Your New Year’s Challenge: Write Your First Book
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Here's a challenge for you: write your first book in the coming year.
Someone once gave me that challenge, and it scared me [email protected]*less. Me? Write a book?? Mwahaaaa!!
Who would take me seriously? How would I get it published? How would I ever have time to write a full book?
Just the thought of it made me hyperventilate. In my mind, getting a book published was a decade-long process that involved wicked editors at big publishing houses sending me dismissive letters and telling me to stick to my day job.
Fortunately, about the same time I received my, “You should write a book” challenge, the self-publishing industry was starting to hit its stride. This was a game-changer for every aspiring writer, and it was ultimately a game-changer for me.
Just having someone suggest that I could write a book ignited a tiny spark inside of me. Maybe I could. Maybe it wasn't as hard as I thought. Maybe people would be interested in what I had to say. Also, knowing I didn't have to beg for attention at the door of a big publishing company made the process a lot less daunting.
And the process really isn't all that daunting. You CAN do it, and I believe everyone should write at least one book in their lifetime.
Writing a book gives you confidence, recognition, credibility, authority, and potentially an additional stream of income. Writing a book is fun, and you learn so much about yourself during the process.
Okay, so you might be thinking, “It's easy for you — you write a blog. I don't know how to write. I don't know what I can say that people would want to read.” Believe me, you have plenty to say, and with tons of wonderful and inexpensive book editors out there, you don't have to be polished writer to write your book.
I believe everyone should write at least one book in their lifetime.
If you can share information, you can write a book. That's why I think a great place to start is with a topic about which you have some level of interest and expertise.
- Do you work in a profession that helps people? Write an informative book on something your clients would find useful.
- Have you been raising kids for 20 years? You're a pro at parenting, so write a book about your skills?
- Do you know how to build stuff? Write a how-to book on building a tiny house.
You get the picture. You have skills and knowledge to share, and there are plenty of people who could benefit from what you have to say.
Getting started is the hardest part, so let's go over the beginning steps to help you get the ball rolling.
Here are 8 simple steps showing you how to start writing your book in 2016:
1. Take an inventory.
Write down all of your interests, skills, passions, knowledge, talents, abilities, and experience in both your personal and professional life.
Create a long list and write down everything you can think of, even if you aren't sure the topic would work for a book.
After you make the list, go back and circle the top 4-5 topics that interest you most and which have the best potential for a book.
2. Chunk it down.
Examine the topics you've circled to discern which can be broken down into more specific sub-topics. For example, if you want to write about carpentry, you could break it down into furniture building or even further into how to build a bed.
If you want to write on self-improvement, you chunk that down into topics such as self-esteem or mindfulness. These topics can be broken down even further, like self-esteem after divorce or mindful eating, for example.
It's better to go deep with one element of a topic than to try to cover everything in one book. This is important for two reasons.
First, the reader would rather consume information in chunks that provide a lot of detail rather than reading a lot of surface info or an overwhelming amount of content.
Also, you give yourself the opportunity to write more books in your niche if you decide to do so later on. If you cover it all in one book, you've spent your wad.
3. Write an outline.
Start by writing the overarching goal of your book — what you want readers to learn or take away from the book. Keep this goal in mind as you're outlining your book. Every chapter in the outline should move you toward that goal.
Your outline should include an introduction explaining a little about the book, who you are and your experience related to the topic, why you are writing this book, and how it will help the reader.
The first couple of chapters might include some background information on the topic, more on the benefits or results related to the topic, and any other info that sets the stage for the meat of the book.
The remaining chapters should cover all of the details of your topic presented in a logical or sequential order. Break up each chapter into a few sections.
You can certainly mix things up as you start writing the book, but your outline will help you get your ideas on paper and give you a framework to guide you.
4. Set daily writing goals.
The only way to ensure you write consistently is to have consistent writing goals every day. You don't have to commit to writing several chapters a day or even a full page. Create a goal that works with your schedule, and then stick to it.
If you set a goal of 300 words a day, that's roughly 20 sentences. If you write every day, that comes to about 2100 words a week. In 16 weeks (about 4 months) you'll have around 33,600 words which is a good length for a non-fiction book. Start in early January, and you'll finish your book by spring.
The important thing here is to stick to your daily goal, no matter what. If you want to give yourself weekends off, that's fine. But whatever word count you set for yourself, keep it going. Try to write at a time of day when you have few distractions or interruptions.
5. Write, don't judge.
When you begin to write, just start writing without judging your work. Don't agonize over sentences or re-read what you've written repeatedly.
Write the way you speak. Pretend you're sitting in a room with your reader, talking to them personally about the topic. Think about questions they might ask you and how you'd respond.
Then write the ideas and information you want to communicate in your own voice. For now, don't worry about grammar or spelling. Just keep writing and get as much information on paper as possible.
Try to include stories, case studies, anecdotes, research (if applicable), and quotes to support what you are saying and to make the content more lively and interesting.
After you finish a chapter, then go back a read it to make sure it flows and you've included everything you want to include. Correct any spelling or grammatical mistakes you might catch.
6. Let someone read it.
Before you send your book to an editor, find a couple of trusted friends or family members to read your book. Try to find people interested in the topic if possible. Ask them these questions:
- Does it flow?
- Does it make sense?
- Does it provide the information promised?
- Were you frustrated, confused, or bored in any chapters/sections?
- Did you want more or less information?
- Do you have any other comments or suggestions?
Getting honest feedback before you send the book to an editor will save you a lot of time and money. Make any revisions necessary after you get this feedback.
7. Find an editor.
A lot of first-time writers skip this step because they don't want to spend the money. But getting your book professionally edited is one of the most important steps in launching a successful book. It creates a polished, professional final product.
A book filled with errors and structured poorly will ensure you get bad reviews and lose sales. Having an editor helps you avoid these costly mistakes, and you'll learn a lot simply by seeing the changes your editor makes.
You can find excellent editors at reasonable prices on Elance, Upwork, or Archangel Ink. It will cost you a few hundred dollars, but you'll make this up in book sales over time.
8. Publish it.
There are several other steps involved in designing, formatting, and self-publishing your book. You can get all of those steps spelled out in detail in my 46-point self-publishing checklist. I don't want to overwhelm you in this post with too many actions, because the most important goal is to just write your book.
But once you write it, please don't let it languish on your computer without publishing it. Take the steps to self-publish it and share it with the world. It may not be your best work — first books usually aren't. But it allows you to say, “I'm a published author,” and it gives you the confidence and knowledge to write another book.
Challenge yourself today to write your first book during the New Year. You'll be surprised at how enjoyable it is and how accomplished you feel once it's completed. Don't judge yourself or your writing abilities. Enjoy the process and learn from it.
Writing, like any other skill, improves with practice. Just keep at it and consider how your expertise and ideas can really help thousands of people who are hungry for the information you possess. Keep your reader in mind, and you'll what a great service you're offering the world by writing your book.