Writing About Writing: Ten Tips to Write a Book

To write an 80k word book, you need about 5-600 hours between you and others helping. That’s the time. Cramming it in all at once is painful, so I suggest that you amortize it. Here are my ten tips to write a book.

Ten tips to write a book:

  1. Find something you care about – not what others think you should write about, including a potential publisher. I spoke to several agents about my book for Africa. Here’s what I heard, “No one cares about a white man going to Africa,” “travel memoirs don’t sell,” and “you aren’t an African expert.” Maybe it’s all true, but my trip to Africa meant a lot to me so I did it. It’s a hard slog, so it should really interest you and pull you into the exercise.  You get to write the book; you don’t have to. So find something that truly interests you and means something to you. Not only should already know something about the topic but yearn to learn more about it. Most of all, you should really want to share your knowledge/experience with others.
  2. Write small first. Compiling 50 blog posts into a book is a lot easier than writing a book all at once. Just don’t do it. This process does a few things: 1) gives you an idea of what it’s like to write about this topic and if you truly like it 2) gives you feedback from others as you go and 3) gives you an idea if there is really enough to write a book about. For a 7-80k word book, that’s 7-80 1k word blogs. That’s a lot.
  3. Outline it.  This is where you realize if you have enough content for the book and in what shape/form you want to display it. That table of contents is a hard process of organization and flow. I’ve outlined about 10 book concepts and I often stop a quarter of the way through it. It’s better to stop during the outline than while writing the third chapter and realize it should be a blog post. Most books can be blog posts – to be honest. Make your book substantial, and rich with information. 
  4. Choose your avatar carefully. Write the book for that one exact person. Draw a picture of that person. Find that person and share what you’ve done thus far. That avatar keeps you focused and constrained. You’ll want to throw ideas in the trash that aren’t for that avatar.
  5. Decision time. This is when you decide to go or no go. When you decide, don’t dilly dally, don’t lollygag. Do it; make a writing plan every day and a deadline. For example, 1k words per day for 100 days. Make a minimum word count; Tucker Max says 250/day; I say 1k. Write at 4 AM-7 AM every morning without fail. And if you can’t think of anything to write; just sit in the chair during your planned time and look at the screen. It’s discipline. Discipline presides over ideas. Plan to write about 2-3x more than what you actually publish. Decide and plan.

Now take a break. Think about if that person is who you really want to address. If so, then move to the final 5 tips. This is where the hard work begins. These make up the most important Ten tips to write a book.

  1. Research and Interviews. Armed with an outline and an avatar, go research and interview others. Where do you need more information for each of the chapters/key points? Do that at once because it is likely to add/change the outline. You’ll learn even more than you already know!
  2. Have someone edit/feedback early. Have an intern, or part-time editor start editing as you go. Have them look at the outline and comment. After you finish your first few chapters, give it to them immediately. They will give you thoughts/comments. Those comments will help you adjust the new chapters instead as you go. It will save time to get feedback/editing early!
  3. Get through the draft, fast. That’s right. Even if it is vomit, as Tucker Max would say. Get through it heads down. Hopefully, you’ve written a lot of posts or content already and can use that. Whatever you do, don’t stop until the first draft is done. Try not to edit too much but take in the comments/thoughts from your as-you-go editor.
  4. Finish it, take time off, edit it, take time off edit it.  It will take you about 3-4 edits to cut, fill, add etc… Each time you do that you need a fresh memory and perspective. So you’ll have to step away about 2-3 weeks each time. When you come back you’ll find things you really didn’t like and want to get rid of or something that you want to add back. That’s fine. If you feel so-so about something, cut it; if you feel the book is absolutely better with that paragraph, add it. Cut the fat and add the meat. When in doubt, “less tends to be more.”
  5. Don’t write past the ending. Set a deadline. So many people keep writing, adding ideas, and changing the content. Learn to be done with it. You are Stephen King or probably are not going to be so don’t labor over every beginning sentence. Be clear and concise and move on. You should know exactly what you want to say and how you want it to end based on your outline. Get to a good word count, make sure your points or narrative are established, and finish it. In sales, they say “Don’t sell past the close”; in writing I say, “don’t write past the end.” Sometimes, good enough is enough.

I hope you enjoyed this and it was helpful. Let me know if you have any feedback or any more tips to add to my ten tips to write a book.

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