Is writing a book one of your goals for the new year? If so, these 10 tips can make the difference between dickering and done.
Now that I’m 47 full-length books down the road (all sold to major publishing houses), plus more than a dozen other compilations, I can attest that these principles work. A couple of my books were written in two days. The longest (95,000 words) took me 28 days to write. Several have been book club selections and won literary awards. Writing fast does NOT mean cutting corners on quality.
Here’s hoping these same tips will be helpful to you as you write your first or next book!
How to Write a Quality Book Quickly—10 Tips to Get It Done!
1. Do your basic research before you ever start to draft.
Writers like to read. Once you stop drafting to locate needed research, you’re tempted to read not only that research but the next article and the next study and the following study. Sooner than you think, you’ve lost three hours on reading intriguing research data that you definitely do not need to write your book.
Productivity experts will tell you that it’s the start-stop, start-stop pattern that wastes time in any activity: Switching your brain from one process to another. Switching locations to do the task. Switching tools to do the task. So research. THEN draft.
2. Outline the entire book before you start.
You’ll be eager to start each new day because you’ll know EXACTLY where you’re going next. You’ll also see where there may be overlap and eliminate those redundant sections before you take the time to draft them.
3. Never re-read what you wrote the day before.
Re-reading can waste hours of your valuable creation time! Keep plowing ahead. Re-read only when you’re in the editing phase.
4. Consider a writing marathon.
Seclude yourself physically and mentally. Go to a local hotel, to your Aunt Susie’s, or to an empty attic in your own house. Just lock yourself away from distractions, and make your total focus writing the book, 10- to 14- hours a day, 6 days a week until it’s finished. As soon as you awake in the morning, go to your computer and begin drafting. When you need your first break, then make that break a functional one: Eat breakfast or get dressed or brush your teeth—whatever your daily routine. In other words, maximize your “rest” breaks to do what’s necessary to live through 12 or 14-hour writing days.
5. Check your email only once a day: in the evening just before bedtime.
You’ll be very tired and will respond to everything very quickly because of sheer weariness. People will have your responses to them waiting the next morning.
6. Stay off social media.
Either schedule posts ahead of time, or have an assistant post or reply for you.
7. Commit your writing plan—and hours—to other people.
It’s very difficult to explain why you’re answering your door bell after you announced to your neighbors, friends, and relatives that you will be on a writing marathon and unavailable until X date. Accountability works.
8. Talk, write, or record. Just get it down on paper.
Software recognition works for some people. I prefer seeing it on paper or on the screen as I write, and I do key extremely fast. Getting it on paper as I go allows me to see where I need headings, when paragraphs are getting too long, where bullets are a good idea. That said, you can always correct or add those formatting things in the editing phase.
If you prefer to record, grab your favorite device and go. You can send chapters to Elance.com or Rev.com and have the typed manuscript sections returned to you in 24 to 48 hours at minimal cost.
9. Keep a record of your hours, words, and pages as you go to build momentum.
At the end of each day, record hours worked, words written, pages finished. Two reasons: First, motivation: Seeing your work mount up day after day inspires you to keep pushing ahead. Second, predictability: After a week or so, you will have a solid idea of your daily output.
That average daily output then becomes your quota—and your reward. Write every day at least until you reach it. If you’ve had a rough writing day and you reach your quota early in the day, you can reward yourself and stop early.
10. Make drafting and editing two different steps.
Never stop drafting to correct grammar or revise for clarity or conciseness. If you become aware of a problem while drafting, simply add your initials at the spot and make a note. Then move ahead. Keep the momentum going.