Writing a Book: Don’t over-plan your book

Apr 14, 2014 | Writing A Book

Dwight Eisenhower had an amazing life. He was the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II. He was President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. In between, he served as President of Columbia University. There’s a story from that time in his life that I love, even though I’ve never been able to verify the truth of it.

Dwight Eisenhower and the Paths

The story goes that workers at Columbia had just put in some lawns and intended to add pathways across those lawns between university buildings. They went to Eisenhower and asked him where they should put the pathways. He told them to wait.

“Don’t do anything for a couple of weeks,” he told the workers. “By then the students will have worn paths into the grass. Pave those paths.”

You can plan too much

Most of us come from a business culture that values planning well and then executing the plan. We learned to write by outlining first and then following the outline.

If you’re working on a book, especially your first one, you may want to try easing off on the planning. Follow the natural path of your book instead.

Just write it

Start by just writing the book. Follow where your brain leads you.

Your brain will lead you on a natural path through your material. You can pave it later.