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How to Get Started Writing a Book: Considerations and Strategies for First-Timers

November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as #NaNoWriMo. We’re now halfway through, and writers all over the country are racing towards finishing a 50,000-word manuscript by the end of the month. Perhaps you’re taking part, or perhaps you have writer friends who are involved in the mad dash.

How to Get Started Writing a Book

So what about you? Have you ever thought about writing a book? It can do a lot of great things for you. So let’s look at the potential upsides, downsides, and strategies to make it all happen should you wish to take the plunge and get started.

Should Writing a Book Be a Part of Your Content Strategy?

First of all, I should say that you don’t need to have a book as a part of your content strategy. There are many different types of content you can use instead. Many of my clients are in this situation — they produce tons of content, none of which is a book. But writing a book is still worth considering. It’s a great way to convey information in a cohesive, well-organized fashion. It’s a way to package up your expertise and sequence it properly for a reader to learn from you.

  • Efficiency. You will have the best, clearest articulation of your ideas. No need to re-create it ad hoc.
  • Propagation. The format lends itself to circulation, which means that your ideas will be spreadable.
  • Accomplishment. Completing a project of this type sets you apart, and people will see you in a different light.

Things to Consider Before Starting Your Book Project

Completing a book-length project is a massive challenge. No sugar-coating here — the process is grueling.

  1. It gets you interacting with your customers. Not only will you be growing an audience, but “live” practice will improve your writing.

Getting Started on Your Book Project

OK, so we’re going to start with a blog. Great. Maybe you already have some material, or maybe you don’t. Either way, writing with a clear goal in mind will help keep you on track. Now let’s talk about how you get started on a project of this scope.

  • Content Function. Going from blog-post-as-first-draft to an actual book will take some work. Expectations are going to be higher. Your book needs to provide a coherent path. What is its function? What will make it worth it for the reader?
  • Book Structure. Non-fiction is generally meant to be instructive. That means that you are a teacher. How do you lay out this topic to someone who doesn’t know as much as you do? Organization matters. Sequence matters. Start with at least a first draft of a table of contents, even if you veer from it as you go.
  • Book Format. Setting daily or weekly word count milestones can help you stay on track. This is why NaNoWriMo is so effective (well, that and the supportive peer community around the event). But don’t let the tail wag the dog. With ebooks, word count isn’t as important anymore. Especially if you intend to self-publish. Make the book whatever length it needs to be. There’s no reason to keep writing if the book has achieved its goals.

How to Get Past Writer’s Block

The bane of any writer’s existence: Writer’s block. Ugh. It hits us all at some point. So how do you wrestle free from its clutches?

1. Writing Tasks

What are you working on right now? Producing content of any type involves many different tasks. I tend to divide the tasks into two categories: Creative vs. Operational.

  • Operational tasks are: Organizing, editing, refining.

2. Writing Tools

Are your writing tools actually helping you? As a media producer (that’s what you are!), your toolset matters. It’s either helping you be more efficient or it’s not. If your tools are hard to use, get in your way, or slow you down — time to move on to something better. The two tools that I rely on the most for writing are Evernote and Scrivener:

  • Scrivener is simply the best tool for writers. It lets you focus on the writing, but it’s also a powerful organizing tool, allowing you to shuffle sections and chapters easily.

Repurposing Content: The Key to Efficiency

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The Upstream Method

Writing a book can be a daunting process. Not to mention that as small business owners, we can’t just take time out to write a book when we’ve got an active business to run. With my upstream method, you can achieve two goals at the same time:

  1. Before you know it, you have enough of a first draft to hand it over to an editor — or start shopping it around to an agent or publisher.

The Downstream Method

In running your content strategy, it’s equally important repurpose content in a “downstream” manner, too. As I teach it to my clients, there are two cases:

  1. Repurposing medium-form content into social content, such as going from blog to social.

Get Out There and Write That Book!

I hope that this has helped lend some clarity to the process — and the considerations around it. While it’s not for everyone, I do believe that anyone can do it. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times under my own guidance. You can do it, too. To assist you, here’s a ton of free help in my podcast and blog, some inexpensive help in my online course on marketing for writers, or exclusive access with one-on-one training if you’re ready for that.

Written by

Writer, Educator, Musician. Trying to listen more than I speak.

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