The hardest part of writing anything — a short story, a novel, a nonfiction book, heck, even an article — is finishing it.
Ideas are easy! I have potentially good ideas a million times each week.
But actually sitting down and writing an entire book or any other piece of writing is much more difficult.
Sometimes you aren’t inspired or in the mood to write. Sometimes that blank page taunts you.
I have written and published 6 books, thousands of articles, and helped dozens of authors finish their first drafts.
Here are my top 5 tips for digging in and getting that project written.
#1. Write down the idea ASAP
Jot it down somewhere. I often use the notes app on my phone to record my basic idea just to have it written somewhere before later transferring my notes to my idea document. Then when thinking about what to write, reference your notes to see what you thought about.
It is also a good idea to have something like a Word doc or Google doc that has a list of your ideas. I have one doc for blog post/article ideas and another with full book ideas.
I use the document to flesh out the ideas a little at a time or even outline the whole thing. I love having all my ideas and notes to myself in one place.
#2. Outline it fully
Once you decide on an idea, create an outline.
An outline is so important!
Having a solid outline before starting the piece (especially a book) is critical to making sure you are giving all of the intended information, conveying the message you want, and staying on track during the writing process.
My outlines are generally just a simple bullet-point list with what I want to include in each part or chapter and notes to myself for details like examples I want to include or links to resources or references.
When you actually start writing, you’ll find that you know exactly what goes where in what order — thanks to your outline!
Spend the time to create an outline before you start writing. You will save yourself a lot of time and energy and headache!
#3. Create a writing schedule
Like anything else, writing can become a habit.
Set time in your calendar aside to write. Even if you don’t feel inspired or ready to write, sit down at the computer or with a notebook and review your outline.
Think about your idea. Let it marinate. See what comes to you.
More often than not, you’ll find inspiration and be able to start writing.
But an article or book doesn’t just pop out fully formed from the ether. You have to actually write it. So, put space in your schedule to write and see how much faster you complete things.
It also becomes a habit — one you’ll enjoy! I look forward to my writing time, especially since it has been built into my schedule for years now.
#4. Start at the beginning
If you feel uninspired or just don’t know where to start, then start at the beginning.
Whether that is starting at the top of a blog post and thinking about how you want to introduce the subject, starting with chapter one of a book, or with an introduction.
Don’t let yourself overthink it and stare at a blank page. Just start at the beginning and get words down.
After all, it is easier to fix existing writing and edit yourself than it is to start every time from a blank page staring at you.
#5. Don’t try to edit until you’ve completed your first draft
Instead of getting bogged down with editing and changing your piece as you go, try to just keep writing until you have a first draft.
Once you finish a basic first draft, if you’ve followed your outline then you know that the basic structure and order of the piece is correct. You know that you’ve put in the general information you want the reader to get.
Next, it is time for self-editing. This is the phase where you edit your own piece to the best of your ability. You can also pay a professional editor after the self-edit is complete.
Reread your piece, make sure it hits all the points you want. Look for areas where you can add more details, examples, stories, or clarify information for readers. Spell out acronyms and define industry-specific lingo. Look for places where you over-explain or under-explain concepts.
Also, look for switching perspectives. For example, maybe you primarily wrote in the first-person perspective but halfway through you switched to third-person. Or you wrote in the present tense for most of it but sometimes used past tense.
Look for words or phrases you overuse. I tend to use “very” way too much! Once you notice them the first time, it is easier to identify moving forward.
And that’s it!
These are my 5 biggest tips for actually completing your first draft. After the draft is complete, you will move to the editing and publishing phases.
I hope this is a useful resource!
Check out my book Concept to Conclusion: How to Write a Book and learn everything you need to know to conceive of, outline, write, publish, and market a book!
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