on your book. The writing habit isn’t about writing quantity, it is building the behaviour at first. You can scale up as you go.

What most people get stuck on isn’t writing once or twice but to keep it going, to start writing every morning. It is breaking past the first ten minutes of bad writing when the ideas are not flowing and you have to keep pushing forward to get into the flow.

8 Strategies for Starting Your Book and Building Momentum

1. Write in Bite-Sized Chunk Method

Feeling overwhelmed about writing your book is a natural feeling. If you pull a book of your shelf and hold it in your hands, you can feel the weight of it, the amount of words it contains. You know a lot of work went into this book you are holding.

You might think about the author and how much time they spent writing, researching, planning, editing, and all of the other steps that went into getting the book to market. As you think about this, it isn’t any wonder overwhelm creeps in and steals our creative moment.

But remember, every book successfully finished had a beginning. The author started somewhere, even if he or she wrote the ending first. If you are having trouble starting, you can write just a paragraph. Or a sentence. Or the first word. Start with something.

Momentum begins with taking that first action.

Remember what Lao Tzu said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Well, the journey of writing a book begins with that first page.

The bite-sized chunk method works because it breaks your project down into a manageable state. It is the act of staying present in the moment and focusing on the Deep Work we can do in the now.

2. Stay Focused on One Project

One of the challenges many authors face is dealing with the horde of ideas that continue to pop up as they are fixated on the one project. I hear it all the time:

I often hear people say: “I have so many ideas for other books I don’t know where to start.”

So most don’t.

Or, “I’m going to write three books at the same time and then publish all three within weeks of each other.”

But they never finish any of them.

My favorite: “I don’t know where to start because I’m so overwhelmed. I’ll just research some more before writing.”

Then the research takes months and nothing gets written.

Staying fixed on one project is challenging but, if you spread your energy thin, you’ll get weak results. When you start something, start it with the decision that you will finish it within a set time period. Have a plan for everyday, even if it is just “write for thirty minutes on my book.”

Writing two or three books at the same time requires high-end organizational skills and experience. Stick with your one project until finished. Having ten books in first draft mode will not do much for your self confidence if you don’t finish any of them.

Remember: only published books can earn you money and get you interviewed by podcasters who want you to tell your story.

Focus on your One Thing until finished.

3. Know Where to Start

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

You decided to wake up early to start writing your book. You sit down. Time  passes by. After twenty minutes you still have a Blank page.

You realize you need coffee first to get things moving so you get up to make some.

Come back. Sit down.

Blank page.

Before writing that first sentence, you decide to check your email. Might as well do something while waiting for inspiration. Several emails marked urgent require an immediate response. You take care of that first, still thinking you are in warmup mode.

Then you get several FB notifications on your desktop. You jump over to FB to check it out because that will just take a few minutes anyway while you’re here, and then you’ll start.

Thirty minutes has passed and you are still reading up on today’s current posts that run in an endless loop. Now one hour has passed, you’re tired, and you need a break to stretch.

But, you never make it back to your book for that day.

This is a familiar story with writer’s. We have the best intentions to start writing and then, when we show up to get it done, we make ourselves feel so busy by buying into cheap distractions that nothing gets written.

Once again, we fail to start. This is why you need a plan before you show up to write. Without a game plan, you are inviting distractions in to take over your schedule for the day.

Starting a book the first time isn’t difficult. But starting your writing session everyday can be. Depending on the time of day you write, it is important to be clear about two things:

1. What are you writing about right now? Is it your introduction? The first 1000 words of chapter 7? If you don’t know what you are writing, you’ll lose momentum from the start. Be clear about the material you are working on. Of course you can start cold just to warm up if you aren’t sure, but when you are short on time, every minute counts.

2. How much are you writing? Set a target goal for your session. You can approach this in two ways. Write for a set amount of time [30 minute session]. Or, set a word target goal [1000 words].

Now that we have a plan for what to write, we can…

4. Write With Focus

Once you get into the flow of writing, you want to stay there for the duration of your writing session. Suddenly stopping to check that email notification can break your concentration and set you back 20-30 minutes.

By the time you are done chasing digital data down the rabbit hole, you might not get back to your writing. You started something but you couldn’t finish it.

By jumping around we become less efficient and it takes twice as long to complete our writing. Stay centered in the moment and leave the distractions on the outside.

We can do this by following a few simple strategies.

  1. Use focus enhancer apps such as pomodoro, coffitivity.com or StayFocused to build more focus into your writing time.
  2. Turn off your phone during your writing time.
  3. Inform friends and family you will be unavailable during this time.

Get yourself into the writer’s flow and you’ll become unstoppable while working in this mode. I work with a 25 Minute Timer that tracks the time spent on a project. Take a break and then get back into it.

5. Set Your Creative Mood

The environment you write in plays an important role in writing. Some writers can get focused in a noisy cafe; other people need solitude and the background of quiet music.

Create the environment that is relaxing and settles you into the mood for writing. If you are constantly feeling distracted, you’ll struggle to get into the writer’s flow.

Set your writing session up for success: favorite music, inspirational quotes, or reading a section of your favorite book to get you “feeling” it.

