Yesterday I linked a series of posts by Ed Cyzewski. Today’s guest post was written by Ed. I didn’t plan it that way, it just sort of worked out. For those of you unfamiliar with him, Ed Cyzewski is a freelance writer in Connecticut of all places. He is the author of Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life, and he blogs on Christian living and theology at www.inamirrordimly.com and on writing at www.edcyz.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @edcyzewski.
He’s also written a book about writing and publishing, and he’s been kind enough to share some of his insights on my blog today. Here’s Ed:
How to Write a Book This Year
After the streamers are cleaned up and you’ve discovered that flat champagne doesn’t do much for orange juice in the morning, you’ll have a new year on your hands come January first along with that nagging thought at the back of your mind: Is this the year to write that book?
Perhaps you’ve been toying with it for years. Maybe you have it outlined but haven’t dared to start writing. And then again, it may be your dark secret.
I may be biased because I write for a living, but I think that now is the perfect time to start writing that book. In fact, why not make it your resolution for the new year? Whether you self-publish, target a small press, or take the plunge by submitting your book to an agent, here are some tips on tackling that book project in 2011 and persevering to the end.
Manage Your Expectations
Don’t expect a New York Times bestseller to tap its way onto your keyboard the first time you sit down to write. Writing is a process that requires a series of drafts. Just focus on defining your book’s main idea/story line, creating a simple outline, and then starting with what you can.
You may imagine scowling literary agents or have visions of huge advance checks dancing into your bank account. Neither is typical for the majority of writers. Just make sure you love what you’re writing and remain open to whatever good things come as your book develops.
Set Realistic Goals
Every writing project requires small, manageable goals, and this is especially true for a book. Whether you’re writing a 50,000 word nonfiction book or a 100,000 word novel, plan to write for set periods of time with specific word count goals.
If you have a day job, aim for 500-1,000 words during weekdays, and then set a more ambitious goal for one of the days during the weekend, such as 3,000 to 5,000 words. Without setting too furious a pace, you’ll be able to pound out a complete first draft in a few months or at least by the time December 2011 rolls around.
Create New Routines
The key to sustaining a high creative output is determining when and where you write the best. If you can’t find a quiet corner at your home, seek out a library where you can focus.
In my own case, I need to leave the house early in the morning and stake out a spot in a cafe where I can sit among other creative types. The noise of the crowd serves as a welcome backdrop.
Though there are a few exceptions, most writers work best in the morning or evening, but rarely in the afternoon. Unless you’re one of the exceptions, avoid this creative black hole at all costs.
While writing is generally a lonely pursuit where you and you alone are responsible for shaping your story, there is nothing more motivating than a writing group. When you need to share with others, you’ll be far more likely to persevere through dry spells, even if each sentence isn’t coming out perfect.
However, there is another option, especially for nonfiction authors: blogging on a regular basis. Most books pass through a number of revisions, if not major overhauls before they are published. A blog is a great place where you can develop your voice, learn to write for a specific audience, test ideas, and find the accountability you need to write daily.
The second and third drafts are where you can make your book shine. After finishing your first draft, take a week or two off from working on that particular book. I suggest picking up the latest issue of Writer’s Digest or a book on how to improve your craft such as Writing Fiction by Gary Disher or On Writing Well by William Zinsser.
When you do sit down to revise your book, ask hard questions about your main ideas, storyline, and characters. Make sure your scenes or main ideas build upon each other so that each new chapter fits with the one preceding it.
Improve your word choice, especially your verbs, and analyze the ways you both begin and end chapters. This is the time to make sure your book doesn’t have any holes that could throw off your readers.
Whether you’ve completed a first draft, received your first rejection letter from an agent, or inked a book deal, take the time to savor each accomplishment along the way. Writing a book is demanding, but there are few better feelings than typing the last word of a long, long journey.
I could share a lot more about writing a book, and in fact, I did just that. You can read more about publishing in my book: A Path to Publishing: What I Learned by Publishing a Nonfiction Book.
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