So You Want to Write a Book? Just Do It!

by | Mar 18, 2015

By Nina Amir

Writing a book is like exercising. At some point, if you truly want to become an author—or get in shape—you have to follow Nike’s advice and “Just do it.” You have to stop finding excuses and start a book manuscript. Then you have to keep writing until you reach your goal—finish your manuscript. Then you pick a new goal; you write another book. It’s that simple.

For the last five years or so I’ve argued that I had no time for exercise. I would sporadically go for a walk or a bike ride, but I allowed myself to sit at my desk for hours every day and to become flabby and low in energy. The more I said I had no time to exercise, the more I convinced myself it was true.

This past January, however, I made a decision: I would join a health club, hire a personal trainer and get this body of mine trim and fit once again. Guess what? I’ve worked out five or six times per week ever since. I found the time, or, more specifically, I made the time. I’m not in the type of shape I’d like to be in…yet…but I will be by the end of 2015 if I continue exercising on a regular basis—if I make exercise a habit.

Apply the same principle to becoming an author—or to writing. You can continue telling yourself you have no time to write, and you will convince yourself it’s true. Continue on this path, and you won’t end up with your published book in your hands.

Or decide to “Just do it.” Make the time to become an author—to exercise your writing muscles daily. Make writing a habit. Just as I put on my work-out clothes every day and go to the gym (or walk or cycle), you can put on your favorite writing outfit, sit down at the computer and exercise your mind and your fingers as you produce pages of your book manuscript on a weekly schedule.

Becoming an Author is Simple

Becoming an author is that simple. Really.

Start with page one. Then write page two and so on. Before you know it, you’ll have a manuscript. As author Donald Murray once told America’s Writing Coach, Roy Peter Clark, “Remember: A page a day equals a book a year.”

I admit I’ve simplified the task a bit. There are the ideation and research that go into writing a book. You have to determine the structure and content. Some writers need a gestation period before they begin writing. And you may feel you need time to learn how to write a book. But the best way to become an author—actually the only way—involves producing a manuscript. You must write.

As the adage goes: Writers write. If you want to be a writer or an author, there’s no way around this fact.

Then there is the “getting published” part of the equation. Once you’ve finished writing, you need to develop the muscles to become a publisher and bring your book into the world.

6 Ways to Move Toward Authorship

Move toward your goal of becoming an author in the same manner as an athlete moving toward a physical goal. If you are out of shape, or if you’ve never lifted weights, tried running or cycling, or taken an aerobic’s class, you won’t feel up to running a marathon immediately. In much the same manner, if you haven’t produced an article, a short story, an essay, or a blog post, you are not yet ready for the task of writing your “big book” or “the book” just yet.

That’s fine, but don’t let that stop you from starting a writer’s exercise program. Begin by taking on easier exercises to build your strength and ability. Train to become an author little by little.

Here are some suggestions for your author training sessions:

  1. Write an article, short story or essay.
    My college professor, John Keats, said, “If you can write an article, you can write a book. A nonfiction book is just a series of articles strung together.” You could say something similar about novels: If you can write a scene or a bit of dialogue, you can write a book. A novel is just a series of scenes and dialogue strung together.

    Of course, your book needs to have a topic, theme and purpose for it to make sense and succeed. But why not start with an article, short story or essay? These lend themselves nicely to exercising nonfiction, fiction and memoir writing muscles. And they are not too intimidating. You can just write 2,000 words (under eight pages) or so.

  2. Write “a book.”
    Your “big book,” or “the book” you’ve always wanted to write, can seem an overwhelming goal to accomplish if you haven’t written much at all. However, if your training program included finishing a seven- or eight-page article, essay or short story, you are ready to make the leap and write “a book.” A book is any book you might consider writing, such as a spin off of the book you really want to write, a manifesto or a short topic you can write about easily.