You can even decorate your work area with the pictures of your favorite authors or best writing quotes. Spend 30 minutes to create your ideal space for writing. You will feel more inspired to show up and write even on those days when you are not feeling like it.

Inspiration will not always be there, so you have to create your inspiration for those days when dealing with writer’s fatigue.

6. Use the Seinfeld Method to Stay Accountable

In the early days of his career, Jerry Seinfeld was asked how he managed to create such great content. He said: “The way to be a better comic was to create better jokes, and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.”

Well, as authors, this definitely applies to the craft. The way to be a good writer is to write everyday, and to write everyday you have to set yourself up for success even before the pen hits the paper [or the fingers tap the keyboard]. Jerry Seinfeld used what is now the ‘calendar method’. He called it the “Don’t break the chain” method. It works like this.

Get yourself a calendar and hang it on your wall. Then, for every day that you write, cross an X on the day. You should have a calendar week with a row of Xs at the end. If you keep the chain going, you will have your book written in less than 30 days. But you have to start somewhere.

So start right now and work on your book for 30 minutes today. When you are finished, mark that X on your calendar. If you miss a day, start again and see how many days you can get in a row before you break the chain.

7. Review Your Mindmap and Outline

If you don’t have a well constructed outline, you run the risk of getting lost in your book. This could waste time as you write just for the same of writing without purpose. Your outline provides clarity and direction to your story. Before you write, spend five minutes reviewing your outline.

Create a checklist of chapters and another checklist for the subtitle themes in each chapter. When we can check things off, it gives us a boost in confidence and we know that we are getting closer to our goal: finishing the book.

8. Free Flow for 10 Minutes

You can start with a strategy known as free flowing. This is a random series of thoughts about anything written in word or notepad. Julia Cameron, the bestselling author of The Artist’s Way, called these morning pages.

You don’t have to publish or edit these words. They are for your eyes only. But the key is to start writing something. It’s like working out at the gym. You can’t just walk in and start lifting the heavy weights before you warm-up. It is best to do some stretching with “words” and ease your way into it. You’ll find this will loosen your thoughts and get things moving. I have rarely had a day I couldn’t write if I did this first.

Once you are ready and the ideas are clicking, pull out your mind map or outline and get to work. You can sprint for thirty minute increments or less. I usually go for sixty minutes and then take a five minute break. In two sessions of this I can get on average two thousand words written.

Don’t worry about the word count. We are going for habit building here. Writing is hard if you are not used to it. You need to break yourself into the habit at first; after a couple of weeks you’ll be flying straight ahead.

Dealing With Resistance

It is a common obstacle that resistance to the writing is going to show up and hold us back from creating. Resistance is a form of fear that latches onto the mind and pulls us off course. If you let it, resistance will turn into a heavy form of procrastination. For years I resisted my natural urge to write. I would give into the resistance and take the easy path: watching TV, playing games or the like.

Resistance doesn’t have to defeat you. As long as you follow the first two steps you’ll be fine. But getting started, even if it is one word on paper, can turn the momentum into a powerful snowball. There are several levels to this obstacle and each one can be stronger than the last depending where you are in the process of writing.

Start-It-Up Checklist

So to revamp, here is your checklist for getting started on your book. If any of the components are missing you can go back and complete them. When you have a checklist it sets the pace for your writing schedule. I use this still even though I’ve been wiring for years because the urge to procrastinate and get stuck still shows up.

Know when to write. Set your writing session for the same time each morning. I set mine at 5:30. In order to start I have to show up at least by 5:25. This gives a few minutes to get relaxed and comfortable. I’ll spend a few minutes thinking about what I’ll be writing about. Then, using the Pomodoro technique you can set your writing session for twenty-five minutes. Take a five minute break. Go for another session.

Be ready with your outline. Have your outline ready to go. This keeps you on track and makes sure you have all your ideas organized in a natural flow. When you get stuck you can go back to your outline and find what comes next. Your outline is the roadmap for your book. Make it as detailed as you can and you’ll get finished faster with a solid outline ready to send to the editor after a quick self-edit.

Read morning affirmations. Affirmations are powerful snippets of positive “juice” that set the tone and atmosphere for writing. An affirmation for a writer could be a quote from a writer, motivational or inspiring words from someone who has been there and done that. I keep a collection of affirmations in a journal and, when I am struggling with a writing session, I’ll warm up by flipping through these affirmations for inspiration.

Here are some inspiring quotes to start with:

“It doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop.”

— Confucius

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

— E.B. White

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become.”

— Steve Jobs

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”

— J.K . Rowling

Ready…Set…

You can do this. You now have ten mini-strategies for starting your book. The fears of writers rejection are being stamped out as you set out on an incredible journey to becoming a published author. I know there is a long road ahead, but you plug at this everyday and you’ll get your book done.

Just do it.

Start with that first word.

Build with small steps.

Your next bestseller is closer than you think.

Self Publishing at Any Age: 9 Steps That Took an 8 Year Old From Idea to Published Author self-publishingschool

How 8-Year-Old Emma Sumner Used Chandler Bolt’s System to Publish Her First Book

Chandler Bolt, six-time self-published bestselling author and creator of Self-Publishing School has hit new milestones with his business… including teaching 8-year-old Emma Sumner how to write and publish her first book.

