Write and publish your book in a year – Step 3: Draft

Visit this blog's 'Write a book' category page for previous posts in this series.

You're two months into this non-fiction book-writing project and if you've been keeping up*, you should now have in front of you a reasonable outline of your book. Will that be the final outline? It might be, but it might not. At this point, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you have some form of skeleton on which you can now start adding some meat.

By now you may have noticed a bit of a theme running through these 'Write a book' posts. For both collecting and outlining I was keen to emphasise the need for a Nike approach: 'Just do it'.

That same approach applies to drafting.

Writing a non-fiction book is not a process of, well, writing a book. It's a process of throwing a whole lot of ingredients together – the raw materials, the outline, the first draft – and then, and only then, gradually refining all of that until what you're left with is your final manuscript.

Perhaps the sculpting analogy is apt here. A sculptor doesn't go from nothing to finished piece in one step. He starts with a block of marble of roughly the size he is looking for. Then he roughs out his design, cleaving off large chunks until the final form starts to take shape (though at this stage only he can recognise it). He then gradually makes smaller and smaller refinements until the work is finally done.

This is the way you should approach your book.

So with that in mind, it's time to start drafting. Your aim is simple: to complete a full draft of your book, no matter how rough. The best way to do this is to start writing. Here are three important things to bear in mind as your fingers hover over the keyboard.

Write in bite-sized pieces

Your book will seem a whole lot more manageable if you look on it as a collection of many pieces rather than one big block. This is where your outline becomes important. When you sit down to write, pick out one topic on your outline and write about that. Most people will start with the first piece, but it doesn't need to be. If you find yourself blocked by that first topic, choose one that is easier to write about and start there.

Write whenever you can

One of the most powerful lessons I learnt in my early days of book writing was to never wait for the 'right time'. Because a book is a large project, many first-time authors think they need a big chunk of free time in which to write. When that big chunk never turns up – and let's face it, it never will for most of us – their project slowly withers and dies.

A much better idea is to get into the habit of writing wherever and whenever you can, and for whatever time you've got. It might be a couple of hours, just an hour or even 15 minutes. Again, use your outline and get down whatever you can in the time available. Even a few bullet points are better than nothing.

Don't review, don't self-critique: keep moving forward

Another common weakness in many writers is the never-ending review. It looks like this. The writer sits down at their computer and immediately starts to re-read what they've already written. They start editing that writing as they read. And before they know it, their time has run out and no new words have found their way to the page.

Don't do this. Every time you sit down to continue writing your draft, your attention should be focused on adding new material, not reviewing old material. There'll be plenty of time for that once your first draft is finished.

(And while we're on this topic, don't show your work to anyone else at this stage, unless of course you have a co-writer or ghostwriter. A draft is far too naked to be revealed to others at this stage.)

In my next post I'll review some different software you can use for writing on your computer, but don't let that stop you in the meantime. Just get writing!

*It doesn't really matter if you're not keeping to this timeline, as long as you keep moving. Whether your book takes one year or three, the important thing is that you get it out.

As usual, if you have any questions or comments, please contact me directly, via our Facebook page or in the comments below.

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