5 Pain-Free Tips to Write Your Book

5 Pain-Free Tips to Write Your Book

You’ve started to write your book. Relax. Writing is fun, if you just focus on the words. You do it day by day, and word by word. You’ll be amazed at how soon all those words turn into a book.

These tips will help.

1. Stop Thinking, Start Writing — and Keep Going

You have doubts. Do you have the time to write? What if... you think. Stop thinking! A book is just a book, a collection of words. It’s no big deal. In my ghostwriting life, I write books for clients, and the writing is pain-free, because I’ve learned to ignore my doubts. You can too.

Your doubts arise from your inner editor. He usually sounds like someone in your life who told you you couldn’t do something or other. He’s not only an idiot, most of his kvetches are recordings. They play over and over, until you give up the mad idea of writing a book.

Some writers picture the inner editor, then imagine locking him inside a box, or a bottle. Don’t worry, you can’t kill him, and once you’ve got a book, he comes in handy during editing.

2. Schedule Your Writing: It’s an Appointment

Here’s the solution if you have “no time.” Schedule the time, even if it’s only 20 minutes. If you write 250 words in 20 minutes, your book will be done in eight months. A timer’s useful too.

Try this. Write your book on your phone. Writers do it for various reasons, the primary one being that your phone is non-threatening. Try Drafts.

3. Write to Yourself: You’re Just Thinking on the Screen

“Writing a book”is scary. Don’t think about it. Instead, write to yourself. Just write down whatever you’re thinking — even if you’re whining: “I’ve got no time. I need to finish the presentation and rehearse it, and if we don’t get the contract I’ll get fired. This is a stupid idea…”

I’m serious. Write your whining — the exact words. Why? Because you’ll get sick of it. Whining isn’t pretty, and when it’s in your head, it tends to play on an endless loop of worries. One of the big benefits of journaling is that it gets all that junk out of your head: it’s healthy. So is writing what you’re thinking. You’ll delete it later of course, but writing it down externalizes it, and as we’ve said, you’ll get sick of it. Which means you can write your book.

I teach this trick in my book coaching practice; it works.

4. Map It: Create Lots of Circles

Early in your writing process, you’re exploring possibilities. Try grabbing a large sheet of paper, A2 size. I like Levenger Oasis pads. Brown paper’s fine, if that’a all you can find. Now grab some marker pens, and make a largish circle in the middle. Write “my book” in the circle. Make smaller circles and ovals all over the paper. Your creative self thinks in images; this is why you’re creating all the circles.

Write words in the circles and ovals — any words which occur to you. Write first thoughts, don’t think about it. Pin the paper onto a board or to a wall.

5. Outline It as Soon as You Can

Outlining a book too early has pitfalls, the big one being that you can choke off your creativity. Your paper-with-circles helps to avoid that.

With both fiction and nonfiction, I like to write a few thousand words just to get into the book. Then I create my “circles” diagram. Shortly after that I draft a preliminary outline.

You don’t have to outline, but it helps you to see where you’re headed at a glance. If an outline makes you uncomfortable, don’t bother with it. All that counts is that you keep writing.

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, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

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Writing Journal 34: How to Make Fiction a Habit

Writing Journal 34: How to Make Fiction a Habit

My writing journal for Monday, September 15, 2014. You can find all the writing journal entries here.

Early this morning, I started on the fifth novella for my ghostwriting client. This is the final one in the series. I managed 1,200 words, which is good going. When you start a new project, the first few days are always slow, as you get into the characters. Once you know your story people, and how they’re likely to react, the writing goes much more quickly.

I’ve had some questions about story beginnings, and how to write fiction every day.

How to make fiction a daily habit

You can make writing fiction a habit easily; all you need is a process.

Here’s my process in a nutshell: write in scenes, and outline as you go. This means that you know what you’re doing. Sooner or later, writing fiction just becomes another habit.

I write in scenes. Most of my scenes are somewhere between 1,200 and 1,800 words. So for me, daily writing means one scene, or maybe two, if I’m getting near the end of a project. When you think of your fiction as collections of scenes, it makes writing and editing much more manageable.

