How to Write a Book: 90,000 Words in 4 Month – Part 2
In my last post, I started to share some of the things that helped me write over 90,000 words over four months to go from a rough outline to a full manuscript. Since that post ended up being very long, I decided to split it into two parts. Here is part 2:
Write Now, Review Later
One tactic that helped me a lot in writing my book as quickly as I did, was a 'write now, review later' approach. On days where the ideas and inspiration were flowing, I would sometimes write several 1,000 words in a day. Often the writing wasn't all that good, but the ideas and concepts were. So I just let it flow. I didn't worry about grammar, spelling or finding the exact right words to express something. Sometimes I would just type for hours without reading anything of what I had written. I found that, whenever I would go back over a paragraph I just wrote, I got caught up in the details and fine-tuning it and would then lose my train of thought and would struggle to get back into writing. So instead, I just wrote without looking back.
I would then go back to review the section the next day or sometimes even several days later. Quite often, I would have either a writing day or a reviewing day (I definitely liked the writing days better!). That approach worked really well for me. It meant I could let ideas flow when I had them and coming back to it a few days later meant I was able to look at it with fresh eyes and a bit of distance, which helped me refine and fine-tune each section.
Write where you write best
Another question I see a lot is about where people write. Some people seem to prefer to write in their quiet home office, while others prefer the kitchen table, public libraries or cafes, or even shared workspaces. I don't think there is a right or wrong here. In my experience, it all comes down to your personality and, of course, your options – if you don't have a home office, you can't write in it… Maybe try a few different places and see which you like best.
I generally prefer quiet places to write. I wrote most of my book either in my van or in the different homes where I was housesitting over winter. I actually have a little confession to make on this topic. I do my best writing in bed :-) I usually wake up quite early, make some coffee and then go back to bed to work for a few hours. That's my most productive time of the day. Coffee in hand, laptop on my knees and that early morning quietness – that's my favourite place and time to write, and where I do my best work (and yes, I know I'm probably going to end up with major back issues if I keep this up…). But I also regularly work from Public Libraries, especially when I’m travelling – mainly because of the free wifi :-)
Setting Goals & Staying on Track
I often see writers asking how many words they should write per day/week and how to stay on track. To be honest, I don’t really have much advice in regards to this, mainly because it wasn’t a problem for me. I occasionally set myself a goal to finish a section within a certain number of days, but most of the time, I would just write without worrying too much about how many words I was typing in a day. The whole way through, I was happy with the progress I was making so I didn’t see a need for specific targets.
I believe that when you’re doing the right thing, and you’re on the right track, you don’t need to force yourself to do it - and that was definitely the case with my book. Sure, there where days were I didn’t feel motivated or productive, and occasionally I had to push myself to keep going. But that was the exception and never lasted long. Most of the time, I loved the whole process and was happy with my progress.
Write the best parts first, then fill in the gaps
One big difference between my initial brainstorming phase and this writing phase was the order in which I worked. During brainstorming, I was a bit all over the place. I would come up with ideas for different sections each day, I would jump around different chapters and basically just work on whichever part I happened to have ideas and inspiration for.
But as I began writing the actual book, I started to work a lot more in order and chapter by chapter. The first full chapter I wrote was the introduction – mainly because it helped me clarify things in my head and set the scene for my book (though the final introduction ended up being very different to this first version). After that, I jumped ahead to chapters two and then three because those are the two main sections in my book. They were the ones I was most excited about writing and for which I felt I had the most original ideas and insights. After that, the first chapter kind of fell into place because it is all about setting the scene for what's to come. The last two chapters are very practical and all about applying what has been learnt throughout the book, so it felt natural to write them last.
So I didn't write completely in order, I started with the middle part and then went back to the beginning, but I did work on it chapter by chapter and didn't jump between them anymore at this stage.
Overall, I would recommend writing the most important and significant part of a book first. I think in most books (fiction or non-fiction) there are a few sections that really define the book. Getting those right is most important, and all other parts tend to be lead-in, connecting or follow up sections and how to write them will mainly depend on how you wrote the critical parts.
Of course, all of my chapters changed and evolved as I started to review and fine-tune my book – something I will write about in my next post.