Self publishing at any age is a major accomplishment. Especially when you have to balance your responsibilities as an author with homework from your 3rd grade teacher. This is why Emma Sumner is gaining media attention for The Fairies of Waterfall Island, a 10,000-word, 120-page book that is available on Amazon.

Emma has been booked for on-air interviews with local media on major networks like NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS, and PBS to talk about her book and her experience with Self-Publishing School.

Check out this interview from when Emma joined Chandler Bolt on Good Day Sacramento.

So how did this young girl go from no book idea to published without an agent or publishing company? She followed Chandler Bolt’s Self-Publishing School course and took action on these steps to ensure her book would be successful. 

Here are the nine steps an 8-year-old took to go from blank page to self-published book:

#1 Start with a Challenge

When Emma first came to me and said she wanted to write and publish a book, I wasn’t sure if this was just a passing idea in the mind of a bored grade-schooler, or if it was really going to be something she would be passionate. So I started by giving her a challenge. 

Emma’s challenge:

  • Complete 1 chapter to her story
  • Write at least 150 words
  • Create 3 different characters with backgrounds
  • Have a plan ready for the rest of the book

She came back with:

  • A handwritten story in her spiral bound notebook that had 172 words (she made sure I counted),
  • Four distinct characters
  • A plan for a total of 10 chapters and four other characters that she would introduce later in the book.

It was clear from her effort that she was serious — so I was, too!

At that time, the 170-word story was the longest thing she had ever written. It gave her a taste of what was possible if she put forth the effort.

YOUR TURN: How can you challenge yourself? Be creative and find ways to create achievable goals and then turn them into a challenge. You can write them down as a contract with yourself, or even bring on a friend as an accountability partner to encourage and motivate you.

#2 Build a Rewards System

Emma’s first reward was a simple one. We decided that the next morning after she finished her first 150 words I would wake up early and before I went to work I would sit down and give her story my full attention as I read it from start to finish.

The next morning I read her story and instead of giving constructive criticism, I just gave encouragement. I told her how much I loved it and left a small sticky note for her to read when she woke up.

It is vitally important in the beginning to forget about the little things like grammar or spelling and just be proud of the fact they (or you!) completed the challenge. Most children (and adults for that matter) are most vulnerable in the writing process the first time someone reads their words.

Whether you’re reading your child’s, friend’s, or your own work, focus on the good. There will be plenty of time for the rest later when it comes time to edit.

Challenge: Complete detailed descriptions of your top 4 characters.

Reward: We will go onto Fiverr.com and get someone to do a pencil drawing of the character based off your description.

Challenge: Finish Chapter 2

Reward: I will copy your handwritten notes to the computer and teach you how to use Microsoft Word.

Challenge: Finish Chapter 10

Reward: We will sit down and write an email to a cover designer.

YOUR TURN: What is your reward? Find something that you can get excited about that will also lead to more progress with the book.

#3 Make a Plan

After Emma completed her first challenge of 150 words, we decided that we needed to have a plan for moving forward. Instead of just writing everything out and hoping it would all make sense, we sat down to plan out what we wanted to do.

Each week, we met on Saturday morning, waking up before the rest of the family. During our “strategy sessions,” we would have breakfast together and plan out the week. These planning sessions would often happen at a local coffeeshop. After the first couple weeks, we started to bring my laptop along with us so she could sit down and write for 20-30 minutes.

Here are some of the things that we would do each week:

  • Decide on goals
  • Pick out rewards
  • Talk about the story line
  • Talk about any struggles

In order to allow Emma to refer back to what we talked about each week, we would record the session with the audio recording feature of Evernote on my phone. With the recordings available to her on our iPad at home, she could just tap on the button for this week’s strategy session and review it whenever she wanted.

To hear a small clip of one of the first “Strategy Session” recordings, click here Audio for Strategy Session.

YOUR TURN: Do you have a plan? If not, it is time to start getting back to basics like mind mapping or outlining.

#4 Create Accountability [Or as Chandler Bolt calls it: Find an “Accountabilibuddy”]

For Emma, we found a great way to keep her accountable while also promoting her book and making it fun for her. Inspired by Pat Flynn and the group he created to help launch his first eBook, we created a private Facebook group filled with friends and family called “Emma’s First Book.” Each week she would record a short video to the group and report back on her progress.

The group quickly grew from 20 people to over 200 people within a week as friends and family started to message me asking to add one of their friends or coworkers who was interested in watching Emma’s progress.

As people began to comment on her videos and post encouragement for her, we began to incorporate this as one of her rewards. If she finished the weeks goals she could spend 20 min. commenting back to the people in her group.

YOUR TURN: Who is going to keep you accountable? Find someone in your life, in person or online, that you can meet with for 10 minutes each week and check in on your goals. They may not be writers, but maybe they have another goal in mind for weight loss or exercise, and you can work together to keep each other on track.

#5 Celebrate Big Wins

As I mentioned earlier, Emma and I would create weekly challenges and rewards to make the week-to-week process more fun and exciting, but beyond that we also celebrated each time she achieved a big milestone.

More important that just the celebration was the fact that we were doing it together. She was able to share her victories and be proud of her accomplishments, and I was there to cheer her on. During these celebrations we did not talk about strategy and details but we just reflected on how far she had come and what more she could still do.