    Amazon allows you to publish a 2,500 or 3,000-word Kindle book. That means your next exercise regimen involves increasing the length of your current or subsequent manuscript. It also includes learning how to publish on Kindle. Or, if you prefer, use Joel’s book design templates to produce a small booklet. (These templates also work for designing ebooks.) Get this “little book” printed at your local print shop or even at a digital press like 360digitalbooks.com.

  3. Blog.
    A blog is to a writer what a weight routine is to an athlete. Weight lifting is a regular activity that builds strength and muscle. It also tones and refines your body, but you must lift on a regular schedule. Legs one day. Arms the next. Core on another day.

    A blog is a regular activity as well. Once you begin blogging, you must write and publish posts consistently—possibly several times a week—to increase your traffic. You may have one or several topics about which you blog. This means you write posts about one topic on one day, a second the next, and a third on yet another day. Each time you write and publish a post on this schedule, you build writing strength and muscle. And you tone and refine your writing craft.

  4. Lower your standards.
    Start every writing project expecting “okay” or sub-par work, not necessarily your best work. High standards at the early stages of a writing project equate to expecting a gymnast to get a routine right the first time she hits the mat. She won’t do it perfectly until she has practiced many hours. The first time won’t her best work,. Your first draft—or your first blog post, essay, article, or book manuscript—won’t be your best work either. As you get closer to finishing you book project, raise your standards. Expect excellence. By then, you’ll be strong, in shape and know the routine. You can excel.

  5. Find a buddy.
    The easiest way to get in shape is with a work-out buddy or a personal trainer. They push you, keep you motivated and make you accountable. It’s much harder to begin a new exercise routine all alone. The same goes for writing. If you want to become an author, find other people with the same goals. Buddy up with one or more of them. Or hire a book or writing coach to keep you on track. Be sure you have someone in your corner to cheer you on and ask you often if you are sticking with your training program.

  6. Take care of you. If training to become an author is like training to become an athlete, then you also must take care of your body. You must take the necessary steps to become a high-performance writer not only by spending time writing at the computer with your butt in a chair, but also by taking the necessary steps to keep your mind and body healthy. That means sleeping enough, eating healthy foods, drinking enough water, taking frequent breaks, learning new things, exercising, and…pursuing your goals. If you allow life to get in the way of writing (or these other activities), you aren’t taking care of yourself. Writing, if that is your dream, passion or purpose, is also a self-care activity. Make time for it.

When you have taken all the steps to get in shape to become an author, you will be ready for heavy lifting. Write “the Book” or your “big book.” Publish that book on Kindle or in print.

Then evaluate yourself. Have you become stronger? Have you developed muscle? Have you increased your skill level? Have you achieved your goal? Of course, you have.

You said you wanted to write a book, and you did it.

Nina AmirNina Amir, is a Contributing Writer for TheBookDesigner.com. She is also the author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual, and transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, authorpreneurs and blogpreneurs.

You can learn more about Nina here.

 
Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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8 Comments

  1. kunucats

    I’ve always find the starting easy, it the finishing that is difficult.

    Reply
  2. Andreas Gipta

    Laziness is one thing that i have to avoid while writing. However, you will never be able to write when reading is still less. Confidence is just another factor that the real writer must have

    Reply
  3. Constance k

    I’ve always find the starting easy, it the finishing that is difficult. When you hit the middle phase it when distractions start to creep in

    Reply
  4. Ernie Zelinski

    Nina, I agree with everything in your article. In fact, I have written about this topic in the same positive and inspirational tone in the chapter segment called “Write Yourself out of Poverty into Satisfaction
    and Riches” in my book “Career Success Without a Real Job.”

    But here is the other side: Now that I have had three books that have each sold over 100,000 copies in print, many people critisize and downplay my accomplishments by saying “anyone could have done
    that.” Fact is, the vast majority of people would not be able to accomplish this even if they were give 100 years to do it.

