Writing a book can sometimes be an intimidating task, even for the most experienced writers. If you’re new to the book writing world, the road ahead can seem especially daunting. It can be hard to know where to start.
Even once you do manage to put pen to paper (figuratively or literally), there are plenty of hurdles to overcome. Writer’s block can strike, distractions are everywhere, and it’s easy to burnout before you’ve even finished your first draft.
Luckily, there are some simple strategies you can use to help you simplify the process of writing a book. Here are 6 tips to help you stay creative and focused so you can reach your book writing goals.
1. Know Your Audience
The trick to writing a good book is to get inside the head of your reader. So ask yourself, who will your book be speaking to?
It can be helpful to create a clear picture of your target reader before you get started. You can even turn them into a character, choosing their age, name, and interests, etc. This helps you to stay focused on writing for your reader, rather than yourself.
Once you know your audience, ask yourself these 2 key questions:
- What does your audience crave?
- Why should the readers buy your book rather than your competitor’s?
Keep the answers to these questions at the forefront of your mind as you write.
If you want to write with passion and authority, you also need to know your subject matter. Most successful non-fiction and fiction authors already have in-depth knowledge of their subject matter, plot themes, or characters.
For example, if you’re a middle-aged divorcee with a passion for steam trains, don’t make your main character a 16-year-old girl with a penchant for shoes and handbags.
2. Read and Write, A Lot
One of the best ways to prepare to write a book is to immerse yourself in the world of words. That means plenty of reading and plenty of writing.
Everyone knows you need to build your upper body strength before you can bench press a 150lbs. In a similar way, you also need to flex your wordsmith muscles before diving into writing a book.
Consume as much written material as possible, especially from authors who have written in your chosen genre.
As the great American novelist Annie Proulx once said, “Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.”
It’s also essential to oil up your writing cogs before you put pen to paper. Signing up to a writer’s workshop can be a great way to prepare for writing a book. Not only will you get used to writing frequently, but you’ll also have the opportunity to have your writing critiqued.
Your tutor and course mates can help you pinpoint areas in your writing to improve or build upon. All of this allows you to sharpen your writing skills.
Bonus tip: Many authors carry a pen and paper at all times. By doing this, you’re ready to record bursts of inspiration and new ideas wherever you are. Another great tip is to use a note taking app on your phone.
3. Create Your Sacred Writing Space
Don’t make the common mistake of thinking you can write a whole novel at the kitchen table. However, as supportive your partner or family may be, they will inevitably be a distraction. Unless you live alone, chances are you’ll be interrupted a lot.
Treat writing in the same way you would treat your job. Some people thrive on writing in the spare room or home office. Others prefer to get out of the house and work at a coffee shop or their local library. Consider your own circumstances and find what works best for you.
If you decide to write at home, make your writing room into a sacred space. Remove clutter, distractions, and mess so that you have a calm environment to work in. The idea is to make it a place that you want to be, rather than a place you have to be.
If you’re the type of person who easily gets distracted by social media (isn’t everyone?) then take steps to prevent this.
Consider using an app to block certain sites on your writing laptop, or unplug the internet altogether. That way, every time you reach a creative roadblock, you won’t be tempted to check twitter and derail your writing altogether.
4. Establish a Writing Routine
Firstly, think about when you will write. Choose the time you are most alert and least likely to be distracted by other demands. For some, this could be the first thing in the morning, before the rest of the family wakes up. Others prefer to work deep into the night. It all depends on your personal circumstances and when you feel most creative.
Bonus Tip: If you’re prone to procrastination, it can be helpful to set yourself some clear writing goals. For example, maybe you choose to write 1000 words per day on your first draft. Create a chart you can mark off daily to give yourself a visual reward and an extra sense of achievement.
Also, consider how you will write. Most authors in this modern age use a laptop, but there are still many writers out there using classic typewriters, or even pen and paper.
If you’re unsure, experiment until you find a method that aids your creative process and feels natural to you.
If you use a laptop for your writing, make sure you protect your eyes. Take regular breaks, and consider using blue blocker glasses to prevent sleep problems and long term eye damage.
5. Create a Writing Map Before You Start
It can sometimes be tempting to rush blindly into chapter one and let the words start flowing. But by doing this, you inevitably run the risk of getting lost in the story, going off on random tangents, and losing the plot’s focus.
It’s wiser, and much easier in the long run, to map out your book before you start.
Decide where you want to begin, where you want to go, and how you want to get there. It helps to do this visually, for example with a flow chart on a whiteboard or a PowerPoint presentation.
6. Hire a Good Editor
Even people who are actually editors shouldn’t edit their own manuscripts.
Since you’re the author, it’s impossible to critique your own work objectively. What you need to do is get a fresh set of eyes, and those eyes should really be a professional’s.
Even though it can be tempting to try to save money by asking friends or family to edit your book, don’t do it.
Firstly, your friend is probably not a professional editor, and they don’t know the world of publishing as a pro does.
Secondly, their relationship with you is bound to cloud their critique of your work, whether either of you want to admit it or not.
You need a professional editor who will tell you the truth about what needs to be changed, added, or omitted. A good editor is worth their weight in gold and can make or break your chances of success.
Writing a book isn’t for the faint-hearted. It takes long term dedication and determination. But it doesn’t mean it’s daunting as it first appears. By following these tips for writing a book, you can keep those creative juices flowing and get to your goal.