When I started writing my first book, I made the same mistake that many new authors make: I opened a page in Word and started writing. Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but I didn't do much more than put together a rough contents page first. Then I started writing…What did I get? I got a book that was a big old muddle!
Looking back, I wonder how on earth I expected to write a book like that. Apart from having years of experience as an editor, I also have an academic background. I never would have sat down to write an essay or thesis with a rough contents page and a blank document on my computer.
So why did I do it when I started my book?
The answer is quite simple: I didn't think about what I was doing and I had no idea about how to go about planning a book, so I didn't. I believe there was another reason at play, too, though.
The real reason I didn't plan my book was because if I did that, I would be admitting that I was going to take this book-writing thing seriously and actually do it. Of course, this set my fears on high alert – there was change afoot, time to panic!
Since then, I have started to write a new book. This time, I planned it in detail, even though it is only going to be less about 10,000 words in length. Unsurprisingly, since doing this, I have found the book far easier to write. I have also found it easier to keep returning to when other work gets in the way. This time, I feel confident that I will finish and publish this book – and with far more ease than my first book.
Perhaps experience has played a part, but I believe the real difference has been the plan that I created before I even started writing. This is why I am now such a fan of planning a book before starting to write it. I advocate it to anyone who will listen.
There is, however, a problem with this: it seems nobody is interested. Why is this? Well, planning, I have been told, is a boring thing to do and nobody wants to do it. The romantic idea of writing a book abounds – it seems we all want to dive in and get started right away with our blank screens and rough contents pages. But when we do, we end up with a confused mass of writing which, however many times we return to it never gets any clearer. It is only at that point that planning can suddenly seem attractive.
As it happens, I don't believe that planning is boring at all. In fact, it is the opposite. It is the perfect opportunity to indulge in pure creativity because a plan captures all those initial and very exciting ideas and organises and shapes them so that they become usable. Of course, the process of planning involves making decisions and doing research, and yes that can be laborious at times. But when you actually start planning, your mind gets working and your creative juices start running.
For me, the joy of planning a book is the space it creates for writing it. When you get the kind of clarity, vision and purpose that a good plan delivers to you, writing becomes a joy. Perhaps it does not become trouble-free but it definitely feels easier and is far more enjoyable. Whether you love to write or whether you struggle to write, having a well-structured, well thought-through plan from the beginning will enhance your experience of the task of producing a book. And it will radically increase your chances of finishing it, too.
So plan. It really isn't boring – at least not as boring as reworking a book that is a big old muddle!
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