How to Get Your Book Written in 2014

10 Tips To Help You Avoid ThisI wrote an article in my last newsletter in which I shared my top 10 tips to help aspiring writers make sure that 2014 is the year they get their book written. I’ve had lots of people ask me to publish this article on my blog so they can access it, so here it is. I’m going to extend this piece into a series about Getting Started on Your Book, which will run for the next 2 weeks. Because I know that making writing a priority in a crazy-busy life is hard. But think of all the things that you do make time for. Why shouldn’t writing be one of those things? 

1. Consistency is the most important ingredient in making writing a habit. Find a regular time of day or night and block it out in your diary as writing time. Every day is best, but aiming for 2 or 3 days at first is fine because that’s still better than 0 days. By writing at the same time each session, your brain becomes accustomed to switching in to writing mode at that time; it also makes it easier to schedule all your other tasks around your set writing time.

2. It doesn’t matter if you can only schedule a couple of hours per session. For 7.5 years I’ve operated with just a 2 hour writing session, Mon-Fri, and I’ve published 2 books in that time. So a couple of hours is all you need.

3. What’s more important is aiming for consecutive days. That way, you build momentum. I tend to find on a Monday, after having a 2 day break, I take at least half an hour to warm up, whereas on Tues-Fri, I don’t need warm-up time. So try to schedule your writing sessions on back-to-back days.

4. Set a word count target. I always find if I set a word target, I exceed it. If I don’t set a target, then what am I aiming for? I have nothing to strive for and therefore I tend to write less. Obviously the more you write per session, the quicker your draft gets written. So use a target to keep you motivated.

5. Writing time is for getting the words down on the page, not so much for generating ideas. If you’re in the habit of regular writing time several days per week, you’ll find that your unconscious mind will continually generate plot ideas, or character ideas at random times throughout the day. The trick is to make a note of those ideas when they occur and then use your writing time to turn the idea into a scene.

6. Join a writing group. If you meet with other writers on a regular basis, say monthly, then the pressure is on to produce work to present for critique at the writing group. This also means there is a group of people who will watch your book grow and can provide meaningful feedback at crucial stages.

To Do List-27. Enrol in a writing course. Writing is a craft; it needs to be learned, just as one learns to play the piano or program software for a computer. Research the presenter and make sure the course is at the right skill level. You’ll find lots of motivation in knowing you now have the tools to add to your ability—watch amazing things start to happen in your writing.

8. Read as much as you can—preferably fiction by Australian authors who write in the same genre as you. This is another sure-fire way to perfect your craft; you’ll see how others structure their plots, or develop their characters, or write dialogue and this will help you improve your skills.

9. At the end of a writing session, make a note of what you want continue working on next time. That way, when you next sit down to write, you can pick straight up where you left off and you don’t need to waste time wondering what you should write about.

10. There will be days when you don’t feel like it. But just like exercise, if you make yourself do it anyway, you’ll feel so much better at the end. Because you’ll be 300 or 500 or 1,000 words closer to finishing, and every word counts on your way to The End.

So, can I encourage you to sit down now, take a look at your diary and plan in some regular writing time. While you’re at it, why not set yourself a word target to aim for? I used to aim for 1,000 words in my 2 hours, but I found that when I got a way into the book, say around the 20,000 word point, I would easily write about 1,500 words a day. So I’m going to aim for 1,500 words a day, 4 days a week this year. In 15 weeks, I could have 90,000 words! Okay, I don’t really expect it to happen like that as the first few weeks will be slow going getting into a new project, but breaking it down like that certainly makes it seem more achievable doesn’t it?

I’d love to know if any of these 10 tips resonate with you. What are your writing plans for the year and what have you done to make sure you follow-through on those plans? Also, look out for my next post later in the week where I follow on from this piece and share with you the 10 things I need to have in front of me before I start writing a new book.

16 comments

  1. Definitely setting a number of words you want to reach that day. Otherwise I’ll write nowhere near enough and not continue later due to not having a decent grounding in my narrative. Also definitely reading specific genre to try and get in that frame of mind. I’ve definitely been reading a lot of Douglas Adams lately so I can write a short story on science fiction.

    • Yes, I love a good word count. I find them incredibly motivating, especially the Word Target in Scrivener, where you can watch the coloured bar move along and change colour the closer you get to your daily word count and manuscript target.

      It’s been a long time since I’ve read any Douglas Adams; I remember getting to the end of the first Hitchhiker’s but not making it through any of the others. Hope your writing is gong well.

