I just finished writing a 400-page astrology book in eleven weeks. I did it without collaborators or ghost writers, and while I managed to recycle a limited amount of material from my archives, it didn’t amount to much. Still, I met my terrifyingly tight deadline on time, sanity more or less intact. Here’s how to replicate my feat.
- If it’s a shorter book, you won’t even need 11 weeks. I turned in half my manuscript, nearly 200 pages, within five weeks of starting.
- CAVEAT: This should be a beginning level book, or a book on a topic you know inside and out, doesn’t need a lot of research, or that can be cobbled together from material you’ve already got on hand.
- You’ll need an understanding partner/spouse/family/cat. The creatures who share your home need to be on board with this, willing to pick up the domestic slack, tolerate your whining and temper tantrums, and able to go three months without spending any quality recreational time with you. If necessary, bribe them.
- Clear your schedule. No regular work. This also means no income, so you’ll need some savings, or an advance from a publisher. And actually, having the guarantee of an advance from a publisher is not the same as having a check in hand. It could take awhile to get that check; so, savings on hand (or a second income in the family) are essential.
- Clearing your schedule includes limiting time spent on email, social networking, and websurfing. Set a limit and stick to it. For me, this meant occasionally working in places with no internet access, like my awesome neighbor’s kick-ass back porch.
- Start with a fantastic, detailed outline. A piece of writing is like a human being: it needs a sturdy skeleton. Bone structure is everything.
- Organize your stuff. I started with a box full of file folders, one for each chapter. As I wrote, I printed out the pages and stuck them in the appropriate folder. If ideas for other chapters occurred to me, I jotted them down and tossed them in that file folder. When I started getting a lot of stuff in the folders, I transferred the pages over to a big binder with index tabs. That made it easier to flip back and forth between chapters and write notes.
- I also set up a little meter on my blog to help me track my daily word count. That helped enormously, because I’m super goal-driven and lived to watch that word count rise.
- Write. And write. And write. I worked on the book for about seven or eight hours a day, five or six days a week. If you run out of words after five hours, spend the rest of your time editing what you’ve already written.
- Writing is much more physical work than we tend to realize, so take care of yourself. Get sleep, and exercise. Writing is hard on the shoulders; get someone to massage them for you. Screw your diet; if you need food to keep you going, don’t be shy about snacking. This is a marathon, and you need your calories.
- This is the most important part, and the hardest: To meet a deadline as aggressive as this, you can’t afford to be a perfectionist. I’m someone who can spend three or four hours getting a 1,000 word essay just the way I want it. I didn’t have that luxury with this book. I had to write several thousand words a day, which didn’t leave much time for editing. Some of this book doesn’t reflect my best writing, and that makes me sad, but I’ll have to live with it. Or, hopefully, fix it during editing.
The bottom line: It’s not easy to write any kind of book, let alone in 11 weeks. But I found, to my shock and surprise, that it can indeed be done!
Have you written a book? Any other tips to share?