YOUR TURN: Who can you celebrate with? Find a friend, family member, pet, stuffed animal… anyone who can help you enjoy the wins.

#6 Hire Professional Outsourcers

Based on my experiences with publishing my own books, I knew there were four things we needed to hire professional help to accomplish: illustration, editing, cover design, and formatting.

There’s a wide range of costs for each of these items, so as a family we worked out a budget and made a decision on what we could afford. Then we contacted outsourcers that fit our needs, based on a list of preferred contractors from Self-Publishing School.

This was a time-saver since we didn’t have to waste time or money dealing with an untested resource. Before starting with each we discussed our project, described the book and Emma’s personality, and asked some questions about their style via email to make sure they were a good fit.

We worked with people from Boston, Michigan, Mexico and even Sweden. Emma was involved in communicating with each of them by both email and video chat.

What did it all cost?

Total Invested in the book: $790*

Depending on your budget you can choose to go much lower or even much higher. The range is huge for each category. 

To get access to the Preferred Outsourcers that we used along with many others check out Self-Publishing School.

#7 Try New Things

While working on this project, Emma learned much more than just how to write a book. At each stage we took any opportunity we could to introduce a skill or technology that would expand her knowledge and comfort level.

Here are just some of the programs or skills Emma has learned during the last year:

  • Typing with Microsoft Word
  • Using a thesaurus
  • Typing and sharing documents with Google Docs
  • Using Skype to do video chats
  • Posting, commenting and doing live videos in Facebook

YOUR TURN: What new skills are you looking forward to learning? Make a list of things that you want to try and incorporate them as you go.

#8 Remove Barriers

Small points of resistance can keep you from moving the entire book forward. These little things can cause you to stop your progress, lose your inspiration, or even cast doubt that you should be writing at all. If you can identify those small roadblocks and find a way to remove them early on, then you will be more successful.

For Emma, one of her points of resistance was that she often worried so much about her spelling and grammar that she would not make any progress. She would see the red line under the word show up in Microsoft Word and get completely distracted, and then end up feeling discouraged. Then her progress or creative momentum would be ruined.

Our solution was simple: If spell check was the issue, let’s get rid of it! We disabled spell check completely and chose to forget about spelling until the entire first draft was done. Instead of having her worry about it, we let the editor handle it.

YOUR TURN: If you find something that is blocking you from moving forward, take the time to identify it and find a solution. When you think about writing (or completing) your book now, what barriers do you predict? Make a plan to get rid of it!

#9 Build a Launch Team

A launch team is a group of people chosen to help you market the book and spread the word about your book. By the time Emma was done with her book, she had a large group of people who had been following her progress and were ready to help her by being part of her launch team.

To make it easier to get information out to the group, we created a small landing page and invited her Facebook group. We also posted to other groups including the Self-Publishing School Mastermind Community.

Starting about 2 weeks prior to launch, we began sending emails to everyone who had signed up, letting them know what to expect. One week before our official launch, we put the book up on Amazon and only notified those on the launch team. Many people on the team had never purchased a book on Amazon before, much less read a book on Kindle or left a review, so we had to be very detailed on our instructions.

She had a total of 95 people sign up to be on her launch team, and in just one day after we hit the publish button on Amazon she had 87 books purchased and 16 reviews up.

YOUR TURN: Start thinking about who will be on your launch team and how you will manage it. I strongly suggest signing up for an email service like ClickFunnels, Aweber, or MailChimp so you can collect email addresses and contact your launch team directly.

#10 Give Back

We wanted to make sure that Emma learned more than just how to write a book, and one of the biggest lessons we were able to incorporate was the idea of giving back to charity.

Here are just some of the benefits of giving back with your book:

  • Inspiration: Inspire others around you to be a part of your journey.
  • Motivation: When the book will help others either directly or indirectly, then you will have even more motivation to continue.
  • Satisfaction: Giving back to a charity to which we feel personally connected has given both Emma and me a great feeling of pride and satisfaction that would not have been possible without that participation.

In order to maximize what you can do for a cause, pick a charity that can work with you to help get the word out about the book.

Here are some things to look for:

Where is the donated or pledged money spent?

You can use websites like Charitynavigator.org or Charitywatch.org to find out more about any charity.

Does the money stay locally or go to a national or international fund?

You may want to find a charity where the money stays to help the local community.

Do they have a local chapter or contact?

It helps to have one person that knows the local area to help you set up speaking engagements

What kind of social media presence or email list do they have?

Part of raising money to donate means getting the book in front of those who will be willing to buy it. If the charity has a large contact list, they can help send that information out to more people — which will help them AND help you!

Does the charity have a marketing team?

Many large charities already have a marketing and PR team in place that can help create engaging posts or advertisements, as well as using their already established network to get your book into the media.

Don’t be afraid to ask these questions when you get in contact with the charity. After all, you want to make sure you are donating your time to the right cause.

Emma and I talked with several charities before finally deciding on Autism Speaks, a wonderful group with both national and local ties.

You can find out more about this great charity at AutismSpeaks.org

YOUR TURN: What charities or causes do you feel passionate about or connected to? Start now by using the resources above to evaluate your options.