  2. Whoopsie

    “7: Enrol in a writing course”.
    Perhaps it’s just me but I think this is easier said than done. By this I mean that I would love to do a course if for no other reason than to stoke the creative fire but it’s so difficult to determine the quality and suitability of courses on offer. In addition, there are so many specialty courses (ie understanding plot/story structure/editing/etc,etc), it’s hard to determine what would be the best course to do. Clearly there’s a difference between say a very generalised Community College course and University-level courses which I can’t afford to undertake anyway because they cost several thousand dollars each. I’m a member of the NSW Writer’s Centre but I have no idea which of their courses would be best-suited for me (I’ve completed a 90-thousand word manuscript and have an idea for a second story but find myself a bit rudderless at the moment!). Any suggestions would be much appreciated ㋡

    • Thanks for your comment. I think the most important thing when looking for a writing course is to take a look at the presenter. You want the presenter to be someone who has expertise in the area they are teaching. One of the organisations I teach for, The Australian Writers’ Centre, ensures its presenters have all published at least 2 books (they teach courses in Sydney, perhaps you could check out their website). This way, we can talk about our real experiences of writing published books, as well as what it was like before we were published, what we have learned since publication etc. I suppose it makes us more credible, and I think this is really important in choosing a course.

      In fact, I’ve written another blog post about this very thing; you can take a look here if you’re interested: https://whilethekidsaresleeping.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/when-is-the-right-time-to-do-a-writing-course/

      I also think identifying what your objectives are is important. Do you want a beginners’ level course that covers off everything you need to know about writing a first draft? Or are you looking for a course that is more about the edit? I would always suggest to someone who has not taken a course before to start with the Stage 1 course because even if you have written a draft, there may be things about character, dialogue and structure that are important to understand as a preliminary and which will help you to re-draft your book. If you’ve done a few courses, you may want to consider a Stage 2 or Advanced course. I hope that helps and good luck!

    • I can recommend the Australian Writers’ Centre … I am currently doing their advanced fiction writng course, which I am doing on line, but if your’e in Sydney you are right there. They also do a mentoring program I think for people who need guidance to get their completed book finished. Natasha will know more about that. I have foujd them to be a professional supportive organisation,

  3. “Writing time is for getting the words down on the page, not so much for generating ideas.”
    I like this. It subconsciously removes pressure to develop something while you’re at the writing desk. Just get words down & let the process churn while you’re doing other things.
    I’m currently working on writing on consecutive days. Baby steps.

    • Hi Angela, thanks for dropping by and commenting. I find consecutive days to be really important to me to maintain momentum. I tend to write a lot more on day 3 than I do on day 1 so best of luck with finding some consecutive days in your week.

      And yes, I strongly believe that writing time is all about getting the words down. I get ideas at all other times of the day – in the shower, in the car, and as I’m finishing a scene I might get an idea for the next scene etc.

      Good luck with your writing and thanks again for commenting.

  4. Pingback: The 10 Things I Must Have Before I Start Writing a New Book | While the kids are sleeping

  5. Natasha, thank you for this terrific, motivating post. My only surprise is that you’re recommending focusing on Australian writers in reading as opposed to just reading widely. What is your reason for that?

    • Hi Lee, thanks for your comment. I probably didn’t phrase my sentence very well in hindsight. What I was hoping to advocate was that writers who hope to be published in the Australian market by an Australian based publisher should support the market that they hope will in turn support them. One of the things I find in the writing classes I teach is that less than half the class will have purchased a book written by an Australian author in the last six months (sometimes only 3 or 4 students), yet the students are all hoping someone will support them and buy their books when they are published. So my suggestion in this post is mainly about, as well as reading great writing from anywhere, making a conscious effort to give something to the industry that we hope to find ourselves being a part of so that the industry can continue to grow and therefore have room for new writers. I hope that makes sense.

  6. Pingback: The Power of Writing Prompts + Free Writing Prompt Giveaway! | While the kids are sleeping

  7. Wonderful advice! I have just started using Scrivener’s daily word count targets and it’s made me much more productive.

    Also, I think another perk of reading authors from one’s own country can be a chance to relate to the author, and feel that my own book goals are not so far-fetched because so and so 2 hours north wrote something beautiful.

    • Hi Zoey and thanks for dropping by. I wonder what I did before I used Scrivener’s word targets; I couldn’t live without it now! And I agree that reading books by authors from one’s own country is very motivating; it shows us that we can all do it too.

  8. I have just read two Australian books “Stillways” by Steve Bisely and “Almost French” by Sarah Turnbilland enjoyed them both …

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