If you’re writing in small blocks of time — a few minutes here and there — you’ll find focusing on one scene at a time helps you to write more. If you can spare a couple of hours a day, then you can call your writing done when you’ve completed a scene or two.

Outlining helps you to write faster

Once you get an idea for a project, it’s easy enough to shape it. Fiction is all about emotions, for the writer, and the reader. Your story will have several turning points, so you outline from point to point:

  • First turning point: after the setup (around chapter four, or scene four if you’re writing a shorter piece)
  • The midpoint
  • Three-quarter point: you’re setting up the dark moment
  • The climax: the story’s final battle

Consider the emotions you want your reader to feel, not only in the turning points, but also in each scene.

Tell yourself your story in a paragraph or two, then map the turning points.

That’s your basic outline done. Some writers outline much more, but honestly? I’m a bit of a closet pantser. if I do more than the turning points, the story wanders off in fresh directions, so I never use all the scenes I plotted so carefully. Your mileage will vary. Do what FEELS right — if you have enough material in your outline to write each day, you don’t need more.

Daily writing: outlining your scenes

My scene outlines are very basic; I outline each scene just before I write it. I decide what I want the reader to feel — what emotions. (I write this down.) Then I write the first couple of sentences in the scene, and the final sentences. Then I zoom through the scene, writing as fast as I can. This usually means writing dialogue. Think of it as a sketch. Then I go back to the beginning and “paint” the scene. I add everything else — or as much as I want to, in this draft.

I’ve written about outlining fiction for emotion here.

Editing the nonfiction book

I finished my first read-through of the nonfiction book, so it’s time to read again, this time more carefully, making notes as I go. I want to finish the first edit this week, so that the material can go off to our contract editor by the weekend.

Then it’s time for email. A light email day today, so I complete feedback notes for three students.

Honey’s feeling lively this morning. She gobbles her breakfast, and looks for more. I make my own breakfast, and jot some notes for Julia while I eat my toast.

There are no meetings scheduled for today, thank goodness. I’ll be able to focus on copywriting and ghostwriting.

Ghostwriting the company history

I complete 2,000 words, which is excellent, and make a note for Julia to call the client and set up another couple of interviews. I’m pleased that the client’s easy to work with. Some ghostwriting projects can be a challenge, if the client’s busy, and you can’t get the material you need.

Time for my walk. It’s a lovely morning.

Two presentations for a retainer client

This week, I’ve got to complete two presentations for a retainer client, so I outline those. They’re relatively easy to do, but I need more information. Julia will make an appointment with the client so we can have a chat.

Time for lunch, which I’m having at my computer today, so I can catch up on social media.

Writing the nonfiction ebook freebie

This ebook is quite short, so I do 2,500 words on it. I’m pleased, it’s going well.

Then, back for a little more work on the two presentations. I can’t do anything more until I chat to the client, so until that happens, I do more writing on the company history.

Christmas short stories

I’ve got a little time this afternoon, so I spend it outlining another couple of Christmas short stories. These will be very short, just a thousand words each. I love doing very short fiction. You can get it done within a couple of hours.

Once I’ve done that, I need to catch up on phone messages before everyone leaves for the day.

All done. Daily review done, word counts done, and that’s it for another day.

Need help with your writing? Contact me.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

My Writing Journal 2: More Fiction, Nonfiction and Copywriting

My Writing Journal 2: More Fiction, Nonfiction and Copywriting

When you put your writing journal online, there’s a snag: blog post titles. I could try to glitz it up with themes, or a word of the day, but no. So, we’re numbering the entries. Simplest is best. :-)

5AM start: fiction, and nonfiction.

I’ve been asked about early starts. Try it. The key is to get out of bed immediately the alarm sounds. Don’t allow yourself to think about it. :-)

Coffee, and then writing.

I do the scene planning in my current historical romance novella that I didn’t get to last night, and then manage to write 1100 new words; most of a scene. I could press on, but I need a break, after two timer sessions, so I’ll aim for another session today.

