Friday, April 11, 2008

Ever tried writing a book?

I estimate 9 out of 10 people I talk to want to write a book. Most have started one at least once. Many have started several times.

Even Barack Obama's mother started a book about her life story. After she died her daughter found the book, she had written only 3 pages. I believe she hit the same wall we all do when we start writing a book. And she did what most of us do when we hit that wall, she put the papers into a drawer and forgot about them.

But her son, Barack Obama, managed to become a best-selling author. Millions of people write books every year, so it's not impossible. But what does it take to pull it off? It's not as mysterious as you might think.

Writing a book takes four key ingredients:

1. Discipline
2. Organization
3. Cause
4. Workflow

Discipline is necessary because you will face times when you just don't want to write. You don't feel like writing, you don't have the energy, you don't know what to write. But discipline is the art of doing what you should to, when you should do it, even when you don't want to. If you want to write a book, you will need discipline.

Organization is important because you will have lots of ideas about your book and you don't want to get lost or overwhelmed. The easiest way to stay organized is to create an outline and write to your outline. Add sections to your outline as new information pops up, but always stick to your outline. The tool I use, FastPencil.com, was created so you could write directly to your outline and free yourself from linear writing. I call this WADD - Writing Attention Deficit Disorder. WADD is the process of writing different sections as you are inspired, rather than trying to write from start to finish.

Cause is what drives you to write. Some people are really passionate about a cause and it drives every decision they make in life. Do you have a cause? It doesn't have to be something that you are willing to die for. It does have to be something you care about deeply and are willing to write about, determined to write about. Why do you want to write this book? What is so important to you that it has to be published and shared with the world?

Finally, simplifying your workflow is essential to completing your book. The number one reason people don't finish the book they start is due to workflow. You can't write because your computer is broken. You forgot which folder you saved your recent version. You did some writing at work on a thumbdrive and can't find it... All of these problems are a break in your workflow. Create a system that takes away the barriers to writing and you will simplify your workflow. That's what Blogger did and now millions of people have blogs. That's what FastPencil is doing right now. FastPencil is simplifying your workflow so you can focus on writing.

Try to implement these four suggestions the next time you decide to write a book. One last suggestion I borrow from Winston Churchill: Never, never, never, never, never give up!

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