A Dream Come True

“The Fairies of Waterfall Island” has already exceeded our wildest dreams. Every time we talk about it Emma says “I am just so excited, I never thought it would actually get this far.”

Each new step from writing to editing and now to publishing has been challenging, but the rewards have been incredible — in our relationship, in the growth I’ve seen in Emma, and in the inspiration she’s been to other children and adults.

Chandler Bolt and Emma Sumner

To support Emma and her book go EmmaLovesBooks.com where you can find a link to purchase the book and more information on Emma and her journey. Remember that all proceeds for the first 3 months go to Autism Speaks.

By following Chandler Bolt’s Self-Publishing School and taking action on the challenges I gave her each week, Emma was able to successful write and publish her first book with flying colors. If an 8-year-old can do it, you can too.

How Long Does it Take to Write a Book self-publishingschool

How Long Does it Take to Write a Book?

Any new writer wonders the same question: How long does it take to write a book? The definitive answer is: It depends. Let me explain…

According to a panelist survey of famous authors, when asked how long it took for them to produce their novels, the answers ranged from between four years to a decade. In other words, “Writing a novel takes as long as you want or need it to take.”

Here at Self-Publishing School, we beg to differ. Our students routinely crank out bestsellers in just 90 days, with the first-draft writing process taking as little as 30 days. (No, we’re not making that up!) The grind begins with the mindmapping and outlining process, which sets authors up for a successful writing phase before building launch teams and hitting publish on their masterpieces.

While the temptation can be to spend years, even decades, honing and polishing your book, a rough draft sitting on your hard drive isn’t working for you. It’s not building your author name, furthering your cause, or growing your audience. Moreover, it’s not earning you a single cent. Remember this when it comes to writing your first book: done is better than perfect.

How long does it take to write a book?

We have amazing news: Writing YOUR book can take far less time than you think. You just need to know the tricks to get moving and stay moving.

The faster you get your book finished, the sooner you can realize your goals. And once the publication ball starts rolling, the positive energy will continue.

Your readership will grow with each book, so that with each new publication, you’re building your fan base. If a fan finds and loves your fourth book, they’ll go back and read books one through three, earning you even more accolades and more financial gain.

The bottom line is this: You need to prioritize getting your first draft finished as quickly as your life, time, and circumstances allow. It may not be easy, but it’s not impossible.

Read on for tips to supercharge your own writing process so you’ll hit “publish” before you know it.

1. Choose a Deadline

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” – Philip Roth

It’s no secret that knowing when to stop writing can be the hardest part of actually writing. You can write forever, and never have a clear end in sight. Part of becoming a published author is knowing when to wrap it up.

Setting a final deadline means that you’ll have a finish line in mind, and that can put the pressure on to keep the forward momentum going and finish what you started.

Here’s what to do: Set a deadline, right now, for your book-writing project. Set it somewhere between 30 and 90 days…that’s right, before you get started, you want to have a clear deadline set out for the completion of your draft.

Mark it somewhere you can see it every day. Your end date will help you stay on track.

Another recommendation is to hire your editor and schedule them for your deadline. That way, you have one more motivating factor to keep the writing ball rolling.

2. Set Concrete Goals

One of the best ways to keep your writing moving is to set word count goals for yourself. The idea behind word count goals is that if you set up parameters for your own success, you’ll be more likely to achieve those goals.

If you don’t have concrete, defined goals, then it’s that much easier to procrastinate, and then your pages might get done…someday. Or not.

Word count goals also serve the purpose of setting up a visual aid and reward system. It feels amazing to cross things off your list. So, document your achievements. Write down your daily, weekly, and monthly word count goals, then take a red marker and draw a big red line through each accomplishment when you’re finished.

What should your daily word count be? We suggest aiming for 500-1,000 words per day; that’s about one hour per day. If you stick with a word count goal of 1,000 words per day, at the end of 30 days, you’ll be looking at your completed 30,000 word first draft!

3. Find Your People

A supportive community can be a sounding board, a first pair of eyes, and a protector of your sanity. They can also be the extrinsic motivation you need to meet your own deadlines and word counts. When you know you have a team backing you up, it’s that much harder to drag your feet. They expect great things from you—don’t disappoint them!

At Self-Publishing School, we believe in something called the accountabilibuddy system, where students pair up with other like-minded students to encourage one another and hold each other accountable for reaching goals and deadlines. It’s a great motivator and helps our students complete their books on time.

4. Work at Warp Speed

Here’s the idea: Drafting at lightning speed will prevent you from taking decades to finish your book. As we already talked about, you CAN write a book in 30 to 90 days!

The faster you write, the easier it will be meet your goals. Here are some simple tricks to boost your writing speed:

  • Write every day.
  • Adhere to your set writing routine.
  • Don’t get stuck, move on to another section if you’re floundering.
  • Limit research so you move forward with your pages.
  • Plan weekly meetings with a partner to cheer you on.

5. Prioritize Yourself

One of the hardest things to do is to put ourselves first. There are so many competing thing pulling at our time and energy. It can seem as though once we’ve met work, family, life, volunteer, and friend obligations, there’s little left over for ourselves.

