If you want to write a book, there are lots of things to do – mostly practical stuff – but then you actually have to write the book.
Many authors find that, even though they have years’ of experience and bags of knowledge, getting it down on paper isn’t as easy as they thought it would be. So here are my steps to beat writer’s block.
1: Get all your topics out of your head
A book may be around one subject, but will have many topics that contribute to that subject. Get them out of your head and onto paper. I am talking about a real piece of paper here, simply because your brain is more creative with a pencil/pen and paper than with a keyboard.
I like using mind-maps because this allows you to add things wherever they need to be, which makes the next steps much easier. If you don’t know how to use mind maps check this out (the little video at the end is great and simplifies things if the super colour diagrams look mind-blowing).
2: Sort your topics into a logical order
This is where you decide what will take your reader along the most useful path for them. What do they need to know first?
You might tweak this later, but it should be a progression that covers the things they need to know in the order they need to know them. Some topics may be a chapter on their own, others may be gathered under a single chapter heading. Which leads to the next step.
3: Develop your chapters
Now you’ve got the main subject(s) for each chapter it’s time to develop them. Again, I use mind-mapping techniques as they allow you to go back and add things without having to rewrite a list or squeeze things between the lines. You should end up with one page for each chapter.
This is where you identify quotes, case studies, examples, anecdotes, theoretical models, etc. that will add value to your chapter and help the reader in some way.
4: Create your chapter recipe
When you get a recipe it has an order – the name of the dish, how many portions it makes, ingredients, method, cooking time, serving suggestions. When you buy a cookery book you quickly get used to that particular chef’s structure for their recipes, so you wouldn’t expect the number of portions to move from under the title to the end of the instructions.
On a more complex level you need to do the same for your chapters. If you start Chapter 1 with a quotation, you’ll need to do the same with each chapter. It gives your book a predictable structure and strokes your reader’s comfort zone.
When Chapter 2 looks very different to Chapter 1, that’s the point where people put the book down to ‘make a cuppa’ and never pick it up again. Research suggests that most people don’t read past Chapter 3 of the books they buy – you need to do everything you can to keep them engaged.
5: Start writing
If you’ve done steps 1-4, step 5 should be easy! You have a structure to work with, you have your material already organised and developed – all you have to do is flesh it all out.
My advice is to schedule time into your diary for writing. Set aside 90-120 minute sessions and find somewhere you won’t be disturbed (switch that mobile phone off!) and take a chapter sheet and start writing.
You’ll be surprised how easy it is when you know where you’re going. Don’t worry too much about your writing style, just get it out. Your editor will tidy things up later.