Why is it so hard to start a big project? Maybe it’s because it is so big that it seems daunting, or that it’s difficult to identify the best first step.
Starting your book can offer the same challenges: how do you get started in a productive and confident manner?
Here are six ideas about what NOT to do when tackling that first draft.
- Read every other book on the topic before you start. While it is important to know your topic and have solid research behind you, and it’s important to complete an analysis on other books on your subject, it may be counterproductive to peruse all the competitive literature on your topic. Assuming you know your topic, what your book should offer is a fresh approach, a new perspective, and a novel take on the subject matter. If you spend too much time in analyzing what others have said, you may be less likely to boldly state your unique stance. Do your homework, but don’t be so compulsive about research that you fail to begin or lose your fresh perspective.
- Just start writing. Writing without a road map is as productive as starting out on a vacation without any decision about where you’re going or what you want to accomplish. Every book project should begin with a thorough understanding of the purpose for your book as well as a clearly defined thesis statement. If you haven’t decided how you will use your book (as a calling card, as your curriculum for workshops, as a leave-behind after presentations to help with the call to action), you may write the wrong book. And, without a thesis statement, you’re writing about a topic, not focusing in on a perspective that is valued by your reader.
- Start with a blank page. Blank pages are hard. Most every author will agree. So don’t start there. Begin with your content outline, and begin fleshing it out. Then start jotting down content that you want to include: quotes, data, stories, examples, cases. Then go through and make notes of other writing you will repurpose for this book. Now, begin to write! See how much easier it is.
- Start with chapter one. Chapter one is usually the hardest chapter to write, since it introduce the reader to everything you’ll be saying in the book. Write the easiest chapter first, then the next easiest, then the next. Write the first and last chapters after all the other chapters are written, setting the stage and summarizing the action.
- Clean your office. Rearrange your desk. Find the perfect notebook. Rearrange your sock drawer. Productive procrastination is a tough habit to break, since you are so darned productive while you’re doing it. The only problem is that it is getting in the way of you accomplishing what is most important—your work on this project. So let the office get a little dusty, and let the paper stacks grow in piles around your desk. It’s time to focus on the one thing you want most to accomplish—the writing of your book!
- Edit as you go. Make everything perfect and keep going back to clean it up before getting it all sketched out. If you want to get this book written, stop editing and just write. Stopping to edit every few pages is akin to starting off on a trip wanting to keep the fuel tank on F. You will certainly have a full gas tank, but it’s going to take you a long time to reach your destination. And in addition, brain science tells us that writing and editing are two distinct brain functions, and editing while writing is multi-tasking—a feat which is daunting at best. Just focus on writing, and once you’ve got the bones in place, then begin to edit and tweak.
Starting a book can be a huge task, but can be made much easier when you avoid these major pitfalls!