We’re here to tell you that in order to write your book, you need to make the effort to be selfish, at least for a short block of time every day. Put yourself first. Make you your first priority. Get your book done—it will pay off. Not just monetarily, but in terms of life satisfaction and intrinsic rewards.

You can wake up half an hour earlier each morning, you can skip the social lunch at work and spend twenty minutes at your desk writing, you can use your subway ride to scribble pages—you get the idea. There’s time to be found, just make an effort to put yourself first and find it. You’ll be happy you did.

Don’t lose out on your dream of becoming a published author because you short-changed yourself. If you can carve out just a short window of time each day, you can make it happen. And it will feel fabulous when it does.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on 5/16/2016 and has been updated for accuracy.

 

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!

How to Write an Introduction That Sells Your Book self-publishingschool

How to Write an Introduction That Sells Your Book

To learn more about how to craft the perfect book introduction, join Chandler on this FREE webinar where he explains how to write a winning intro for your book.

 

“There’s no second chance to make a first impression.” This applies to meeting your future in-laws, and it applies to your readers’ first impression of your book. Okay—to be honest—while a reader’s first impression will be of your book cover, their second-first impression is going to come while they read your book’s introduction. It’s easy to think an introduction isn’t important because so many people skip reading them, but did you know your book’s introduction is actually a vital sales tool if you’re a non-fiction author? In this article, we’re going to tell you how to write an introduction that will actually boost book sales.

But first, let’s talk about…

Why Your Book Introduction is Crucial

Amazon offers customers a chance to give your book a sneak peek before purchase. It’s called the Look Inside feature, and when shoppers click on it, they’re treated to a free preview of the beginning of your book. This means you’ve been given the opportunity to grab their attention and make them reach for their wallets.

This is why your book’s introduction is crucial to your book’s ultimate success. Readers will pick up your book and make a decision about you as an author and your book based on those first few paragraphs.

How Your Book Introduction Will Help You Sell Books

Your introduction serves two goals. Think of your first 1,000 words as the foundation for the rest of your book’s chapters. Writing your introduction is going to be a useful exercise to help you distill down your ideas and to succinctly encapsulate the messaging of your whole book into just a few, short paragraphs.

And of course, the second goal of your introduction is to act as a sales pitch to intrigue readers so they’ll buy your book.

It’s intimidating, yes, and a lot of pressure is riding on just a few paragraphs. This is why writing your introduction can be one of your first major stumbling blocks as an author. This article is going to help you overcome this significant hurdle so you can continue merrily on the path toward your finished manuscript, and ultimately higher sales of your book once it is published.

How to Write a Book Introduction: 8 Steps

Self-Publishing School created a roadmap, much like we did for mindmapping and outlining, to nail down that book introduction—and also to jumpstart your writing process for the rest of your chapters.

As we go through these 8 steps to writing your introduction, we’re going to use the example of a book called How to Get College Scholarships. As you read, take notes, and insert your own book’s topic into your thinking and note-taking process.

Step 1: Identify the Problem

Don’t dance around the problem. What’s the problem your book promises to solve? State the problem clearly for your readers from the outset. Be straight-forward, unambiguous and concise when you identify the issue that readers hope you can solve for them.

Don’t try to be all things to all people—you want readers to know the specific problem your book will solve for them.

Using our example of How to Get College Scholarships, the problem is simple: college is expensive, and scholarships seem out of reach to most high school students.

FREE WEBINAR!

Go from blank page to published author in 90 days… and use your book to grow a six-figure income. 

Click here to register now!

Step 2: Present the Solution

Now that you’ve identified the problem that readers are struggling with, you’re going to make their day by telling them you’re going to share the solution in your book. You’ve helped them with a problem AND you’ve revealed that your book holds the solution on the first page. Your book’s going to be a winner!

Directional phrases such as, “In this book, I am going to show you …” or “This book is going to solve your problem by …”

Thinking back to our example, some solutions we’d present in our book would be teaching readers how to write a good essay so you can stand out from the competition, and how to find and apply for the top scholarships.

Step 3: Assert Your Credibility

Now that you’ve presented a problem and posted a solution, your next step is to convince your readers that you, the author, is qualified to help solve their problem. You need to build your credibility and provide readers with a reason to trust you and follow your advice.

Ask yourself these three questions:

  • Why should people trust you?
  • How do you know about this topic?
  • Why are you passionate about writing this book?

Sharing your own struggles and how you overcame them is the first step to building rapport with your readers.

 

Step 4: Show Them the Benefits

How will your book improve your readers’ current circumstances? Now’s the time to really sell them on how reading your book is going to change their life for the better.

Sold! Who doesn’t want a better life? (It’s rhetorical: We all do!)

You’ve briefly touched on the solution—in our case, how to write a great essay and how to apply for scholarships. In this part of your introduction, you’re going to go a little deeper and explain what good things will happen if your readers take advantage of the information you present in your book.

In short, tell your readers what they’ll get—what knowledge or skill they will gain from reading your book and how that’s going to impact their future for the better.

In our example, the benefit of our book is that readers will go to school for free and live a life without the financial burden of student loans. Readers can achieve their dream of getting an education, without breaking the bank.

Step 5: Give Them Proof

Show your readers the proof of why your book is the answer to their prayers. Give the most tangible and relatable proof you can provide.

