Three Simple Steps to Getting Started on your First Book

I learned a lot from publishing my first book.
I learned that you can’t do too much editing. Two versions of the same paragraph on page 132 taught me that. (Fixed now of course)
I learned that writing it is only half the battle. Marketing is tough. There are 800,000 Kindle books, how will anyone find mine?
I learned patience and humility and perseverance. I also learned about planning a book.
If you have a book you want to write, here are some suggestions that will help you keep everything in order.
1. Decide a structure
Writing a book is not always a linear process. The first page is not always written first. Some authors start with the end and work towards it.
Early in the book writing process you too will need to decide whether you are going to start at the beginning and stay true to a time line, or whether you will be more creative. Many of the best books include flashbacks or glimpses into the future.
These can be very effective to create curiosity in the reader or as a change of pace, but they need careful handling so the reader knows exactly where they are and does not get confused.
A non-fiction book like mine is just as tricky. It doesn’t necessarily have an obvious start and finish. I started with a lot of stories and worked around them.
At first, I assumed my book would be in chronological order. Then I realised that the reader might find that confusing. I would be jumping backwards and forwards from one topic to another. I decided to set it up by topic. This would allow readers choose which chapters they wanted to read first, and keep most of the tips and information together for easy reference.
This also worked for me because some house sits were just not as newsworthy as others. The house sit with the slobbery dog only made a few paragraphs, but the run down flat with dodgy appliances, pop out window, and a disappearing student, was much more memorable.
2. Set up an Easy System
I had a folder full of writing and needed to make it into a readable book. Whether you are starting from the beginning or already have a lot of the writing done, here is an easy way to keep everything in order.
  1. Set up a folder in your computer for your book files. I have a folder in my Documents file called ‘My Writing’ and inside that there is a folder for each book as well as files for articles, blog posts, and another called ‘writing tips’.
  2. Set up a Word document with the list of the chapters that you want to include.
  3. Set up other Word documents in the same file; one for each chapter. If you already have some writing done, put all the relevant files in the same folder.
You can now write in whichever chapter you feel like. Any stray stories or information you want to include can have their own Word file or be kept together on one extra page. Because you have the chapters in separate files you can work on any chapter you like and later move them around as you please.  
When you are almost finished each chapter, you can then copy it to one main Word document in the order you want it to go, and start working on continuity.
If you know how to set up a table of contents, give each new chapter you add a heading and format it as Heading 1. Give topics or stories you might move, their own heading and format them as Heading 2.
Keep updating the table of contents so you can see the order at a glance. It doesn’t matter if some of these headings are not going to be chapters in the final book. You can combine them into something more logical later. Having a table of contents makes it so much easier to find stories and topics and move them around.
You can print off the table of contents every now and again and play with the order. It is a good way to decide whether the order makes sense and whether a story might fit better somewhere else.
3. Keep Your Outtakes.
I found myself with a lot of extra written information that didn’t quite fit my book, but I didn’t want to toss it either. An easy way to keep these together is to use OneNote if you have it.
Open up a new OneNote file and save each piece of writing you remove onto a new page with a suitable heading. When you are done, the tabs on the side of the OneNote folder will be labelled with the headings and remind you where everything is. You can choose which ones you can revisit and maybe copy them back in later if you wish.
Setting up s system like this can help you keep everything in order. It can also make it seem less intimidating, by breaking it down into more manageable chunks.
If you have any ambition to write a book, set up your folders and make a start. Even if the folders are empty it will give you a place to start when you have time. Good luck.

  1. 4 comments:

    1. Liked this blog. And congratulations on an innovative theme.

      I mainly write non-fiction and similar to what you say, I write in sections, knitting together, as required.

      Good luck with House Sitting. ---- to be self-published.

    2. I've just shared this on Twitter -
      The hardest step is often that simple act of starting so helping people get over that awful first step should mean after reading your advise more will be on their way to fulfilling their dream ;)

    3. Thanks Christine and Linda. I appreciate your comments and the twitter share.
      I will continute to add more info about book writing and publishing. I have learned so much in the last few months and it will help me to remember it. I plan to write and publish more books this year. Good luck with your projects.
      (Christine I look forward to your book. You have such amazing photos and on your site.)

    4. My second year house sitting has been just as much fun.

      House Sitters


    Comments welcome. I would love to hear from you.and I read everything..