Writing Books

Before you begin writing your first book, you might find it beneficial to consider some of the processes other people have followed and the skills they drew upon. In this section, I describe some of the methodologies commonly employed when writing books and the stages that you might go through. During the months, or even years, of work required to write a book, you are likely to have thoughts and feelings similar to those experienced by others before you.

Writing Books

The topics listed below describe activities commonly involved in writing books. I have placed the information in what I consider to be a logical sequence and I hope that you will find what I have written useful.

Author Motivation
Book Writing Skills
Writing Your First Book
Writing a Book Proposal
Audience Research
Researching Your Book
Creating a Book Outline
The Writing Process
Writing The First Draft
Writing Time
Writing Additional Drafts


 
Author Motivation

Human beings are social creatures and throughout history people have wanted to pass on stories and share their thoughts, feelings, knowledge and experiences with others. For centuries books have played an important role in our collective culture and many people have considered writing a book themselves. It has been said that a true writer feels compelled to write and that they will do so even if it brings them little in the way of recognition or financial rewards. Whilst some could be motivated by the need to express outwardly ideas within them, others might want to hold in their hands and see on the shelves something tangible that they have created. Some might dream of living the idealised life of a writer, longing for the fame and fortune that they dream could be theirs. As an artist, designer or craft maker, writing a book about your work could raise your profile and provide you with an additional income stream.


 
Book Writing Skills

If you have never written a book before, the prospect might be daunting. You could begin by writing a blog, producing a newsletter or contributing articles to online publications. This would provide you with an opportunity to practice your writing skills, receive feedback from other people and perhaps establish a following online. Writing about your work as an artist or craft maker might also help to raise your profile with your target audience. Many professionals in careers as diverse as science, technology, business, education and the arts, consider writing to be a valuable way of helping them to establish their reputation. Building an opt-in email list of engaged followers, before you publish your first book, could provide you with a potential readership, who might purchase and review your book when it is published.

Learning how to write a book is not easy and you should expect to make mistakes along the way, as you struggle to overcome self doubt and set backs, but try to remain open to learning from your mistakes. You will need to develop skills such as researching and organising the text, writing drafts and editing. Before beginning you should ask yourself if you have the necessary time and energy and be prepared to give up other interests and activities, such as a favourite hobby. You should organise your schedule so that you are able to devote several hours each day to writing and be ready to spend long hours alone as you work, putting aside other distractions. This can be particularly difficult if you have family and career commitments, but you must learn to treat writing like a job.


 
Writing Your First Book

The process of writing books is difficult and for a variety of reasons many people either do not begin the book that they believe is within them, or having started never finish. An author of fiction might invest time and money learning how to develop engaging characters and create convincing plots. This might involve many years of formal education, in addition to self directed study, as they practice their writing skills and find their voice as a writer. If you are an artist or craft maker intending to write a non-fiction book, drawing upon your knowledge, skills and experience in a particular art or craft, then you should have a ready source of content. However, you will still need to write text that is engaging and informative and plan your book, so that the completed text, along with any images, are of sufficient quality.

Writing a book can take months or years and you could find that other people question your decision to do so. You might feel discouraged and begin to lose confidence in yourself as a writer. Understanding your own motivation and having a clear idea of what you hope to achieve can help you to overcome such doubts. For example, you might believe writing books will raise your profile as an artist, designer or artisan, and attract new customers for your work. The books that you write might bring you a sense of personal achievement or help you to better reflect upon and understand ideas and concepts related to your work. In addition to providing you with an additional income stream, writing might also lead to opportunities such as teaching art and craft workshops or speaking engagements.


 
Writing a Book Proposal

Many people dream of earning money by writing books, but they often spend too much time thinking about or talking about being a writer, rather than getting down to the difficult task of doing the work. Before the growth in popularity of self-publishing, aspiring authors often competed to find an agent who would represent them and a publishing house prepared to publish and market their book. Unless a book was already written, an author who had what they thought was a good idea for a book would typically write a proposal. If they did not have an agent, they would send the book proposal unsolicited to publishers. As a self-published author you might not need to write a book proposal to get a publishing deal. However, writing a proposal could help you to better understand the potential for the book that you want to write.

Within a proposal an author would provide an overview of the book subject matter, identify the target audience and introduce themselves as an author, describing the experience that qualifies them to write the book. The proposal would identify the potential market size, suggest a realistic marketing plan, and refer to similar successful books already on the market, explaining how they would compete effectively against them. In addition to a book title and a paragraph summarising each chapter, they might also supply the first chapter of the book. Many people begin writing a book but loose their way and never complete the manuscript, whilst others complete their book, but fail to publish it. Writing a book proposal might help an author to avoid such a situation. Authors who find the confidence to publish and market their first book might find a receptive audience. Having learned from the experience of writing their first book, they could then go on to write more.


 
Audience Research

Unlike many writers who might struggle to find a topic to write about, you might have the advantage of intending to cover a subject you are familiar with, such as an art or craft that you already practice. However, you will still need to provide readers with a book that they will want to read and that they would be prepared to recommend to others. You could begin by asking and answering a few questions. For example, what is the central concept of your book, who is your target audience, what do you want to say to them and what qualifies you to do so. Putting your thoughts down on paper might help you to better organise them and develop a brief description along the lines of who your book will benefit and in what way. This could help to differentiate your book from others on the market, guide you during the writing process and assist subsequent marketing plans.

