Writing a book doesn’t have to be mega-super-crazy-killer impossible. It’s not an unachievable goal, especially if you break the writing process down into easy phases.
Part of my core life vision is to make it easier for people to actualize their writing goals. It is my strong belief that I help make the world a better place when I help people get more in touch with their creativity. Unlimited possibilities await the person who is able to actualize their creative dreams.
So let’s dive in.
Let’s say you want to write a 60,000 word novel. That might seem like a lot, especially considering the average blog post is around 1000 words long. (The other way of looking at that same data is to conclude that, well, it only takes sixty blog posts to build a big ol’ book.) If you just sit down and start writing, beginning at page one, it’s totally possible that you can make it through to the end of your book. Maybe that first draft will hold together. It might be easy.
Most people have a hard time keeping large projects all in mind, though. I include myself in this. When I’m working on one chapter, I am apt to forget what happened seven chapters ago. Sometimes I write the story headed in one direction only to change directions a few pages later.
It helps me to have strategies that keep me in touch with the big picture.
I developed this eight part workflow to help me write. It has proven extremely valuable for me and for the writers I have shared it with
1. The Seed
In the beginning…. is an idea.
The first thing that happens when you get the idea to write a book is you … have the idea to write the book. Something lands. Often it’s the title. You say to yourself: I want to write a book called The Eightfold Writing Process. Or I’m going to write a book of poems called Truer than Stone. It’ll be a goofy book of poems soo very serious and grave they can’t possibly be taken that seriously. Holy smokes. That’s going to be awesome.
And maybe that’s all you have. The notion for the book or project.
For this phase, it’s OK if you don’t know what the book will be about. If you only have a title and there aren’t any poems yet. You have the seed. That’s something to hold onto.
If you’re writing a novel, the seed is often a character, probably the main character. You have met this imaginary person and you want to get to know them better. To do that, you realize you’ll have to write a book with them in it.
A seed might also be a scene. Maybe I have this cool idea about light sabers and I just want an excuse to see them in action, so I write Star Wars (I’m not claiming this is how it happened. The point is that it’s possible to build a story around pretty much anything.)
You should be protective about your seed at this phase. Other people or your inner critic may want to offer advice. That advice, even if well meaning, can often be deflating. “You know, I don’t think making a movie just about light sabers is really the right move. That’s not really enough.”
Well. It’s only the seed. It’s the little bit out of which something tremendous can grow if you nurture it.
The seed is the initial spark that has more to do with you personally than anyone else. It’s not necessarily something you will be able to share — yet.
Be protective and watchful of your seed.
2. Live with the seed
The next step is to live with the seed. The time is still not right to put any pressure on it.
It’s time to look at it and celebrate it for what it is. Ask it questions. See what it wants. Freewrite around the theme, but not necessarily towards any specific direction. You’re just testing out the waters. Being very, very experimental. Not committing to anything. Just getting a sense for things.
As the hours or days or weeks go by, notice what changes or shifts. Are you more or less excited about it? Does more naturally emerge around it? Does it feel like it might lead somewhere else?
Move forward with the next phase when you have lived with the seed long enough to feel that it has begun to take root.
Now is the time to freewrite and explore with wild abandon any and all things that might also be there in the domain of the seed. Now that you have a sense for it, you can see what else might be waiting in the imaginative vicinity for you to uncover. Now would be the time to begin drafting poems for the Truer than Stone book.
Now is a good time also to do the things that feed your inspirational batteries. If you like to research or flip through artwork or read similar material, see what happens when you do that. Maybe you can get a sense for the precise little niche in the marketplace where your project can thrive.
The next phase is to build an outline. If you don’t like outlines, try storyboards. If you don’t like storyboards, then make sketches or explore the overarching dynamics and themes in your book.
However you like to work, do as much as you can now to make things easier in the later stages. Freewrite and draft material and decide what order you want it to have. Explore the ordering of similar projects.
Know your tendencies. Some people have an irrational aversion to outlining. Others get overly obsessive about it.There is always a creative approach that can make outlining fun and fruitful. Click To Tweet
A good way to do an initial outline is to spend very little time on this phase, just jotting down the main things you want it to be about and how one thing might lead to the next.
After you have a general outline, the next phase is actually to go back through and do it again.
The purpose of this is to get a really deep feel for the flow of things at a high elevation view. You can still totally leave a ton of the stuff completely open and unexplored. (Do this especially if it’s important for you to write from the seat of your pants and make discoveries as you draft.)
When you thoroughly have a really nice sense of your story or book’s overarching themes, dynamics, and order, then you can feel confident that it will be a success. You can draft with total abandon.
This one is a big step. Consulting your notes, sketches, and outlines, draft your book in order.
Up until now, the process has been to write whatever you want whenever you want and figure out how things should fit together. Move puzzle pieces around. Now, since you are taking the on-ground approach, living the story as you write it, you’ll want to be sure that you write it in order.
If you write it out of order, things will be harder to feel natural. The senes of pacing and the ordering of information won’t necessarily feel as organic.
When you draft, draft until it’s finished. Don’t go back and make changes. Let it be a mess. Just be sure that you do finish the draft. All the way to the end.
Now is when you invite your inner critic to lend its superpower of editing and fixing things.
Read through your draft and revise. Make all the necessary critical shifts and improvements. Any information or details incorrect or omitted, put them in.
Do the big stuff first and then worry about the minor details. No need proofreading a chapter when you realize you should cut it later because of pacing.
Finally, you revise to polish it. Make the darn thing perty.
And that’s it! A workable workflow that can take you from just having a tiny smidge of an idea all the way through to completion.
Try it and see what works for you. If you prefer a different approach or want to offer your experience, please share it with me.
May the force be with you.