Re the timing, my timer sessions vary, they’re 30 minutes on long projects, but can be as short as five minutes for phone calls. (Yes, I time phone calls. I’m CHATTY. I need to do it, or I’ll talk your ear off. :-))

After a short break, onward to the nonfiction book for a client.

I’m waiting for his review of earlier chapters, so I revised another couple of chapters, sent them off, and then wrote 550 new words in two timer sessions. The book’s almost done, just one more chapter to complete. I may do that chapter in a marathon session — I want to wrap things up, and I need to get started on a new project, for a new client.

Honey
A much younger Honey

Time for a short play session with Honey. The cold weather’s hard on her arthritis, but she’s happy anyway. She’s always happy, but she can’t express it by bouncing off the walls as she used to do. It’s always sad when dogs start to age. After a touch of the grooming brush, and massage session, she’s ready for her breakfast.

Keeping track.

A student asked about keeping track of your writing. How do you sort out what needs to be done, and keep track of deadlines? It can be a challenge. I’ve written many emails to students about organizing and managing their deadlines. I need to pull the best tips together, and write a full blog post about it. Basically, I use a modified Getting Things Done (GTD) system. If you’re not familiar, here’s an excellent summary of GTD.

Essential: the INBOX. I use paper notebooks, index cards, and large A5 artists’ pads to plan and THINK. Thinking/ planning  is done  on paper, writing on the computer. My Inbox is my default folder in Evernote. All paper gets photographed into that folder, and I review it once each day, and then more thoroughly once a week.

Email again… 

Julia, my wonderful assistant, handles most of the email tsunami for me, otherwise I’d never get anything else done. After feeding Honey, I pour myself another cup of coffee, and get stuck into email, mostly client quotes, and giving feedback to students. I love writing with students. It’s immensely satisfying when students start to believe in themselves, in their writing, and in their future.

I check my calendar for clients with whom I need to follow up; I add those to OmniFocus.

Planning: Leap Into Copywriting.

After handling email, and scheduling some phone calls, I move on to planning our new copywriting training. I love copywriting. It’s huge fun, because every project is different. You can write 500 sales letters, but each one will be different from the others.

Although we have several copywriting courses, Leap Into Copywriting is new and emphasizes copywriting practice with lots of exercises and feedback. It’s for beginning copywriters, to get them started off right. Rather than lots of theory, students will “leap” into it, writing copy immediately. They’ll receive video trainings over three weeks. They have exercises to complete, and receive feedback on them. Everyone’s busy, so students will only need 30 minutes a day for the training.

No errands today, so breakfast, and a quick walk.

Ghostwriting videos.

Many more clients are asking for videos these days, both scripts, and tutorial videos. I’ve just been commissioned by a couple of new podcasting clients, and I’m looking forward to working with them.

Before I get started on new work, I need to finish yesterday’s copywriting projects — the ads, and the writer’s bio. I set the timer, and dive in.

A working lunch: email and blog reading.

I don’t work during lunch every day, but I have so much on my plate (pun intended) today that I can’t spare the time to lunch with a friend. It’s just me, and some pasta left over from last night. And a salad. Then, because I need to psych myself up, a slim sliver of chocolate cake. I tend to indulge myself over winter. :-)

Copywriting: a video script…

Another cup of coffee. I set the timer, then write down some questions. Questions are key to effective research: make a list of questions, get the answers, and you’re done. If you love research, questions prevent you from turning research into an all-day event.

I research the product and the client’s audience, and answer the questions.

Here’s my “speed copy” writing process: research, cluster diagram, summary, write a draft of the copy. I covered that process in an audio in Copywriting You Can Do.

It’s the same process for all copy, including video scripts. However, when I create a script, I create a presentation too; the video producer can storyboard the video from that.

After a couple of hours, I’ve got a a very rough first draft.