In our example, we might share how we put ourselves or our children through school on scholarship. We might also include testimonials from other people we know who followed our advice and got a free education.

Step 6: Make a Promise (The Bigger the Better)

Don’t make a promise you can’t keep, but make the biggest promise that you CAN keep. Aim high.

To come up with your promise, circle back to your books’ purpose—what is the problem your book is solving? Now promise that this book with solve their problem! It’s that easy. You need to be able to deliver on your promises, but don’t be shy in stating what they will get in return for reading your book.

While we can’t promise someone they will be awarded a scholarship (after all, their grades will have a big impact there), but we can promise that we will increase their chances of getting a scholarship by showing them where to find them and the steps to take to apply.

Step 7: Warn Them Against Waiting

You need to create a sense of urgency so your readers know that if they pass on your book, they will regret it because readers will miss out on something really good.

A sense of urgency is created by two magic words, “RIGHT NOW!”

In our example, we would urge people to start well ahead of the scholarship application deadlines so they can submit the best applications they can. Don’t delay, or others who are in the know will snatch up those scholarships! So let’s get started on getting you a free education RIGHT NOW!

Step 8: Prompt Them to Read (Call to Action)

You want readers to continue reading your book the second they finish the introduction. To do that, you have to hint at the juicy secrets your book will reveal to them that will change their lives. You want to intrigue them, and hint at the exciting revelations you’re going to make inside the book. They will have to buy it in order to find out.

Here’s how to craft a compelling Call to Action to prompt them to read your book right away:

The scholarship tips and tricks you’re about to read have proven results. Each chapter provides new secrets that will help you stay in control of your financial future, AND get a leg up on the competition for scholarships. If you follow the formula we reveal in this book, it’s highly possible you can enjoy the rest of your life unburdened by debt.

There you go—it’s that easy! By simply applying a few principles of psychology as you draft your book’s introduction, you can demonstrate to your readers how and why they need to read your book right now. Take advantage of this chance to explain in a few short paragraphs how readers will benefit by reading your book. They will thank you later, after they buy your book and they’re reaping the benefits of taking your advice.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on 4/11/16 and has been updated for accuracy.

 

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!

 

Book Outline: 11 Ways to Outline Your Book self-publishingschool book outline

Book Outline: 11 Ways to Outline Your Book

Outlining. That word may conjure images of 7th Grade English, scribbling at your desk in frustration while a stern teacher looks over your shoulder. Many of us learned how to outline in middle school, and it’s a skill we haven’t revisited since our braces came off and the acne faded away. Have no fear! You’re a grown-up now, and this project isn’t being graded. You have free reign to structure your book outline to benefit your writing process—whether that’s a spaghetti-on-the-wall approach or a color-coded Excel spreadsheet.

If you’d like to learn more about the Mindmap to Outline procedure we like to use at Self-Publishing School, check out this Action Plan.

Outline Your Book

Why Should I Create a Book Outline?

No matter which type of book outline you choose, planning before you write has many benefits. Outlining can help you define your goals, stay focused, and finish your manuscript quicker. You don’t need to spend huge amounts of time outlining, but some (mostly painless!) prep before writing will be time well-spent since you won’t be spinning your wheels by staring at the blank screen of death.

When you start with a plan, you’ll unconsciously make connections and think about your draft, even when you’re not actively writing. Mentally writing in the shower is one of the perks of outlining, because it will get your thoughts percolating. Be sure to keep paper and pens scattered about so you can capture your brilliance the minute it bubbles up, rather than letting all those ideas fade away.

Once you have a plan to write your book in outline form, you’ll be better able to put these thoughts to paper and compose your chapters when you do sit down to write. This means a finished book in less time!

So, I have some good news: there’s no “right” way to outline. Each writer will have their own process that’s personal to them. Keep reading for tips on how to outline different ways. If one of these exact methods doesn’t strike a chord with you, you can combine methods to create your own way that works best for your unique book.

mindmap and outline your book

Mindmap by Sonia Weyers

We’re going to start with ways to outline a non-fiction book. If you’re writing a novel, there are plenty of relevant tips you can apply in the section about outlining a non-fiction book. Likewise, even if you’re writing non-fiction, the section on how to write a fiction outline can help spark some ideas for your process, so we recommend authors of all types of book read the full list:

5 Ways to Write a Non-Fiction Book Outline

Most non-fiction authors find outlines useful due to the nature of their books. Generally, works of non-fiction require research and citation of sources (although many novels require their own research!)

An outline can help organize your research so it doesn’t overwhelm you, plus your outline will help you create the best structure for your finished book.

1. Mindmap + Book Outline

This is the main method of outlining that we teach in Self-Publishing School. The mindmap method requires you to create a brain dump based on your book’s topic. Write your topic in the center of a piece of paper, then use lines and words to draw as many connections as you can. It doesn’t need to make perfect sense from the get go—the goal is free-form thinking to get all of your ideas out of your head and onto the page.

