How long has it been? Be brutally honest… is it months? Years? A decade – or even longer?!
You’ve had that fantastic idea for a book bubbling up for some time now, haven’t you? Almost everyone has a great idea for a novel kicking around. It’s not the ideas we’re generally short of – it’s that precious commodity of ‘time’ to actually write anything down.
Having worked on more than 20 books in the last 7 years, I have great news for you: It’s possible to write a book much more swiftly than you might think. All it takes is four essential ingredients. A quiet hotel suite doesn’t hurt, either.
Ingredient no.1 – An escape route
It is entirely possible to write a book in one week. I know, because I’ve done it. But the bottom line is, you can’t achieve such a feat around normal life. You have to schedule a complete week off from work, family, social commitments, the gym – basically, you need to escape your life for 7 full days.
One of my clients took this advice quite literally and booked herself into a mountain retreat resort for the week! It paid off beautifully, as her creative juices went into overdrive, away from the distractions of everyday life. Checking into a hotel is the premium option, but if you can’t schedule and budget for an actual break, block out 8 hours a day for seven days in a quiet, private environment. Commit to very little outside of those hours, other than food and sleep, as you’ll be drained from the day’s creative work.
Ingredient no.2 – A clear plan
Before you reach day 1 of Book Week, you need to get organised. It’s like meal-prepping prior to starting a health-kick – the more you put into the planning, the better the result. The idea is to start day 1 with a clear table of contents (this article has some terrific tips for structuring chapters), so you can ‘time block’ your week.
The average manuscript is 30-50,000 words non-fiction, or 50-90,000 words fiction. Have a look at other books in your genre; count the number of words on an average page, and multiply it by the number of pages in the book, to get a target word count. Let’s say you end up with a structure of, say, 20 chapters, and a goal of 40,000 words. That means you need to write 3 chapters and around 4,000 words each day.
Ingredient no.3 – A daily target
Getting started is as simple – or as terrifying – as opening a fresh word document. Refer to your structure/outline and work out which chapter you want to start with (it doesn’t necessarily need to be the first chapter of the book).
The average person types at 40w/minute; you can test your typing skills for free here. This equates to around 2,500 words per hour, so even at a relaxed typing speed, you should be able to hit your daily target. The Dictate app for Word also allows you to talk and dictate ideas, which are converted straight to text in your document.
Ingredient no.4 – A partner in crime
Writing a book is a Very Big Audacious Goal, which can make it intimidating. When you have something on your to-do list that intimidates you, it’s very easy to allow yourself to get distracted. Cut to: five hours into day one of Book Week, and your emails are up to date, your bills are paid and you’ve shopped around for insurance quotes… but you haven’t written one word of your manuscript.
This is where an accountability partner makes all the difference. It’s someone who can ask prompting questions, take notes of references to follow up, ensure you stick to your agenda and keep you on purpose. It could be your assistant or receptionist at work, a professional editor like me, or you could even go on the journey with a fellow would-be writer. Block out the time together and spend the first half of the day on your book; break for lunch, then spend the afternoon on their book.
Keep in mind that at this early stage, it’s all about quantity, not quality. You can always edit your words and ideas later – right now, the focus is on getting content on the page. Stick to the four ingredients above, and you’ll be well on your way to building your manuscript, and ticking the ‘book’ off your bucket list for good.
Sarah Megginson is a Business Chicks premium member. She has edited or ghost-written more than 20 books, working with clients such as Lorna Jane Clarkson, and the ThankYou group’s Daniel Flynn. Connect with her here.