People say they have writer’s block, but what does that mean? Unless you are treating this as a hobby…book writing is a profession! You wouldn’t hire a plumber to fix your drain and when he gets there, he told you ” I have plumbers block”. If he did you would probably throw him out. You should look at your book writing the same way and don’t let anyone (even Satan’s tricks) get you off track.
I’m not comparing writing to plumbing, but if we follow the proper steps we can get the job done and much faster. Just like Drano melts away and unclogs the drain following certain steps when writing can start the words flowing like water from a faucet.
But what are these “steps”?
Unlike other professions authors operate under a whole different set of rules. Not many of us can just sit down and pound out a story. We see this huge story with all sorts of directions we want to take it, we see the cover, we see the characters, we see the market potential. Then we glance back down at our monitor and see a tormenting blinking cursor and blank screen. We have all these stories and nothing on paper. This is not bringing you closer to your goals.
When writing your book, you take one step at a time. But to create these steps, you first have to break down your book into manageable, bite-size pieces. You do this by creating a TOC (table of contents) that can guide you through the book. Your TOC is your roadmap. If your chapters don’t have individual headings, then write a 2-3 sentence description of what the chapter encompasses Once the TOC is outlined, you’ll have a vision of your book from start to finish.
A few things that creating this TOC will do for you: (1) It will show you any gaps in your story that might need to be fleshed out, and (2) it will give you a sense of completion, of seeing the book or project actually done.
Once you’ve developed your TOC, you’ll want to go through it and create a “to do” list. Regardless of what genre your book is, you will always have a to-do list. Whether it’s getting endorsements, doing research, or getting approvals for quotes or excerpts for your book, this to-do list will become yet another item that will help propel your book toward completion. I have a separate book for my to do list in which I also take notes on the book that I am writing about as I talk to others or do research.
I would also grab your favorite beverage, close the door and put a do not disturb sign out. I would try to free my mind and set aside x number of hours each day if not every other day but not any longer to get my book completed. When I set aside schedule time to do something on the book, even research, I find that it will be completed faster. You don’t have to spend hours, take 15 minutes, or even five — whatever your schedule permits and do something.
If this seems like a ridiculously short amount of time, consider this: You now have your to-do list and your outlined TOC. If you are short on time one day, pick a quickie item from your to-do list and get it done. If you have more time, then pound out a chapter or two. The idea behind creating the to-do lists and a TOC is to not only give your project a structure, but to also eliminate any and all excuses for getting it done. Don’t feel like writing today? No problem. There’s probably a mountain of research just waiting to be gathered.
If your book is all over the place and you do actually manage to get it done, you’ll never be able to keep a reader interested because you will be the only one who will get it, and what’s the point of that? What you’ll need to do in this case is find the “core” of your book or the focus of your story. Ask yourself this: What’s the one thing this book cannot do without? What’s the one thing this story circles around? That’s your core. If you’re still coming up with three or four things that your story circles around, you aren’t focused enough and neither is your book. Find that one thing and build your story or book around it.
If you follow these steps, your book will get finished quicker than you could have ever imagined.
Ann M. Hampton, P.S. D.D.