Getting your book out of you
There's an old axiom that everyone has a book in them and I, for one, agree with it. There's also a slightly more cynical version that ends with "and that's where it should stay," but I don't necessarily agree with that. And it's not what I'll be addressing in this post.
I can probably count on one hand the number of people I've met in my life who didn't have an idea for a book they wanted to write. And the vast majority who do have that book in them tend to admit it once they find out I'm a writer. Some had visions of sci-fi epics or pulse-pounding action novels, others hoped to put together their memoirs and share their lives with countless readers, and still others hoped to pen/type a tome someday about their favorite historical person or era. And, even with my artsy-fartsy upbringing and educational background, I still know some folks who have the idea to write a business book.
So I can say from experience that yes, most people do have a book rattling around in their brains. But, unfortunately, very few of them will ever have that moment where they push their chair away from their desk and heave a sigh of relief after having at last typed "The End." Writing a book, regardless of genre or content, is a daunting and time-consuming task. But it's definitely not an impossible one. After all, I've done it and am working on doing it again.
As Frank pointed out in his article earlier this month, some of the biggest hurdles that would-be writers face (in business books or otherwise) are surmountable with a bit of perspective and hard work. Taking his advice, it's easy enough to get your thoughts together and solidify what you want your book to be and be about. Personally, I think that's the hardest part of starting any piece of writing. But don't get cocky, because the rest of the process is still a challenging task. Here are a few tips to help keep the wheels turning once you've started the next great American novel or volume of self-improvement techniques:
Make time. Writing can take a long while. Yes, a pamphlet on marketing techniques will get done a lot quicker than a textbook on the Industrial Revolution, but they both take time nonetheless. The only way your piece is going to get done is if you find ways to fit it into your schedule. If it helps, treat it like you would learning to play an instrument or taking a workout class. Maybe you can take an hour a day or one day a week to focus on writing, but try to find a system and hold yourself to it as best you can.
Follow your inspiration. If an idea hits you, write it down right then and there. Keep a notepad by your bed, at your desk, in your office, in the shower, wherever creativity might hit you (or just use the notepad app on your phone, works great for me). If a great notion strikes for a character or concept but you aren't quite sure how to work it in, write it down anyway. Figure out the how later. If there's a part of your book you really want to write but haven't reached yet in the narrative, don't wait. Write it out and connect it to the rest at your convenience. Listen to your own brain. It knows what it's doing.
Don't force it. Like I said above, setting aside time to write is important in getting words on the page. But don't be too hard on yourself. If you don't get anything written during one of your hours or days set aside, that's okay. Relax, take a breath, and give it another try next time. Maybe go back and edit what you have if you aren't in the right mindset to add a new chapter. Avoid turning your writing into a chore, because that's a creative dead-end.
Get help if you need it. Or want it. Your book may come from your brain, but there's no reason you can't get someone (or someones) to help mold it from how it exists in your head into its final, finished form. You might need an editor to give a thumbs-up on your spelling and grammar when all is said and done. If your project is the kind that requires a lot of research, bring on some experts and their knowledge to ensure complete accuracy. And there's always the option of bringing on co-writers or ghostwriters to help flesh out your ideas and put your ideas to paper in ways you may not have the time or training to do.
Between my thoughts and Frank's, we've given you some solid pointers on getting that book you've got in you into print. But the key takeaway to all of them is that there's really no wrong way to get your writing done. You can do it all yourself in a week straight of typing, or spend time working with a whole team of other writers and researchers to complete your story. It's coming from your brain. Get it out there any way you like.
Paul Mooney is a contributing writer to Present Tense LLC. With a background of film, screenwriting, advertising, and a healthy dose of the Marine Corps he has many stories to share. He is a freelance writer and producer living in New York City. You can follow some of his other writing on Task & Purpose, and some of his witticisms on Uniform Stories. Paul is also the writer and director for Vetted, a television comedy highlighting the follies of veterans transitioning in NYC, and edited the first Present Tense ebook.