One excellent method of establishing yourself as an expert or leader in your field is to write a book. In addition to the marketing advantage a book provides, the process of writing a book can be a great way of clarifying thoughts, focusing on industry ideas and exploring content related to your field. All at a depth not typically undertaken on a daily basis. The writing process itself connects concepts in deep and meaningful ways. Recognizing these connections makes you more thoughtful and insightful about your own field. For a variety of reasons, everyone serious about their career should write a least one professional book.
But writing a book can seem like a daunting task to overcome. Fortunately, there are ways to make the writing process easier. I've written or co-written seven books and six scripts for Lynda.com courses, so I have experience writing. In fact, one of my books, “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction” has sold over 10,000 copies which is pretty good for a non-fiction trade publication (not retirement money but solid sales).
Here are some of my writing techniques and my writing process. I suggest you take my processes and adapt them to develop for your own book writing techniques. In other words, this is my creative process, your process will be different.
Outlines are Your Friend
Create a detailed outline and then fill-in the outline. Often I have such a detailed outline that I know exactly what I need to write next. Sometimes I get bored with the writing (usually when I am tired) but I always know the topic I need to write about. I look over the outline before I go to bed because I want my sub-conscious to work while I sleep. Sometimes in the early morning my alarm will go off and I’ll write a chapter in my head while still in my warm, cozy bed. Then I get up and write the chapter quickly on my computer–those are good writing days.
Write and Assemble
Think of yourself as a writer AND an assembler. Naturally, you’ll write a lot for the book but you’ll also have to assemble references, assemble images, assemble chapters and assemble permissions. I typically do the writing in the morning when I’m freshest and then assemble and organize in the evening or afternoon when I don’t need to be as creative. I call the morning work “wet work” because my brain really needs to be juiced up to be writing and then the afternoon/evening “dry work” because to me, assembly and organization are boring. But assembly must be done. Take the time to develop an assembly process and, if you need permissions, start early. They always take longer than you think.
Overcoming Writer's Block
Try this trick if you get writer’s block. Write the following on the blank screen…”I have nothing to write, today I am supposed to write about my topic but I can’t seem to do that even though I know I should be listing the top three things that…” I find that after writing about not being able to write, I eventually start writing. Then, I just delete all junk that got me to the point I wanted to make. This forced writing eventually gets me into a flow and rhythm and is cathartic in terms of my writer's block.
Write in sprints. I always say to myself, I am going to write for 30 minutes and then take a break, go for a walk, get a snack or even go to the bathroom. The sprints keep me focused and then I get a break (I’ve also done that with word count and sometimes I switch it up with page count).
Write to Discover
Writing is the process of discovery. Your ideas don't need to be fully formed before you write (an outline is good but you may not know exactly what you want to write under each item). As you write, it will clarify your ideas. Don’t wait for the perfect word or phrase, just write and it will morph into something that you like. Don’t wait for perfection before you write, just write. I never really understood instructional strategies until I started writing about them in one of my early books. Now I really understand then. Writing clarifies.
On a Roll, It's OK to Walk Away
The time to walk away from your writing is when you are on a roll. I know, counter-intuitive. However, if you are on a roll, you can walk away and then pick right back up when you return. When the words are flowing, it’s OK to walk away because you will pick back up easily. When the words are not flowing, if you walk away and come back, they still might not be flowing. Force yourself to write something and then you’ll be flying along.
You can write a book. It is simply putting words on paper. Start with one word, then another and soon you'll have the book. Outlines are great places to start. The trick is persistence. Now you know the the tips I use in my creative process, adapt them and create your own process. Good luck, have fun, and see you in print.