5 Simple Golden Rules for Writers
When you think about writing your book (or story or whatever it is you’re working on) does it initially seem to you like a mountain over which you will never be able to climb?
Do you feel apathetic about the idea of writing it, even before you sit down to begin?
This is not an uncommon feeling. You are certainly not alone. In fact, it’s the second most voiced reason for not getting something written. (What’s the first? Interruptions! But even being interrupted assumes that you have actually started!)
It’s an exciting thing, being on the threshold of writing a book. Everything is shaping up in your mind, and yet is all still in flux, still able to be changed; you can work out one way of plotting something on a particular day, then the next day think of a whole new way of expressing it, and all without any kind of commitment. It’s a great creative thrill, and seems somehow spoiled by the notion of actually having to write it all down. That’s very understandable - but, if you really have an overwhelming desire to write that your special book, it’s also frustrating to watch the days and weeks slip by with nothing down on paper or on screen.
After all, if you know what you’re talking about or have a great concept, success, status, money, popularity, all beckon. But, even as you think about it, another few minutes slip by with nothing done.
What’s the answer?
The very first thing, the very first barrier which probably comes up in your mind when you think about writing your book is ‘It’s going to take a long time…'
Is that true? Doing something well does not necessarily have to take a long time.
It’s the idea that it will take you a long time that immediately makes you feel apathetic about doing it.
Let’s say you want to go on a trip from London to India: it’s something you wanted to do for a while. But then you think about it - India is such a long way. It’s the other side of the world. And all the arrangements you’d need to make... and then there’s all the hassle at the airport these days... and so on and on.
The fact is that you are perhaps only 24 hours away from standing in the airport terminal in New Delhi, if you just mechanically got on with it, made all the arrangements, packed bags, travelled to the airport and took a flight.
What stops you, or slows you down? Your own emotional or mental ‘excess baggage’.
Here’s a fact: You are about three weeks away from having a completed 200 page first draft.
You can write a 200 page book in about three weeks (depending on how much time you put in, obviously, but writing at about eight hours a day, and taking weekends off).
Impossible? The above is an actual trialled test.
How do you do it? Here are the Five Golden Rules of Getting Your Book Actually Written:
1. Start writing. Just put aside a few hours and begin.
2. Don’t look back - don’t stop to edit, don’t 'just look over the last bit you just wrote...' don’t even pause to correct grammar or spelling - just write and write and write.
3. Keep it simple. If you know there’s a better way to say what you’re currently saying, leave it for later - just get the basic idea down and move on.
4. Don’t stop - except for food and rest and for weekends - until you reach 200 pages.
5. When you get to 200 pages, then and only then stop and review what you’ve done.
In the process of reviewing your material, you’ll find all kinds of material to flesh it out, improve upon it, fix up awkwardnesses, and so on. But primarily - and it’s a big point - you will have 200 pages written. That’s a manuscript well and truly in the making. You will look down at it with a glow of satisfaction. That in itself is worth gold - that will be further than you ever got before, and the momentum of it will carry you forward.
You will have written the foundation of your book. The next few hours or days will be quite different from the first few: you will be editing, tinkering, tweaking, improving something which actually exists. Quality becomes important at this stage -but you can’t improve the quality of something unless it actually exists first! You will be literally glowing with the sense of having achieved a long-term ambition.
So now, what initially seemed to you like a mountain over which you would never be able to climb now looks like a valley spread out before you with all its possibilities. Your original feeling of apathy will have been replaced by a self-confidence. Before you know it, you’ll be planning your next one!