When I started spreading the word about both my first and second books, many friends and acquaintances said, “Oh wow – I always wanted to write one.” They said this four years ago about my first and said it again when I was announcing my second parable. I’d ask: “So why don’t you?” And this is what I heard: “Oh, I don’t have time” “I don’t know how to start,” “I don’t have a full story in my mind yet,” “I don’t know how to publish it,” “I don’t have the money to publish it…” and so on and so on… So let me challenge you here for a bit and talk about how you start writing your first book.
1. First of all, “START” is the key word here.
You really don’t have to have a full idea in your mind. All you need to do is to “open your word document" and start typing in whatever comes to your mind. Let it all out, pour your soul onto that piece of paper or electronic document. It does not matter whether this is just one sentence, or two or three. It can be even just a title, or an intro, or your name as an author. Trust me, the title will change 10 times as time passes and your story unfolds further. Once you have that first word or sentence, your creative spirit will know that you are ready for more and will bring you more into your creative pockets. Maybe more will come on your commute, maybe more will come on your lonely walk, maybe more will come as you do your park run. Trust me, more will come to you, so be brave and write that title, that first sentence. Go on, don’t hang around on Instagram – get that piece of paper or open that Word document.
2. The “I don’t have time” challenge.
Sure you do! How much time daily do you spend on social media? On random TV channels? I challenge you to count all that time. I bet it’s a minimum of 15-30 mins a day. This is just enough time for writing your first book in 6-12 months. How much time is that in a year? That is 182.5 hours! That is a full 7 days. No, please don’t book just 7 days to write it all out in one week. That will not work. As I mentioned earlier, your creative spirit needs space, time, lazy moments to recharge. So all will come with time. Put that 30 mins aside every day. My preference would be to do it first thing in the morning. The morning routine was really something that became my very good friend. Get up a bit earlier than usual by 30 minutes, and ideally 45! Why? Because you need to wake up before you start. So, onto the next point.
3. Set a morning routine.
Routine is something that really worked well for me. I’d get up early, exercise for the first 10, 15 or 30mins, depending on how much earlier I got up. This setup gets you to wake up and pump up some endorphins before you put a pen to paper. My further recommendation would be to exercise in fresh air, so open that window, go to a balcony, get out to a backyard if you have one. Yes, even if it’s dark and cold in the morning, it will wake you up well and set you up for your writing and the day as a whole. Then, you get your morning coffee, tea – whatever your preference – and sit down at that desk, which you will have left ready the day before, hopefully. Make that morning beverage in your favourite beautiful cup, or even buy a new celebratory beautiful cup that will remind you that you are writing a book! Your laptop or notebook is already there, on your desk, waiting for you. These little tasks work magic, as your environment is pre-set for success. And then the new morning you sits down refreshed, pumped with endorphins, with a beautiful morning cuppa – what can go wrong? Your baby, your boyfriend, husband, whatever? No! They are still sleeping… and you have that extra 30 minutes for yourself. Sit down. Even if nothing comes to your mind, sit down in front of that notebook or open that Word document. If nothing comes, at least you have your morning beverage ready! You are doing well. You are your best friend, treating yourself with all the love, pouring that lovely drink, and when the magic comes, pouring it all onto actual or electronic paper.
4. Keep track of your tiny progress.
It does not matter how much you write. Every day, write down on the same piece of paper how many words you have written. I kept my word count written every day on a piece of paper: 300 words, 500 words out of my target of 20,000. Actually, my first book word target was 10,000 – a minibook – it turned out to be 20,000, and was then cut by an editor to around 15,000! Those wordcount notes were my proof that I could write. In a way, they were my confidence-builder that I was moving closer to my target and that I kept my discipline level up, always up, always moving forward with those few sentences. A little step every day, or on the majority of the days, or at least twice a week, over a long period of time, whether that is one year or two or five, will bring you finally to your target. So don’t fall into the illusion that in one day, one week you will write it all out. NO. You see what you have done, 100 words, 1000 words, 10,000 words are your daily bricks and proof that you are indeed building that wall – as Will Smith would claim.
5. Don't make it perfect.
No, not at all. Just let it all out. Remember: better done than perfect. You will come back to your story over and over. So first, to start all you need to focus on is to let the writer’s soul be with you and for you. Then, once you have your first draft, you leave it for some time. For a week, or four, or a couple of months. Up to you. Let it be there. Have a rest from writing, let yourself rest, do silly things, enjoy life. And then you go back to it. Now you see all the errors, all the “don’t make
sense” moments and you correct it all over. And then you can do this a couple of times more. Leave it and come back to it. Just don’t repeat this 1000 times, as it will never be perfect. Then you can send it to an editor for a grammar and sense check, if you like, especially if you write in a second language, or just want an editing professional to give you feedback.
6. Don't have money?
Yes. Even self-publishing costs you a bit if you’d like a pro-edit, and it costs you even more if you decide to write a book in your second language. Don’t have money? Ah, we always say this. It does not matter how much we have, it’s never enough. But then you have a spare £10 for a beer, for the cinema, for a new t-shirt… right? Well, set your priorities. A commute in London on a bike instead of taking a train every day saves me around £7 a day which comes to around £800 a year. This is just enough for self-publishing with all the pro-edits if you start with a small wordcount. But it takes a year to save it? Yes, but you need this time for writing anyway. So set your priorities. Find some ways of saving money into your book pot over a year and you will be surprised that actually you can do it. It’s a cliché saying, but “everything starts with small steps” is so true.
7. That's it?
No, that’s not it – you also need to think about the cover, maybe marketing your book etc., but more on this another time, in “How to start writing your book – advanced, part 2.” You first need to get started with the 6 points above, and the rest, such as cover design, what to do next etc. I’ll deal with another time.
So just get started. Believe in yourself. Believe in your creative soul. Follow your passions. Stay happy and carry on. If writing a book is not your kind of thing, maybe you have other hobbies or ideas where you can apply similar principles, tiny steps over a long period of time. Will you ever fall? Oh yes, you will, many times. You will give up many times and feel weak other times, just like my character Lola did in my recent book The Sacred Mountains.
From "The Sacred Mountains":
“The journey will tire you at times, will break you at times, will slow you down, and your wounds will be sore. At these times you will doubt your journey, you will doubt yourself, you will doubt the world, the mountains and most importantly you will doubt your powers. In this moment, you need to ask yourself, who are you? And then you need to remember that exhausted, powerless girl is not who you are. That is a moment in time, that is a wound, that is tiredness, that is the price we all need to pay at some point to the earth for revealing to us the good times. At that moment, you do what you have to do. Lie on the ground if you have to, feel the powers of the earth, rest if you have to, cry if you have to, but remember, this is not who you are. You are the girl who one day saw the mountains, felt the spark of your powers, took the risk to leave the village you did not belong to, run through the dark forest and had the courage to get to the other side of the river. This is who you are. “
P.S. And for those friends of yours who do write or “DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT” please remember about the likes and shares. It’s so important to support those who go the extra mile to pursue their hobbies. Be generous and support them. Buy that first copy, share their posts. Be nice and supportive. That’s what friends are for, right?
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