I don’t believe in writer’s block. (I can hear the gasps of disbelief already.) I make this statement based on my experience writing an award winning parenting book. So my experience is for non-fiction more than fiction. But I would think that much of what I outline could cover both. I believe that if we follow one simple fist step that writer’s block melts away and the words start flowing. But what is that “first step”? Well, a big part of my job as a book consultant and coach is to help people create something they can actually market: a finished book. Many of us have plenty of ideas but not a clue how to get them started.
Unlike other professions, authors operate under a whole different set of rules. Not all of us can’t just sit down and pound out a story, and those who can have created their own formula for doing so. In our minds, we see the final story, we see the cover, we see the characters, we see the market potential. And we see us on TV smiling and holding up our book for the whole world to see. Then we glance back down at our monitor and see nothing but a blinking cursor and blank page. And we are again reminded we have not even written one sentence.
Authors who have trouble see a huge, overwhelming project in front of them not the steps to finish. You finish a book, one step at a time. So the first step is that you have to break down your book into manageable, bite-size pieces.
This can be accomplished by creating a Table of Contents, (TOC) that will guide you through the book content. Think of the TOC as your map, the map that will get you from point A to point B, guiding your thought process through your book. Begin by writing out your chapters headings, then write a 2-3 sentence description of what the chapter encompasses, keep it brief. Once the TOC is outlined, you’ll have a vision of your book from start to finish. Of course you can move them around and change them all you want.
A few things that creating the first step TOC will do for you:
- It will show you any gaps in your story that might need to be fleshed out
- it will give you a sense of completion, of seeing the book or project actually done,
- this step alone can propel an author enough to get their book done
- give the project a darned good kick-start.
Once you’ve started your TOC, you’ll want to go through it and create a “to do” list. Regardless of what your books subject is, you will always have a to-do list. Whether it’s getting endorsements, doing research, or getting approvals for quotes or excerpts for your book, this to-do list will become yet another item that will help get your book toward completion.
Once the to-do list is done, set it aside. Now you should have your completed TOC with a vision of the entire book and a growing list of items that will need to be handled for the book to get done. Now the real fun begins.
Some books on writing will tell you to set aside a day or two a week, or an evening here and there to get your book completed. That might work for some authors, but it didn’t for me. I found that I needed to stay dialed into the topic and if I put the project aside for days or weeks at a time, promising myself to schedule time “as soon as I could.” that rarely happened. What I found is that when I set aside some time every day to do something on the book, I got it completed a lot quicker. That’s where I came up with the statement I use at the end of all my blog posts. (it’s at the end of this one too)
Let your fascination with the subject take over. The more you keep your interest in your project, the more it, the book, will stay at the front of your mind, and the more energy you will invest to finish it. I won’t tell you to set aside hours each day — in fact, you don’t even have to set aside an hour. Take 15 minutes, or even five — whatever your schedule permits. If this seems like a ridiculously short amount of time, consider this: You now have your to-do list and your outlined TOC! . If you are short on time one day, pick a quickie item from your to-do list and get it done. If you have more time, then pound out a chapter or two. The idea behind creating the to-do lists and a TOC is to not only give your project a structure, but to also eliminate any and all excuses for getting it done. Don’t feel like writing today? No problem. There’s probably a mountain of research just waiting to be reviewed.
The TOC is your beginning focus. The entry into the subject content. It’s as simple as that. And the TOC doesn’t stop there — it is how you plan out the steps that will keep the reader interested. Find the “core” of your book or the focus of your story. Ask yourself:
- What’s the one thing this book cannot do without?
- What’s the one thing this story circles around?
- That’s your core.
- If you’re still coming up with three or four things that your story circles around, you aren’t focused enough and neither is your book.
- Find that one thing and build your story or book around it.
If you follow these beginning steps, your book will get finished quicker than you could have ever imagined.
AND that’s the first step… next you plan out the chapters.
Remember, do something every day toward the production and promotion of your book, service or company and contact me to help move you faster and effectively. There are several consulting options to choose from. Lets talk!
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