Many people want to write a book but are daunted by the process. The idea of churning out 80,000 or even 30,000 words is overwhelming.
But what if you could write your first book in as little as eight weeks? It’s quite possible.
In this post I share the five steps to writing a book, so you can get your first draft done as quickly as possible.
Step 1: Create A Writing Habit
Of all the steps to writing a book, this is the most important. You want to create a writing habit.
A writing habit varies from person to person. But it typically has three elements: a place to write, a time to write, and a trigger. Here’s what you want to do…
First, think about where you’re going to write. Ideally, this is a dedicated work space. It can be your dining room table, or a desk, even the sofa. If necessary, clear the space right now and make it ready for writing.
Next, set a time to write. For example, you may decide to write every week day from 6AM – 7AM. When working on a long project, I prefer to write six or seven days a week. You may prefer to take the weekend off. Experiment and find what works for you.
Finally, make sure you have a trigger that reminds you to start writing. For my first book, the trigger was putting the baby down to nap. Now, I write after dropping the kids at school. A trigger may also be after your morning coffee or you could set an alarm on your phone.
Once you’ve covered the above steps commit to your writing habit. Write down the three components: when, where, and trigger. Then share your new habit with someone.
Step 2: Commit To A Daily Goal
Your next step is to set a daily goal. Having a measurable target for your writing reinforces your habit and keeps you motivated.
I aim to complete a chapter in a single sitting. If I’m not able to complete an entire chapter, I split it into two sessions. On the first day, I make an outline and in the second session, I write the chapter.
A different goal may be to write 1000 words each day. Or if that feels like too much, make it 500 words. Go with what feels right to you and pick a goal you can achieve. This isn’t the time to set yourself up for failure.
Step 3: Write Down Your Plan
Once you have a habit and daily goal, you’re ready to create your plan. This step shows you how long it will take to finish your book.
Start by writing down the individual chapters in your outline – this post shows you how to outline your book.
Now, add due dates next to each chapter. For example, if you plan to write daily and complete a chapter each day. It will take you just 20 days to complete the first draft of a 20-chapter book. Yes, just 20 days!
Your plan will look something like this:
Chapter 1: Jan-7
Chapter 2: Jan-8
Chapter 3: Jan-9
One final word of caution, if this is your first book then you may struggle to accurately predict how long it will take to write it. Don’t worry – that’s normal. You can always come back and revise your plan later.
Okay, you have an action plan and are ready to start writing.
Now, you must stick to your habit – whether this means writing every day or every Monday to Friday. Make sure you do it. Even on the days you don’t feel like writing.
To keep you motivated, place your plan somewhere visible and put a check mark against each chapter as you complete the first draft.
4. Keep Going Until You’re Done
You may still be doubting that you can finish your manuscript in such a short time. But stick with me because next I’m going to share how to write more quickly.
This first tip is to outline each chapter before writing it. Brainstorm the detail of the chapter, then organize your ideas into a logical sequence. This is your chapter outline. For more outlining tips, see the mindmapping process described in this post.
Second, avoid editing your work as you go. This one is important. You can improve your manuscript, add research, etc., once you have the first draft out of your head and written down. The first version is called your “rough draft” for a reason. You won’t be sharing it with anyone. Your goal right now is to get the words out.
My third tip is for anyone who struggles to write. Try recording your book instead. After outlining, grab your mobile phone and record yourself speaking the chapter. Then transcribe the recording later (or send it to a transcription service like rev.com).
For most people, writing the first draft is the toughest step. It takes persistence. But you can do it!
Also, if you miss a day’s writing, don’t be hard on yourself. Forming a new habit is difficult. Simply, start writing again the next day. And make sure you celebrate finishing your first draft. It’s a huge milestone.
Step 5: Self-Edit Your Manuscript
You’ve done it – you’ve written the first draft of your manuscript. Congratulations!
Your first draft is probably a little (or a lot) messy. Perhaps you’re missing some research. Your grammar and phrasing are sloppy. Some of your ideas are unclear. This is normal.
The role of self-editing is to smooth out the rough edges. Most people don’t like reading through and editing their work. You may suffer from self-doubt. If this happens, don’t let the fear defeat you. Now is the time to power onwards. Recognize your fear and know that it’s normal.
Another common challenge is knowing when to stop editing. You may tell yourself that if you spend one more day tweaking your manuscript, it will be perfect.
I’ve found the best way to overcome fear and perfectionism is to follow a process. In my system, I review a manuscript three times before sending it to a professional editor.
On the first read through, look at the big picture and think about your target readers. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Does the entire book have a logical sequence that takes the reader through a transformation to achieve the end goal?
- Does the introduction make a big promise?
- Does each chapter flow from the next?
- Does the concluding chapter leave the reader satisfied?
- Does the book inspire the reader to take action?
On the second read through, make sure your book is clearly written. This time, you want to read more carefully. Pay attention to how clear and concise your book is.
- Is each sentence clear, complete, and concise?
- Does each paragraph make one point? Is it clear, complete, and concise?
- Does each chapter meet one goal that is part of the entire end goal for the book? Is it clear, complete, and concise? Are there relevant examples or evidence?
- Are there any unnecessary words? Some words to be careful of are “really”, “very” or just about any adverb.
- Are there any duplicate words or phrases that appear near to each other? Are there any over-used phrases?
Finally, read your book out loud. You want to listen to the rhythm of your book, tweak words to improve readability, and correct any spelling or grammatical errors.
Once you complete your final read through, stop. Don’t be tempted to go back and keep changing things. Your readers are waiting for you to hit publish so don’t delay too long.
5 Steps To Writing A Book
Okay, here’s a summary of the five steps to finish your book in eight weeks or less:
- Create a writing habit. Make sure your habit includes the following: when you will write, where you will write, and a trigger.
- Commit to a daily goal, for example 1000 words or one chapter.
- Create a writing plan.
- Start writing and don’t stop till you’re done.
- Self-edit your manuscript.
It’s worth repeating – please don’t give up. This is where you need to put your head down and get on with things. Writing can be a rewarding career and great source of passive income. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. Just finish your book.
If you’d like to learn more about writing a bestselling book, check out my ultimate guide to self-publishing here. It walks you through the exact steps to write and publish a nonfiction book that flies off the shelves.