Having defined your target audience you should take the time to understand what they look for in the books that they choose to read. Look on popular book selling websites to find books similar to that which you intend to write, in terms of subject matter and target audience. Compare the good and bad reviews for each book and read some of the books, so that you can evaluate them yourself. Consider what you like or dislike about each of the books that you read and ask yourself whether you could write something that will better meet the needs of your intended audience. Could you write from an original perspective, provide fresh insight, bring greater understanding to a subject, or deliver content in a more engaging or useful way. Ask yourself how sharing your experience and expertise as an artist, designer or craft maker could inspire other people.


 
Researching Your Book

Before you begin writing your book, you should gather relevant information that you will need by carrying out the necessary research. This could involve sorting through material related to your work that you have accumulated over months and years, in addition to reading books or magazines on the topic that you will be writing about. You might also decide to interview other people, such as colleagues and clients. This research stage might last for several months and will likely require an efficient system to organise the material that you will later want to refer to. Some writers use software on their computer or other digital devices which enables them to store, link and retrieve text, images, audio and video. Other writers prefer to use physical media, such as cards, notebooks and highlighted or commented sections of text.


 
Creating a Book Outline

At some point you must decide that you have enough material to end the research phase and begin creating an outline for your book. However, you could also gather additional information at a later stage if required. Having immersed yourself in the subject matter of your book, you could take a pen and paper and begin writing freely, allowing ideas to surface and jotting them down. This might help you to develop an overview, which could be broken down into the main topics you intend writing about and could then form the basis of the chapters and sections of your book. Some people like to write ideas on pieces of paper, place them on a large surface such as a wall, and then move them around until they form into a logical sequence. Over a period of days or weeks this could enable you to create the outline of your book.


 
The Writing Process

Each person should find a way of writing that best suits them, as over time they develop their own distinctive style. Some people need to carefully plan what they are going to write. They might devote months to researching and organising information and establishing a structure that they will then follow during the writing process. Other people prefer to take a more stream of consciousness approach and write as though inspired by some hidden force, allowing their ideas to tumble out onto the page. You could try both approaches to writing and decide which feels most natural to you, as you practice and develop your skills as a writer. Eventually a style of writing that you prefer could arise naturally. Regardless of the approach you take, the most important thing is that you put the necessary time and effort into the writing process, which means sitting down and starting to write.


 
Writing The First Draft

When writing the first draft of your book, do not worry about it being well written. Your objective is simply to get your thoughts written down on the page in a rough form. Do not feel overwhelmed by the blank page or screen in front of you and the thought of the thousands of words that you will need to write to complete the book. Instead just write something to get the process going and allow the momentum to build from there. You can refer to the book outline that you created previously, to guide you through the process of writing the first draft. Ideally you will find a quite place, where you will not be disturbed or distracted, allowing you to focus your mind on what you are doing. Some people find it helpful to record their ideas and play them back later or use software that converts speech to text.


 
Writing Time

The demands of life and work might limit the time that you have available for writing, so that you are able to spare only a few hours each day or cannot write every day. However, you should try to set yourself a clear target for how many words you plan to write each day, the length of the completed book and the amount of time you expect this will take. For example, if you intend writing a seventy thousand word book and aim to write one thousand words each day, that will equal seventy days to write the first draft of your book. When writing your first book, it can be difficult maintaining the discipline to write each day, though you might find it easier to write early in the morning or late at night.

Having decided upon set hours for each day that you will be writing, ensure that any one you live with is aware of this. Planning ahead by marking in your diary when you will be writing will make it easier to manage your time efficiently. Politely ask people not to disturb you during this time, unless it is for something essential, but try not to upset other people by neglecting or letting them down. As you begin to establish a routine, you should find it easier to write at set times and feel mentally prepared to do so. When writing their first draft of a book, some people like to keep a record of their writing progress by noting the number of words written each day and how long they wrote for, which could be done using a notepad or spreadsheet.


 
Writing Additional Drafts

You should feel a sense of achievement when you complete the first draft of your book. Now put it away and do not look at it again for several weeks. During this time find other things to do, such as spending more time with family and friends, working on your art or craft or enjoying a hobby. When you feel ready, choose a time and place where you can sit down quietly and relax, to read with fresh eyes a printed first draft of your book. Use a coloured pen to make notes or highlight on each page any corrections or changes that need to be made. Refer to these notes when you write the second draft, repeating the process for a third and if necessary a fourth draft.

Rather than worrying about daily word counts, your aim with the second and third drafts should be to get closer to a manuscript that reflects your ambition to deliver a book your target audience will want to read and recommend. Between each draft you should take a break of at least a few days, so that you return better able to spot any issues that you did not notice previously. You could ask family and friends to read the manuscript and pass on any comments or criticisms that they might have. Politeness might make them reluctant to be overly critical, but honesty rather than false praise is important, as you work to improve the manuscript with each draft. Within an acknowledgment or dedication page in your book, you could thank those people who have helped you.

The process of rewriting is likely to last several months, as you work to improve how well the text flows and the quality of the writing. Review the overall structure and how it could be improved by adding or removing content. Consider whether what you have written could be made clearer, perhaps by including relevant examples or pictures that illustrate the text. Ask yourself how effectively you have described original concepts and new insights or shed fresh light on well known topics. Remove content that is repetitive, confusing or which distracts from what you are trying to communicate, reviewing each sentence, paragraph and chapter. When you are satisfied with the overall quality of the manuscript, you can look at details such as improving chapter or section titles and writing an introduction.

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