“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ~Sylvia Plath
Writing a book is similar to starting any project. It takes planning, preparation, focus, commitment, and most of all a passion for what you’re doing. If you implement all five points, the odds of flourishing are in your favor. (For readers not writing a book but working on other projects, change some of the words and the model will fit)
First of all, shake off any notion that you have to know exactly what you’re going to do from the get go. You may start writing your memoir but at some point it may start writing you. Ideas will come when you least expect them and memories will arise vying for your attention. Be open to the process and have fun.
My suggestions might vary depending on whether you plan to self publish, professionally publish or write for your own enjoyment. Regardless, what follows should help get you started. For planning and preparation there are definite steps you can follow.
Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers.
1. What is your vision for the book? What are your objectives? Will you write in first person, second or third person? Who is your audience?
2. How much time do you have to write? Are you going to stick to a schedule or fit it in whenever possible?
3. How many pages will your book have? (Between 250 and 350 pages are recommended.)
4. Are you going to write on your own or work with an editor/coach? Do you plan to publish? (This last question may evolve but if you know, you can focus your work accordingly.)
5. Do you have/want a deadline? Do you need a schedule for writing, particular supplies, or financial assistance?
Answering these questions will kick-start your process and get your juices flowing. You’ll then have the beginnings of a framework to help you get started.
1. How will your book be organized? Make a list of the major events you’ll write about.
2. Create an outline – Preface/Introduction/Chapters/Epilogue, etc.
3. Write a short summary for each section of the outline.
4. Gather your writing tools – computer, paper, ink cartridges, research material, pictures, journals, etc., and have them at your disposal.
5. Decide when you’ll start, your best time of day for writing, and have fun!
These first two steps are pretty easy to define. When it comes to focus and commitment, you have to dig a bit deeper. If you reflect on past performances, you’ll see your patterns—those that work for you and those that work against you. Being aware of these tendencies can help you avoid falling into self-defeating traps.
Focus can be measured in part by looking at your personal history. Are you easily distracted or do you concentrate well? Do you work best on your own or with a support system? Do you work better when it’s still and quiet or do you need background noise. If you’re ready to take on the challenge and commit to writing a book, you’ve probably completed other projects and are familiar with your M.O. Do what works best and be open to changing the rest.
Remember – insanity is thinking you’ll get different results by doing the same thing over and over again.
Commitment can be a tricky word or concept. A lot of people take two steps back and make the sign of the cross to ward it off. Others see commitment as a sense of freedom. Once they commit, they’re free to create. Some find it easier to break commitments they make to themselves and harder to break ones they make to another. I have people who take my writing class a as a way to discipline themselves to write. What will give you the ability to see something through– like writing a book – to completion? This is worth exploring before you hit writers block and just shelve the idea all together.
Passion. Your passion gives you the perseverance to keep on keeping on when the going gets rough. I’m not talking about the initial excitement of starting something new. I’m talking about the enduring passion that keeps you going until you see your story in print.
In conclusion, I’d like to say a few words about timing. The universe has a way of supporting us in our endeavors when the time is ripe. Tuning into “right timing” we need to use our “sixth sense,” our intuition. If the time feels right, go for it. If it doesn’t, going through these steps becomes a struggle, your passion fizzles and you find little joy. If the timing doesn’t feel quite right but you want to get started anyway, take small steps forward with the planning and preparation and you’ll know it’s time when you can barely think of anything else and your creativity starts overflowing.
Published in the Maui Weekly Newspaper