“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”
So you have an idea for a book, but you’re not sure how to start. Get going with some of these tips!
1. Be Kind to Yourself
This is the first tip because it is most important. You are going to falter; you are going to have moments when the words don’t flow out of you. Give yourself a break and listen to your inner editor.
2. Don’t Discount Pre-writing
Pre-writing is the time when you are generating ideas and focused on what your book could be. Working writers aren’t often asked about it in interviews, but this time is really important. Because you’re not locked into a premise or a plot, your book can be literally anything during pre-writing—and that is really exciting. However, you also have to remember that, while you are dreaming up ideas, you have to . . .
3. Carry a Notebook Everywhere
Ever had a fantastic idea in the shower that’s gone before you can wash out your conditioner? Everyone who is in the process of creating needs to have something with them to take notes. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical notebook, although there is nothing more writerly than a well-loved journal. You can take notes on your tablet or, in a pinch, use a note app on your smartphone (might we recommend Evernote?). Whatever it takes to get it on the page.
4. Have a Schedule
This is by far the hardest bit of advice for most busy professionals. You need to find a time when you are certain that you can sit down and write. For some that is in the hours before work or during naptime for a toddler. Whatever time of day it is, carve it out and be fiercely protective of it. But what if the muse does not inspire you during these golden hours? That’s not a thing. Writing is work—maddening, glorious, uplifting, infuriating work. If you can’t write your primary project during these hours work on something else, freewrite, find a writing prompt, or write a blog post about writing!
5. Find Your People
This can be a tough one if you are not lucky enough to be in a writing program or a large city that is supportive of the arts. If you are writing a piece of fiction, it will be fairly simple to find online communities of people who are eager to read your work and have theirs read in return. You can find these online workshops by genre, age, even length of manuscript. You might only need to go as far as your local literary organization, bookstore, or library.
What if you are writing self-help or something that doesn’t fit into a particular genre? This is where online communities really are key. Reach out to bloggers in your subject matter who are generating a lot of content, find fan sites for your subject, you can even find local events about your subject through sites like Meetup or find a tweetup. Most importantly, you have to find people who are as interested in your subject as you are and are excited about your project. They can be your best editors and your most valuable advocates.
6. Don’t Give Up—Especially When It Is Hard!
Writing can be hard, but it is also the best way to share your vision with the world. If you follow steps 1–5, you’ll be able to prepare yourself for any obstacles in the creative process. If you have a plan, it is easier to stick with it and keep going!
Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.