How to Write Your First Non-Fiction Book: Part Two
In part one of this series we covered the title, chapters, and outlining. This week we're going to talk about the actual writing. If you've taken the time to follow the steps and fill in the branches of part one, then the writing will take care of itself. Trust your outline and write with faith that what you have to say is interesting.
Writing without faith in your ability and knowledge will result in perfectionist's syndrome and writer's block, which will slow you down if not halt your progress altogether. It will also make your writing stilted and hard to read. Although it's okay to do a small amount of editing as you go, don't get bogged down. Keep the writing flowing.
Another trick, which I've found particularly powerful, is to use Parkinson's Law. Parkinson's Law is the tendency for organizations and individuals to expand a task in complexity and importance in relation to the time given for its completion. In other words, if you give yourself an hour to clean your kitchen, then you'll use the whole hour, often with obstacles, interruptions, and difficulties you would never have encountered had you given yourself half the time. It's a well-proven phenomena of human nature.
The law also states that when you limit your time, your focus increases. In practice, you would schedule a block of time to write and then stick with it no matter what. The benefit is twofold: First, don't have to work as long. And second, the work you do will be of higher quality.
As for how long you should schedule your writing blocks, it depends on you. For me, 90 minutes is about right. While I'm writing a book, I'll do 2-3 writing blocks a day and try to get as much done as I can within those blocks.
I also like to limit the number of time blocks I allow myself to complete a book. Limits and deadlines produce soft but healthy pressure on you, better writing, and fewer hours at your computer. My most successful book was written this way in just five weeks, including editing and proofreading.
Blocking out set times each day to write also makes keeping up with your blog a lot easier. Keeping the tasks separated makes them more doable and easier to overcome any resistance to sitting down and getting your work down.
So, to review: Have faith in the chapters and outline you prepared ahead of time, as well as in your ability to write. Whatever you feel inspired to express, pour it out onto the page without judgement. Let it flow and allow your natural wisdom to shine.
Shorten the amount of time you normally write by a third or even a half and stick to it. Schedule writing blocks throughout the day and take mental breaks between them. Limit the number of blocks you'll allow yourself to complete the book. You can also give yourself a deadline date. The urgency this creates improves the product, safeguards against writer's block, and allows you to finish faster - sometimes weeks and months ahead of when you otherwise would have finished.
In part three we'll discuss editing and proofreading, which are underrated skills you must master if you are to write a book that can compete with the large publishing houses.
Until then . . .