On the topics of writing and publishing a book, I am often asked the question: “How do I get started?”
Students tell me they have been writing for many years. They have notebooks filled with insights and stories in prose, poetry and more. Some have documents located in a file on their computer, just begging to pulled together into a book.
In this post, I’m going to address the most important part of getting started in ANY project you have in mind. Writing and publishing are no exception to the laws of physics! And one of those laws is Newton’s Law of Inertia.
To express it simply, the first of Newton’s laws, the law of “inertia” states that unless acted on by an external force, objects at rest tend to stay at rest; objects in motion tend to stay in motion. So here are the first three steps to getting started that I use:
- MOVE! Yes, get up and move to a place where you can work productively. Go there on a regular basis (stay in motion)- you decide – once a day, twice a week, whatever.
- ORGANIZE! Next, organize your stuff. In writing and publishing, that “stuff” includes: all of your writing (in whatever format), images and photos you may want to include in your book, references, links, sources, research, cover designs, etc. Get EVERYTHING you have and put it where you can reach it quickly. The harder it is to find things, the more you will be tempted to procrastinate.
- DECIDE! A project as huge as writing and publishing a book is fraught with difficult decisions:
- Write it yourself or hire a ghostwriter?
- Edit it yourself or hire an editor?
- Illustrate it yourself or hire an illustrator?
- Get an agent or self-publish?
- Pay a company to publish your work or self-publish for free?
- If I want to self-publish for free, which online service do I use?
- Do I use a free ISBN or buy one?
- What size should my finished book be?
- How will I format the text properly to fit the published size?
- Should I print it in full color or black and white?
- How should I make my book available for sale and at what price?
- Do I need a website to market my book?
Make as many of these decisions ahead of time as possible. You can always change your mind later, but if you fail to make a critical decision, you could turn into an “object at rest.” And unless you have someone at home who can be that external “force” who gets you to move with a push or a prod, procrastination can take over and you may find yourself missing planned dates and unable to move forward. So keep moving!
ORGANIZE – Where to start
I suggest you create a FOLDER on your computer called “BOOKS,” assuming that you may write and publish more than one book. In that folder, create a SUBFOLDER named for the first book you will write and publish:
Suggested File structure:
Subfolder: Story of my Life – Most recent manuscript
- —Project Plan: timeline of project deadlines and resources needed
- —Content Outline
- —Raw Text
- —Media files (if you are ghostwriting or including audio interviews that will be transcribed)
- —Cover designs
Next, pull all your writing into ONE text file. If you have a Windows PC, use Microsoft Word or Publisher. Don’t worry about the organization for now. You can cut and paste later. Just get it all in one file and place it in the main subfolder. Don’t worry about formatting yet. If you have anything hand-written, of course you must use your computer to type it and convert it to an electronic file, or hire a typist.
Next, create a CONTENT OUTLINE, which could evolve into the Table of Contents of your book.
Get all this done and I’ll address the next steps in another post.
More steps will include: brainstorm a title, plan cover design (front and back), download a format template, and more.
Got questions? Please ask me in the Comments section. Thanks much!
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