4 PM. Time for a long break to relax and clear my mind. Got lots done, so it’s deserved. :-)

9PM. Back from dinner out. A quick daily review to check up on deadlines. Everything’s on track, thank heavens. My word counts for the day are fine. Time for some recreational reading. :-)

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

5 Writing Tips Which Will Change Your Life

5 Writing Tips Which Will Change Your Life

Let’s look at some writing tips which which will help you to develop a writing process which suits you. After working with students for many years, I’ve convinced that 90% of their challenges arise because they don’t have a process. If you don’t have a process, these tips will change your life.

Your process eliminates challenges like:

* Procrastination;

* Weak writing;

* Lack of clarity;

* Poor results – your writing won’t do what you want it to do;

* And on, and on.

You’ll develop your own process over time. These tips will help.

1. Start With a Blurb.

Perhaps you’ve made this nasty error as I have: you didn’t read something carefully enough. You simply assumed. And you made a horrible mistake. Once I almost signed a book contract before I realized that the sneaky publisher had included a clause which assigned the copyright in the book to the publisher. That was a close call.

Other things I didn’t read carefully include:

  • A copywriting brief. I quoted on catalog copy which I assumed would take three hours. It took most of a weekend – and I couldn’t invoice the extra work, since it was my mistake;
  • A book proposal. I blithely wrote a proposal for a light, sweet romance. When I reread the contract, just before sending the proposal, I realized that I’d been thinking of a phone conversation I had with a ghostwriting client… I wrote the proposal for the wrong book. Sigh…

I could go on.

Over the years, I’ve learned to write a blurb, before I write anything at all, even an article. A blurb’s just a short description. It may be just a sentence or three. Or several paragraphs.

I write the blurb on an index card. When it’s time to work on the project, I find the card, and reread it.

Your blurb not only prevents mistakes, it keeps you on track. Your writing is less likely to go off on tangents.

Before you read on: write a blurb for a project you’re working on. Blurbs can save your sanity.

2. Write Drafts – as Many as You Need.

Whenever I start a project, I just start writing. If it’s a long project, I create a bunch of index cards in Scrivener. This acts as a basic outline. If it’s something short, I create a bunch of headings in Markdown, then I write away.

Your first draft is written straight through, without stopping if it’s a short project.

By “without stopping” I mean without correcting errors or going back and rewriting. You’ll stop after 20 minutes or three hours, whatever time you have to write that day. The next day, start writing again – keep moving forward.

If I need to look something up, I just put “XXX” into the text, and keep writing. I do brainstorming right within the draft itself, because it’s useful later.

Think of your first draft as being similar to an artist’s sketch. It’s nowhere near complete, it just gets you started.

3. Rethink, When You Revise.

Once your first draft is complete, read it without changing anything. I like to create a PDF for the reread, so that I can’t tinker. If it’s an ebook, I’ll save it as a MOBI (Kindle) file, and read it on my iPad.

Your aim at this stage is simply to see the project as a whole. You want to see what you have. Your creative mind thinks in wholes, not parts. If you resist the urge to make notes too soon, you’ll get better ideas.

Next, without going back to reread, make a revision plan. I create one revision note per project in Evernote. I drag the note into the sidebar, so I can find it quickly.

Then I rewrite, according to the plan in the note. With fiction, I delete superfluous scenes, and create new ones. With nonfiction, I create examples, explanations, and exercises.

4. Consider Your Transitions.

Once your revision is done and you’ve read through your project again, consider the transitions. Does one paragraph lead on to the next?

With fiction, are the characters’ motivations clear? It’s a good idea to create a timeline for your fiction too. You don’t want a character to have a three-month pregnancy, or (as I read recently) to travel from London to Scotland in eight hours. Yes, that’s possible today. However, the book was set in 1806, when the trip could take a couple of weeks, if not longer.

5. Read It Aloud.

Your final step, aside from proofreading, is to read your project aloud. Yes, you can whisper if you like. :-) Reading aloud solves a lot of problems. You’ll catch many errors this way – and you’ll grain fresh inspiration.

I use a program called Text2Speech for proofreading. It’s a Mac app. Both Windows and Mac have built in apps which will read text, so explore your operating system’s Help files.

So there you have it. A basic writing process. Customize it to suit the way you like to write.

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, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, too.