Is this your first book?

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Recently a friend of mine told me she was thinking about writing a book. She asked me what she needed to know. This post is an expanded version of my e-mail response.

Before we get to the details, though, let me set the stage. My friend is an excellent writer. She’s written articles, blog posts, and white papers. She won’t have any problem with the writing part. But there are other things she should watch out for.

Why writing a book is different

Her book will be much longer than anything she’s ever written. It will have a lot of moving parts.

A book is a giant system. That means that if she makes a change in one part of the book, she may need to make changes in other parts, too.

It’s possible that her thinking will change as she works on the book. That happens a lot. If it does, the entire manuscript must be either revised or rewritten.

Writing a book takes a long time

Yes, it’s true there are some people who can write a book in a month. I know one author who wrote his book over a weekend. But those people aren’t the norm. If my friend wants to write a great book, it’s probably going to take are a year or more of steady work. That can add a lot of stress to my friend’s life.

What you need

To get the writing done, my friend will need uninterrupted blocks of time that are long enough to make significant progress on the book. That usually means a productive writing session will last an hour or more.

My friend will need to find a place where she can work without interruptions. She should develop an effective writing ritual to make her sessions more productive. She will also need to find a way to track changes and the key themes of her book.

If she’s going to do excellent work on her book, my friend will need frequent writing sessions over a year or more. It leads to the big challenge.

Making time to write is the big challenge

It won’t be easy to carve out time to write. My friend has a successful career, a family, and church and community activities that already fill her calendar. While she’s writing, she still must spend time on her relationships and her own self-care.

Some things to expect

There are some things my friend can expect. There will be tension with important people in her life. She may have to cut back on regular work to maintain her relationships and her sanity.

I know my friend will plan well and work hard, but there will still be surprises. Crises are inevitable. She should leave lots of slack in her plan to deal with things that come up.

She should remember one thing. The book is not the most important thing in her life.

Takeaways

A book is a complex system with many moving parts.

Plan for a year of writing and revising.

Carving out time to write will be a major challenge.

You will stress yourself and your relationships.

There will be crises that throw you off schedule

The book is not the most important thing in your life.

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