I say over and over about how beginning, and even experienced, writers can get bogged down by the idea that a "real" writer lets the words flow, a beautiful, uninterrupted, constant flow of words.
We all get stuck. The flow stops. And if we don't have the experience of writing several books under our belts, just the thought of trying to get started overwhelms us. It's a bit like that saying, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." When we think of an entire, unwritten book ahead of us, we're almost paralyzed by the idea of starting. "How in the heck can I write an entire book?
One step at a time, or perhaps 10.
1. Do as much research and brainstorming ahead of time that you can. Fill up the pantry, and you’ll find plenty of ingredients to cook a meal with. It does count as writing. It's gathering details, descriptions, stories, illustrations, statistics - all the things you'll use to build your book.
2. Honor each part of the writing process. When you’re creating, create; don’t try to edit at the same time. I've talked about this before, ad nauseum for some of you, I'm sure. You don't just sit down and write the whole thing in one sitting. There's creating, writing, revision, editing, more creating, more writing, more revision. And each of those stages is its own. Respect that.
3. Write on a regular basis (at least 3-4 times a week). You get into a rhythm, and the writing flows. You don't want to spend time figuring out where you were the last time you sat down and wrote a week (or two, or three) ago. The best thing about this is that you build momentum with regular activity.
4. Just write. Don't worry about making it perfect. Perfect can come in the editing and revision phase. Right now, you just want to get your ideas down and start putting them in some sort of order and structure. If you try to make it perfect from the get-go, you'll be frustrated.
5. Along the same lines as #4, tell your inner critic to shut up. He’s never going to be objective, and his main goal is to keep you right where you are—with no book. Find ways to shut him up: tell him to go to Cleveland (as long as you don't live there), promise him he can come back later, thank him for his thoughts and tell him you're going in a different direction.
6. There are very few brand-new ideas (even Post-It® notes were based on paper and tape). They're just presented in a different way. Find out what differentiates your message and what makes it uniquely you. It may be that your target market will get your message when they couldn't get it from someone else - because of the way you, and only you, have presented it.
7. Find a writing support group. Share with them your work in progress. Get feedback. Even Tiger Woods has a coach. Since you'll have readers reading your book, get reader feedback througout the process. They'll tell you what makes sense, what doesn't, what sticks out for them in a powerful way, and what lands flat.
8. Know that you'll be revising and editing. You may eventually write four (or more) drafts of your book. And that's okay. Once again, you don't have to be perfect right out the gate.
9. Give yourself time and space between writing and the editing process. Don’t turn around and start editing and revising right after you finish writing. You need fresh eyes. Some writers take at least a month off after they've written a draft. That way they can approach the book a little closer to how a new reader would.
10. Take care of yourself. What you’re doing is hard, whether you’re writing a book on the current financial crisis or a fiction novel about a dysfunctional family. Be gentle on yourself. Treat yourself as something precious. Surround yourself with supportive champions, not naysayers. Get lots of sleep. Let the dishes sit dirty in the sink for a day or two. Get out and exercise. A healthy, happy you makes for a better book.
And here's a bonus tip #11 - Celebrate what you've done. Each step along the way. Take some time to look back at how far you've come. Give yourself a pat on the back.
After a while, that elephant doesn't look so big because you're not really looking at the whole elephant. One day, one step, at a time. And you'll write your book.