The adage goes, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty-five years ago, the second best time is today.”
Imagine with me that tree being planted 25 years ago—it took years for the roots to go deep, for the trunk to grow wide and sturdy, for the branches to grow strong, for the fruit to bear, for saplings to gather at its feet.
The same rings true for writing books. Even if you didn’t write your book 25 years ago you can still write it this year. It’s never too late to write the book you’ve always wanted to write. It’s never too late to finish the manuscript you’ve been working on.
Here are 7 steps to get your book written this year:
1. GIVE YOURSELF A PUBLISHING DATE WITHIN 6-18 MONTHS FROM TODAY. PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR.
Congratulations! You’re going be a published author!
Pop a cork, bake a cake, run around the neighborhood screaming at the top of your lungs, or whatever suits your fancy.
Oh, you don’t have a publisher yet? Don’t get ahead of yourself. Setting the big day is the first step.
Note: Don’t compete with a recurring holiday or event in your life. Give the publishing date it’s own gravitational pull.
2. TELL 5 OF YOUR CLOSEST FRIENDS.
These 5 close friends are your band of brothers, your fellowship of the ring, your sisterhood of the traveling pantaloons.
These friends are there to encourage you, ask you annoying questions about the progress of your book and buy 10 copies each when your book comes out. Schedule regular coffee dates.
Note: Guard your story. Don’t tell all of your friends, as this might distract or discourage you. Not everyone understands you or what you want to tell the world. Some strangers might understand your why better than the people who think they know you.
3. OUTLINE YOUR BOOK.
At the beginning of every book is a table of contents, which lists the chapters in the book and perhaps any additional information that might be found at the end.
Mimic this format.
What is Chapter 1 about? Chapter 2? Chapter 16?
What sounds like a good title for each chapter?
What information, quotes, stories, plot twists or questions might we find in each chapter? Write them down under each chapter title.
Repeat this process to add more depth. What original nuggets of truth do you want the reader to take away in each chapter?
Note: This is just an outline, so don’t feel like you have to write the whole book in the first sitting. Come back to this question: What journey am I taking the reader on? What are they discovering?
4. SCHEDULE YOUR WRITING TIME.
But Marshall, I thought it was time to write!
No, it’s time to schedule when you’re writing.
If the only time that you write is when inspiration hits then you’ll never meet your publishing date. The muse shows up when you do the work.
Pick a time that is non-negotiable. If someone wants to hang out, get coffee, marry you, hire you or give you a check, tell them you have an appointment. Keep the writing appointment and you’ll write your book. Blow your appointment and you’ll blow your book.
Note: Pick a time on your calendar that does not conflict with your regular life schedule. If your find you don’t have time to write then it’s time to cut something out: a friendship, a hobby, TV, entertainment. You’ll know whether it’s a permanent goodbye or a temporary one.
5. GIVE YOUR MANUSCRIPT DRAFT A DEADLINE.
This is the day when you’ll hand over your book to an editor. Ideally, this is 6 months before the day you set as your publishing date.
Your entire writing schedule should be in agreement with this date. Look at your due date and your writing progress regularly.
Note: Be realistic with yourself, but push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Tell your friends and schedule more writing sessions.
6. WRITE FOR THE READER.
Print your book outline and take it with you everywhere you go. Use it to write each chapter. You don’t have to start at the beginning of your book. Fill in the blanks as you complete chapters.
What does your reader need to hear?
What story do you want to read?
If writing non-fiction, what action steps might the reader take at the end of each chapter?
If writing fiction, does the dialogue and action match the motivations of the character?
Note: It’s all about the reader. Give yourself a break on getting it perfect on the first draft.
7. WRITE MULTIPLE DRAFTS.
If you’ve completed the first draft of your book then congratulate yourself and get back to writing!
“Real writing is rewriting,” William Zinser wrote. And it’s true for every writer.
Read what you’ve written and improve it. Add more nuggets, cut out the dead wood, and read your book aloud to see if it’s easy to read.
“Write like a reader. Read like a writer.” Read what you’ve written and improve it. Add more nuggets, cut out the dead wood, and read your book aloud to see if it’s easy to read.
Note: Count on your editor to bring out your best. Don’t try to get it perfect. Try to get it complete.
THE LEGACY OF A BOOK
Just remember, there are no microwave successes. You can’t win the race if you never took the first step. It’s never too late to start, but don’t think the roots and the fruit are instantaneous.
It takes time for your platform to grow strong and sturdy, for the roots of your story to take root in the consciousness of your niche, for your message to give shade to those who need to hear it, and for your fruit to be picked and your message reproduced in the lives of those who read your book.
And just like the oak in the acorn, your book can turn into more than words on a page—a living monument that grows with the seasons and proves the root strength of your undeniable message.
“Originally appeared in The OffBeat Business Magazine December 2016 Issue.
WHAT’S YOUR LEGACY?
What happens after you write your next book? How should you be marketing your current book? I’ll be announcing the beta test program for the Legacy-Driven Author membership soon. And you can join the wait list for it here.