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Since I announced (to the world and his Uncle) that I’m going to write my first two books by the time I hit 40 in ten months time, I’ve had some interesting responses.  Quite a few have been of the “you’re clearly quite mad” variety – and I’m not going to argue with that – but most have been along the lines of “Hey, I’d like to write a book too but I don’t know where to begin”.

I can’t claim to be an expert on the subject yet, since I’ve only just started myself, but I thought it might be helpful to share some ideas about what helped me get going.  In a word: planning.

So here’s my succinct guide to How To Plan Your First Book:

  • Step One – Have something to write about
  • Step Two – Define your writing goal(s)
  • Step Three – Make a writing plan

1) Have Something To Write About

This probably sounds ridiculously obvious, but it’s important.  I’ve known that I wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember, but it’s only fairly recently that I realised what the first two books inside me actually were.  I found them by beginning to write – for this and other blogs – and by just following my nose in terms of my interests.  When I got to the point where I realised I had something to say that might be of help to other people (i.e. an audience!) I realised I had the beginnings of a couple of books.  In a later post, I’ll cover how to create and organise content for your book – but for now, we’re going to look at the process of getting that book written.

2) Define Your Writing Goal(s)

It’s fine to think “I want to be a writer” or “I want to write a book one day”, if it helps you actually start the process of writing.  But if you want to get to the point of having a finished publication to hold in your hands, you have to create some kind of concrete goal.  My current goal is to write and indie-publish two books by the time I’m 40 years old.  It’s fine to start small, though.  My first writing/publishing goal was to create a free e-booklet for my coaching blog back in 2009, which I did (it was rather dramatically called “How To Find Your Purpose In Life”).  Since then, I’ve created two more e-booklets which you can get by signing up for my newsletter.  Having done that, I knew I could create something bigger.  However, I also knew that I needed to chart at course to the final result…

3) Make A Writing Plan

PlanPic

This is possibly the hardest, but the most important, of the three steps.  Without a viable plan taking you from idea to publication, you run the risk of keeping your book locked away inside you forever.  In the picture above, you can see the plan I created which is going to help me reach my goal of having two books by June 2013.  You can also download a pdf copy of it here, so you can read it in more detail (forgive the short-hand, not all of which will make sense).  I actually made a three-year plan, which technically includes the goal of writing six – yes, six – books.  Four non-fiction, one collection of stories and poems, and one novel.

How to plan your first book…

  • Firstly, write down your goal or goals as clearly as you can: “I will write and publish my book/novel/poems/play by (insert date)”.  Make it realistic – there’s no point saying you’ll write and publish a book in two weeks if you know you can’t.  Make the goal realistic, but challenging enough that you’ll feel suitably driven.
  • Next, brainstorm all the different stages and actions you know you’re going to have to include in the process. For example, you might write down “complete first draft”; “write second draft”; “get feedback from friends and beta-readers on first draft”; “send second draft to professional editor”; “create author platform online using a blog and Facebook”.
  • Then, brainstorm all the things you need to find out more about.  For example, “investigate self-publishing options: e-book or print-on-demand?”; “find out cost of professional editing services”; “Google for information on building an author platform”.
  • After that, arrange all the different actions and questions in a logical sequence from now until your goal date.  It might be easiest for you to plan backwards, especially if you’re not sure what order to do things in.  Start with your end goal and ask yourself: “can I do this now”?  If the answer’s no, ask “what do I need to do first”?  For example, you might get to the action “upload to Kindle” (if you’re e-publishing) and then realise you can’t do that because you don’t know if your manuscript will be in the correct format. So, “what do I need to do first?” leads you to learn about formatting my book for Kindle, and you can add that into your plan.
  • Then, give yourself some targets and milestones.  In the plan above, you’ll see that I’ve added in weekly word-count targets, and I’ve also committed myself to a certain level of social media activity each day.
  • Finally, create some accountability for yourself.  Buddy up with a friend, hire a coach, or do what I did – write a blog post about it, and plaster it all over Twitter.  When you know that lots of people are watching, believe me – you’ll realise that you really do have to get started…

I’ll say more about the actual process of writing a book in a later post, and also something about how to build an author platform (which you should be doing before you start writing your book).  In the meantime, I hope these tips on how to plan your first book have been useful – let me know how you get on with yours!

Images by the author and FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

My book 'HOW TO FIND YOUR VITAL VOCATION: A Practical Guide To Discovering Your Career Purpose And Getting A Job You Love' is now available worldwide. Purchase through Amazon.
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Alison Strachan (@Writingmytruth) August 26, 2012 at 5:23 am

Hi Brian, I love this post and I love your schedule/timetable. I am a big fan of documenting goals so that you have something to keep you accountable but until recently I didn’t think having an end date set for the first draft of my novel was that important. I realise now that unless I have that in mind, my writing time gets eaten up with writing other things (sidelining stories etc) instead of working on the novel I want to finish. I love the amount of detail you have included in that timetable too – more than just word count – you’ve included editing and blogging time as well. Great work! Very inspiring. Here is the posts I’ve included on my site about timetabling/setting goals.
http://writingmytruth.com/learning-how-to-learn-about-writing/ & http://writingmytruth.com/finding-the-time-to-write/
Alison

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Brian Cormack Carr August 26, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Thanks Alison! I’ve definitely found the plan helpful in keeping myself accountable and making sure I’m on track (and also as a motivator for when I’m slipping behind!)

It’s important to get the balance right between writing and all the other stuff…I agree with what you say in that first article regarding social media activity potentially eating up writing time. It’s very easy to get distracted into the platform-building stuff rather than writing, although of course, building a platform is important if we want anyone to read what we write. I’ve found that factoring all that into my writing schedule has really helped me stay focused. I’m not saying I follow my own plan to the letter – I’m not always that disciplined! – but it definitely helps and makes the whole process seem that much more manageable. :)

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