How to Write a Book: Unorthodox Advice From Someone Currently Attempting to Write a Book
1. First, start by telling everyone you know that you are writing a book.
So what if you haven't written a single word? So what if you don't have a story or a plot or any clear direction, whatsoever? So what if you have never written a book before and have no frame of reference for how this whole process is supposed to work? So what if you don't know how to write a book?
Start by telling everyone you know that you are writing a book. Tell your parents (and ignore them when they shake their heads and ask you questions like, "when are you going to get a real job?"). Tell your siblings. Tell your extended family in all directions. Tell your best friends and your frenemies. Tell your boyfriend, tell his dog. And then tell everyone you don't know, too. Make it Facebook Official. Announce it via a cute selfie on Instagram. Tell the stranger making smalltalk in the coffee shop (and ignore him or change the subject when he asks you questions like, "what is it about?" and "who is your publisher?" and "what other books have you written?").
Every single day.
Repeat after me: I am writing a book.
(Now you have to write it.)
2. Commit to a deadline.
So what if you don't know how to write a book, and you have never written a book before, and you really have no idea how long writing a book is supposed to take?
Commit to a deadline, anyway. Mark it on your calendar, set an alarm on your iPhone. Chisel it into stone. And then set small goals along the way.
500 words a day.
2,500 words a week.
10,000 words a month.
100,000 words by the end of summer.
3. Create a space of your own.
So what if you don't have your own office with a desk and a swivel chair, and motivational quote posters on the wall?
Create a space of your own. A place where you can lose yourself in your words, find inspiration and just be (hopefully, productive). Maybe it's in a different coffee shop every day. Maybe it's in a corner of the basement of your boyfriend's parents' house, where he has set up a desk and a lamp and a mason jar full of highlighters. Wherever it is, make it your own. And go there every day.
4. Start writing.
So what if you still don't know what you are writing about? So what if you still don't have a story or a plot or any clear direction, whatsoever? So what if despite all the WikiHow's (like this one) you have read, you still aren't sure where to start?
Start writing, anyway.
Start with just 500 words a day. Write those 500 words every single day. Your story will come. Your plot will come. The only way to figure out what you are writing about is to simply start writing.
5. Write a chapter outline.
So what if you have no intention of following it? So what if you are making it up as you go? So what if it grows, changes and evolves every single day? (spoiler alert: this is a good thing.)
Write a chapter outline, anyway. Annotate it. Give each potential chapter a title. Write a brief description, or write bullet points or draw pictures or write anything at all that summarizes the goal of each chapter.
Now you have some semblance of direction. Follow it until you can not follow it anymore. Unlike your deadline, this is not chiseled into stone. Adjust it. Let it evolve. Let it change and grow and take shape before your very eyes.
This is your scaffolding.
6. Build a routine and stick to it.
So what if you are a creative being who has spent a lifetime resisting status quo routines? So what if you don't have a figurehead boss demanding you to show up?
You must show up, anyway. Every single day. Build a routine and stick to it.
Maybe you write your very best early in the morning. Wake up early and write every single day.
Maybe you are more of a night owl. Stay up late and write every single night.
Maybe you prefer to write standing up, like Hemingway.
Maybe you write your best wearing two different coloured socks and a hat on sideways.
Find what works for you. Build a routine and stick to it.
7. Get out of your own way.
Quit picking at your fingernails. Quit scrolling through Instagram. Quit justifying your "inability" to write with excuses like, "I don't know what I'm trying to say," or "I haven't decided what happens next."
Get out of your own way, and just write. There is something magical that happens when you are "in flow" — you have no idea where the words are coming from, but they are coming and you are watching your fingers tap, tap, tap, away at the keyboard and when you look up to take a breath, you find that three hours have passed.
The energy of writing often comes from being put in a corner. In order to get out of that corner, you must first get out of your own way.
8. Keep writing.
So what if you feel like it's hopeless? So what if you feel lost and lost and lost? So what if you have a bad case of writer's block that can't be remedied by a large glass of wine?
Keep writing, anyway. Even if it's shit. Even if it doesn't make sense. Even if you know it will all get the red-pen strikethrough in your second draft.
Remember all those people that you told you were writing a book? They are your accountability insurance. They are why you must keep writing.
9. Make it tactile.
So what if it isn't finished? So what if you don't know how it's going to end, and it doesn't even really make sense (yet)?
Press print, anyway. Make it tactile. Buy a binder, and chapter by unfinished chapter, start filling it up. Watch as a title page with nothing behind it, turns into a title page and a chapter, and then five chapters, and then 100 pages, and then 15 chapters.
This is your book coming to life. Flip through the pages. Feel the weight of it in your hands. Marvel in awe as you realize that you have created something out of nothing. Don't stop until it is finished.
10. Treat your book as a companion.
So what if you don't fully understand what this last point means? So what if you already have enough friends?
Writing is a process of quiet discovery, and when writing is working, well...you, my friend, you are hardly involved in that. Treat your book as a companion (and not a confessional), allowing yourself to disappear in it, and letting the companionship of your subject takeover.
In a more literal iteration, you must, quite literally, treat your book as a companion. Now that you have made it tactile, take your book everywhere. Plop it in your purse before you head out for the day. Place it in the place-setting beside you on the table at the coffeeshop. Rest it on your bedside table before going to bed.
If you don't enjoy spending time with your book, how can you expect someone else to?
Also, believing in yourself helps. And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
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