    Author Matt Summell on March 13 wrote a great article in “Publishers Weekly” called “Why Writing is So Hard”. I agreed with him by sharing a few of these great quotations about the writing life.

    “Nobody ever committed suicide while reading a good book, but many have while trying to write one.”
    — Robert Byrne

    ‘Writers may be disreputable, incorrigible, early to decay or late to bloom, but they dare to go it alone.”
    — John Updike

    “There is probably no hell for authors in the next world — they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this.”
    — C. N. Bovee

    “Only amateurs say that they write for their own amusement. Writing is not an amusing occupation. It is a combination of ditch-digging, mountain-climbing, treadmill and childbirth. Writing may be interesting, absorbing, exhilarating, racking, relieving. But amusing? Never!”
    — Edna Ferber

    “There are three rules of writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
    — W. Somerset Maugham

    “Writing is the hardest way to earn a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators.”
    — Olin Miller

    “I have heard a thousand masterpieces talked out over bars, restaurant tables, and loveseats. I have never seen one of them in print. Books must be written, not talked.”
    — Morris L. West

    “Writing books is certainly a most unpleasant occupation. It is lonesome, unsanitary, and maddening. Many authors go crazy.”
    — H. L. Mencken

    “Even the most careful and expensive marketing plans cannot sell people a book they don’t want to read.”
    — Michael Korda

    “Books work as an art form (and an economic one) because they are primarily the work of an individual.”
    — Seth Godin

    “The writer is either a practising recluse or a delinquent, guilt-ridden one; or both. Usually both.”
    — Susan Sontag

    “There are three difficulties in authorship: to write anything worth publishing, to find honest men to publish it, and to get sensible men to read it.”
    — C. C. Colton

    In short, I have to keep reminding people that if it was so easy to create a bestselling book, everyone would be doing it, including the laziest of people. Other times I just say, “No doubt anyone can write a bestselling book. It’s as easy as flapping your ears and flying off to Mars for the day.”

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 275,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    Reply
  5. Diane

    Great Post Nina!

    I’m on the same page with you. I just posted on my site: Yes, You Do Have Time.
    Number 4 really hits home, it’s the part that drives me batty. A constant struggle “Can’t edit what you don’t have, just do it.” Write a sentence, repeat pep talk. LOL.

    Really enjoyed the post!

    Reply
  6. Ian Anderson

    Agree totally that writing a blog is great ‘training’ towards being a writer. Imagine any other field where you’d expect to write a ‘bestseller’ right out of the gate with no practice or training.

    I get this alot in my field (DIY home improvement) where people expect to be able to produce professional quality workmanship with no practice (it took me 5 years of apprenticeship just to get started!).

    Was it Einstein or Edison who said success being about “1% inspiration and 99% percent perspiration” or something like that? Jeff Goins also teaches that “we are all writers, we just need to write”, which has worked pretty well for him!

    Thanks for the info about how small a kindle booklet can be ( I had no idea), it’s given me an idea to bundle together some stuff I wrote a while ago :-)

    Reply
    • Nina Amir (@NinaAmir)

      Thanks for the comment, Ian. Yes…writing takes practice. As does every aspect of becoming an author–and there are so many tasks and new technologies all the time. We need to learn and practice, and then rinse and repeat daily. That’s how we get in shape for successful authorship.

      I’m glad I inspired you to produce a Kindle book! Now…just do it!

      Reply
      • Ian Anderson

        :-) You’re right about the many tasks.

        Turns out that writing is only a small(ish) part of it; everything from fonts and cover design (thank God for Joel lol!), figuring out all the different publishing platforms, manipulating images, about ISBNs, book sizes, paperweights/colours, running headers (groan!), widows and the poor orphans (no donation needed), front matter and back matter come to that. And last but not least, know that my life is immeasurably richer now that I know about kerning, (to be found in the deepest recesses of WORD), so I can at last, get rid of that pesky single word on its own line at the end of a paragraph ;-)

        Reply

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