You’ll start to notice connections between different categories of information. This makes it easier to spot the relevant “book-worthy” ideas. Then you can pluck those ideas out of your mindmap and put them into a cohesive book outline. We also recommend doing a mindmap for each chapter you select from you original mindmap. It will help you structure your entire book chapter by chapter. Fun, and so easy—we told you this would be (mostly) painless!

mindmap and outline your book

Mindmap by Camille Nelson

At Self-Publishing School, we encourage students to make a mess with their mindmap. Regardless of what your mind map looks like in the end, it is an essential element to your book writing process. This mind map will be the jumping off point for you to begin your outline. In this brief video, Chandler explains how to turn your mindmap into an outline:

2. Simple Book Outline

A simple book outline is just as it sounds; keep it basic and brief. Start with the title. Don’t get too hung up on the perfect title at this stage of the process; you just want to come up with a good-for-now placeholder. You can always change the title later—in fact, you probably will—but starting with some kind of title gives you a better idea of where you want your book to go. Plus, it jump starts the creative process.

Next, you’ll list all of the key points that cover your book’s overall theme and message. You’ll use these key points to generate your notes. Later, you’ll flesh out these notes to draft your book chapters.

3. Chapter-by-Chapter Book Outline

Your chapter-by-chapter book outline is a pumped-up version of the simple book outline. To get started, first create a complete chapter list. With each chapter listed as a heading, you’ll later add material or shift chapters around as the draft evolves.

Create a working title for each chapter, and list them in a logical order. After that, you’ll fill in the key points of each chapter. Finally, you’ll link your resources as they would appear in each chapter, including books, interviews, and Web links.

4. Sketch Your Book Outline

Perhaps you find the idea of a written outline confining. That’s OK — there’s another option which might appeal to your artistic side. Dan Roam, author of The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, wrote about how sketching your ideas can simply complex thoughts.

To create this type of book outline, hand-draw your book concept in sequential order. This may be as simple or as elaborate as you desire. Feel free to use a Bic pen and a spiral notebook, or take it to the next level with color medium on canvas-sized paper. Others find satisfaction in sketching ideas with dry erase markers on a white board, or the old-fashioned feel of chalk on blackboard.

5. Book Outline With Scrivener

If you like being uber-organized, then the writing software Scrivener might appeal to you. Their book outline program allows you to upload your research, organize it by moving it around, and filing it into folders.

The program does have a fairly extensive learning curve, which can be a major downside—especially if you tend to procrastinate and really want to get your book published quickly. However, some writers say it revolutionized their organizational process for longer works. You can learn more about the program and its uses here.

6 Ways to Outline Your Novel

While you can incorporate the book outlining tips we shared in the non-fiction section above, creating an outline for your novel will be inherently different from creating a non-fiction outline. Your novel outline will require character development, evolution of plot points, and resolution of conflict. While the methods may be different, the goal is the same—organization and pre-planning so that you can write a great, cohesive book much faster.

1. Basic Document

Your goal with the Basic Document format is to use a Word or Excel table to give structure to your theme. Create a table and organize and summarize your key points and plot. You’ll then create a separate section for characters and themes, and an additional section with relevant research. 

2. Post-It Wall

This is for the creative mind, and another method we teach in Self-Publishing School. All you need is a blank wall and a box of Post-It notes. Carry a pad of Post-Its with you wherever you go, and noodle your book on the fly. Write your ideas and inspiration on your Post-Its when the mood strikes you.

Next, affix the Post-Its containing words, snippets, doodles, and phrases to the wall. After a week of this exercise, organize these words into novel outline form. Voila—simple, effective, creative!

book outline: how to outline your book

Post-It wall by Wendy Van de Poll

3. The Snowflake Method

The Snowflake Method was created by fiction writing coach Randy Ingermanson based on the notion, “Good fiction doesn’t just happen. It’s designed.”

The process of the snowflake method focuses on starting small, then expanding. For example, you’d start with one line from your book, then add a paragraph, then add a chapter. Since the snowflake method is fairly detailed and based on scientific theory, Randy’s article is worth a read so you can review the detailed steps involved in this outlining method.

4. The Skeletal Outline

If you’ve ever written a term paper or thesis, then you’re probably familiar with the skeletal outline. You’ll lay out your narrative points in the order they’ll appear in your story, which involves a broad 7-step story arch. This gives you a big picture idea of the flow of your story, so you can adjust your story and add subplots for maximum impact.

5. Novel Outline Template

Why reinvent the wheel? If you’re impatient to jump right into the fun part—writing!—or you aren’t sure exactly how to format your novel outline, then a pre-formatted template outline might be your saving grace. A fill-in-the-blank novel outline can help you develop your plot, characters, and ideas without getting bogged down with the notion of striving for “proper” outline form.

6. The Reverse Outline

Sometimes looking at the problem from a different angle can give you the answer to the question. The same applies to outlining. Reverse outlining is exactly what it sounds like: Write down how your novel ends. Then once you know the ending, outline backwards to get to that happy (Or sad? You’re the author!) ending.

For more ideas and creatives ways to jump-start your novel outline, check out How to Write a Novel Outline.

Here’s the take-away: No matter which option you choose, ultimately, you’ll write faster and better with a book outline. If one way doesn’t work well for you, then experiment and try another. Remember, your goal is a finished manuscript, not the gold medal for “Most Perfect Book Outline.” Discover what works best for you and you’ll be one step closer to a finished book.

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!