How to Write a Book: 90,000 Words in 4 Month – Part 1

This post is part of First Time Author, a series of blog posts in which I share my journey going from having an idea for a book to (traditionally) published book. Learn more here.

In the first post in my First Time Author series, I shared how I developed the idea for my book and how I went from concept to first words. By the end of May 2018, I had an MS Word document with a rough outline of my book with bullet points of what each chapter would cover. Over the four months that followed, I wrote over 90,000 words and turned this rough outline into a full manuscript. 

I absolutely loved the whole process. I loved the research and knowledge gathering, I loved theorising, coming up with ideas and putting my own spin on things, and I loved writing it all up. It was amazing to see my concept take shape. It felt like I was doing exactly what I was meant to be doing. Up until a few weeks into this process, I hadn't really thought much about what I would do with my book once it's done. I just had this idea, and I wanted to write a book. But when I found myself loving the process so much, I couldn't help but starting to think about how amazing it would be if I could get it published and maybe even make some money with it – ideally enough so I could write another one.  

However, as much as I loved the researching and writing, this time also wasn't without its challenges. From finding the time to write to finding inspiration, overcoming writer's block and fighting doubts and insecurities. But I got there in the end. 

 Here are the main things that helped me make it happened. I’ll cover two in this post and then three more in the next one. 

Making Time to Write

How do you make the time to write? I see that question pop up in various writer forums and groups at least once a week. And I can very much relate to it. I don't know how some authors seem to be able to work a full-time job AND write a book – often while also raising kids. I absolutely admire that (and envy it a little), but I just knew I wouldn't be able to pull it off. Unfortunately, hardly any first-time authors manage to secure a publishing deal before writing a book and even when you do, the advance is usually nowhere near enough to support yourself over several months of writing. So in short, most writers have to work 'normal' jobs while writing – especially while writing their first book. 

And that can be a tough act to balance. I am a marketing freelancer, so most of my work is in front of the computer screen. The last thing I want to do after 8+ hours of work is spending more time at a computer. I knew that if I wanted to write this book, I need to make time for it. I needed to spend less time working, so I would have more time and energy to write. I decided to work only 10-15 hours per week for a while, which would be just enough to cover my costs, and use the rest of the time to write.

Working in my Campervan

In many ways, I'm lucky because I have work that gives me the flexibility to reduce and increase workload at times. However, I also made significant sacrifices to be able to do this. I cut my living expenses as much as I could, for example, by living in a 20-year-old campervan instead of paying rent and limiting spending on luxury items such as new clothes and nights out in town to an absolute minimum. 

I don’t know how many people (writers and others) have told me how lucky I am that I was able to do this and take time away from work to write. And I agree that I am fortunate. But I also think many others could do the same if they really tried. Many people only see the good parts and don't realise that I didn't just get lucky. I made some tough choices, took some risks and changed my lifestyle to be able to afford to do what I did. The fact is, if you are serious about wanting to be a writer and struggle to find the time, you have to look for ways to make the time – and that will probably include making some sacrifices. Look for ways to reduce your expenses so you can work less. Use your weekends and annual leave to write instead of going on trips. If you really want it, you will find a way! And the more time you can make, the quicker will you be done with your book.

Finding Inspiration

My book is based on three main sources of inspiration:

  1. Reading

  2. Conversations and

  3. Thinking

I've always been an avid reader and have always gotten a lot of inspiration from books. It was reading that inspired the idea for this book in the first place, and it contributed many ideas and insights throughout the writing process. Whenever I felt stuck or uninspired, I just started reading, and most of the time, something I read would spark an idea or gave me the insight I needed to continue writing. 

Conversations are another significant source of inspiration for me. I enjoy deep and meaningful discussions and am known by some of my friends as someone who often asks left field questions and likes to take a philosophical perspective. Often, when I would lack inspiration or just didn't know how to word a thought or idea, talking it over with friends and hearing their viewpoint got me back on track.

But I don’t always need another person to bounce ideas off. Most of the time, I'm just as good at contemplating and analysing things in my own head. Throughout writing the book, I spent a lot of time just thinking. Thinking about something I had read or heard or just something that popped into my mind.  Sometimes, the days where I didn't write a word but spend time thinking about the different idea and concepts in the book ended up being the most valuable in the long-run. However, one thing I struggled with is that 'thinking days' often didn't feel like productive days. I would often pressure myself to write and 'make progress' instead of spending the day in my own head, not realising that thinking time is often just as productive and important for my book as writing is – if not more so. I had to give myself permission to spend my time thinking and had to tell myself that it is OK to not add to the word count on some days. But I never quite got over the feeling. 

There is more to come on the topic of writing the full first draft of my book, but it got a bit long for one blog post, so I split it into two. Part 2 is coming soon. Sign up to be notified when it's live. 

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