Just Do It
Wanna know the secret to writing a book? Take a seat, put up your feet and pay attention. I’m gonna tell you a story…
Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve wanted to write a book. I’d read quite a few, some good and some not quite as good. I figured it couldn’t be that hard. Like many aspiring writers I talked about writing. I even started scribbling in a notebook but didn’t go much further than that. Excuses. I had a few, all good reasons why I didn’t need to write today. One morning I woke up and realized if I didn’t start soon, it would be too late. That day was a turning point for me.
Since then, I’ve attended chapter meetings, conferences and talked to other writers both in person and online. I’ve been surprised by the number of people who say “Oh, I want to write. I’m too busy now. I’ll start soon.”
I’m here to tell you writing isn’t easy. In fact writing is hard work. Push past the excuses and start writing. Yep, the only way to write a book is to just do it. Sit down in front of your computer and write.
One of my writing heroes is multi-published author Nora Roberts. In the August issue of Romance Writer’s Report, the magazine of Romance Writers of America, there was an interview with Nora. She says there are many days when she doesn’t feel like writing, the words don’t want to come, but she keeps pushing and forces herself to write. Yes, she admits she calls her first draft a POS (pile of shit), but it’s possible to fix a badly written page. It’s the blank ones that are impossible to fix.
On that memorable day when I decided to stop making excuses and become a writer, I sat down and wrote. I wrote every day after work until I’d completed my book. Some days I didn’t feel like writing and stared at the screen for a while, but I’d continue until I’d written something. I didn’t believe in writer’s block then, and I still don’t. Although I didn’t know it, I’d instinctively stumbled on the perfect process for me. It’s a process that will probably work well for a lot of you.
1. Work regularly. Cultivate the habit so it becomes second nature. It’s best to write in small, regular sessions rather than trying for a long marathon. This is my biggest secret. I write a few pages almost every day. It makes for high productivity.
2. Monitor output and develop a system to monitor productivity. This helps to maintain motivation and avoid procrastination.
3. Focus on the process. In other words sit down and write instead of second guessing yourself. Edit and mold your work once the first draft is completed otherwise you risk falling into what I call the three chapters and synopsis trap. We want to finish the book. Concentrate on sitting down and writing for your planned session. That’s success.
4. Set goals and personal deadlines. Reward yourself for each successful step as you move toward your larger objective i.e. finishing your manuscript.
5. Plan your days and weeks in advance. This helps create a regular work habit. If you need to pick up your children from school or take them to sports events, schedule this into your plan. Maybe you need to wait for fifteen minutes. Take a notebook with you. Write long hand if you have to. Consider an alphasmart or if you have a PDA think about investing in a fold up keyboard.
6. Cultivate buddies and go public. Discuss your writing and plans with friends and colleagues. Partner up with another writer and create a support system.
7. Create writing rituals. Begin your writing sessions with a special routine. Tidy your desk, play one game of solitaire, burn a candle or listen to your favorite music. Also end your session with a routine. This helps create a sense of time i.e. think of your writing like a nine to five work day but on a smaller scale.
8. Organize your workspace. Make it pleasant and workable, a place where you’ll enjoy writing.
So, there you have it—my process and the secret to writing a book. Maybe it will work for you, too. Pull up a chair, sit in front of your computer and just do it.
Shelley Munro lives in New Zealand and writes contemporary and paranormal romance for Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing. You can visit her website at www.shelleymunro.com.