I just finished writing a book: 101 iPhone Tips and Tricks. I didn’t follow Ken McArthur’s system, so it took me considerably more than 12 hours to write. Nonetheless, I discovered these tips along the way that helped me with writing the book, and most importantly finishing it.
1. Select a topic you’re passionate about
Writing a book is hard work and you’re going to spend a lot of time writing. So you’d better make it as enjoyable as you can by selecting a topic that you like. Sure you can write something just for the money – ghostwriters do it all the time. But your passion, or lack thereof, will show through in your writing.
Thinking about the money you’ll make from the book can be great motivator or an inhibitor when you’re writing. Robert Allen once said that based on his previous books’ performance he knew that he was going to make $20 (don’t recall the exact amount) for every word that he wrote. So to him it was a joy writing every word. Douglas Adams on the other hand knowing how much money he’d earned from the Hitchhiker series agonized over every word he had to write. Because if it was worth so much, people expected every word to be very, very good.
2. Schedule time for writing
Writing a book is a large project and as with any large project it’s easy to put off taking the first step or getting sidetracked during the project. Therefore schedule 2 hours every day for your writing. It’s hard to be productive for longer stretches than 2 hours at a time. If you’re on a tight deadline, schedule multiple 2 hour block during the day with significant breaks in between. But don’t stop just because your timer says your 2 hours are up if you’re in a groove and your writing is just flowing, Conversely, and more importantly, don’t stop before your 2 hours are up because you’re struggling with the words that day. Every writer struggles some/most days, and if you start making excuses for why you don’t feel like writing today, then you will never finish the book.
Find a time during the day when you’re most productive at writing. For me it’s in the morning after I drop off my son at daycare and before I read any email or get engaged in the daily work of running a business. Tim Ferriss prefers 12 – 4 in the mornings. Find what works best for you and stick to it every day. During this time slot you isolate yourself: no phone calls, no emails, no Internet, no interruptions whatsoever.
3. Research first, write later
The Internet is a great tool for doing research, but it’s also an endless well of information. Before you embark on a new chapter in your book do all the necessary research to gather the information you need for that chapter. Set at limit on how much time you’re going to spend on the research. When you’re done, disconnect from the Internet before you start writing.
If you’re constantly switching between writing and looking up things on the Internet you lose your focus and your writing mojo. Should you find that you need some additional information just make a note in your text to get the exact quote from that famous person, or to research a specific topic further. The important thing is to keep moving forward, to keep that text flowing.
4. Write rough, edit later
Don’t struggle to find the exact words that perfectly convey your idea. Write the first words that come to mind. Don’t worry about spelling or perfect grammar, just keep the words coming. When all the writing is done you will go through the text many times to edit, improve, proofread; repeat. That magic word you spent so much time finding and committing to paper may not work in the larger context.
One of my favorite words is automagically. Since it’s not a real word it should be used very sparingly. My editor pointed out that I had used it 13 times in my book. You only get that perspective after all the text is written and you go through it again with an editor’s mindset.
Speaking of my book…
If you have an iPhone you want this book. The iPhone is a wonderful product with a gorgeous user interface, but it’s a first generation product. This book will help you get around some of the rough edges, discover many of the hidden features and make you more productive. It is chock full of tips and tricks; I guarantee that you will learn something new.
Sign up to my notification list on this web page. You can’t miss it – there’s a big hand pointing to it.