But what if I don’t know all the writing rules?
I always ask people in my workshops: “What keeps you from writing the book you’ve dreamed of writing?”
The number one answer is a variation of: “I don’t know the writing rules.”
Like so many things in life we’re faced with a choice when we have a dream or goal that directly conflicts with a fear or short coming. We must decide which one wins, which one directs our next steps. Meaning, do we give in to the fear or shortcoming and let it take control of our destiny? Or do we decide the dream or goal is more powerful and do whatever we can to feed and water it instead?
I can’t answer these questions for anyone else. All I know for sure is that when I decided fear wasn’t going to beat me, again, regardless of the topic, I did amazing things. That’s not to brag, but to encourage you to step out of the shadows and write the book, because where it leads is wonderful beyond imagination. I’ve seen this lifestyle choice process work out as truth for my Book Writing Business clients, too.
Some of the issues that hold people back are things like: “I don’t know if I should write in past tense or present tense?”
Another issue stems from: “I don’t know the difference between first person, second person, or third person, and when or how to use each one.”
“How much backstory is enough or too much?”
“Am I supposed to use long sentences or short sentences?”
“Why do I need to avoid using adjectives?”
“What does ‘show me, don’t tell me’ really mean?”
“How do I organize my story?”
“Should I try to get an agent and mainstream publisher or self-publish?” This seems like the cliché of “putting the cart in front of the horse.” If you don’t write, you don’t need an agent or publisher.
Instead of focusing only on these questions, which is doing nothing to forward book writing, start with the writing exercises that follow. To overcome the fear or sense of not knowing where to start writing do this instead: Sit down and write.
Writing a few paragraphs to address each of these questions helps practice the creative art of writing in order to become a better writer, which in turn helps build writing confidence, but completing these exercises may provide written material directly related to the book. Remember, I specialize in writing nonfiction, therefore, these assignments are most helpful to writing memoirs, business books such as how-to, and systems and processes to highlight expertise and build/grow a business.
Book writing exercises:
- Why are you uniquely qualified to write this book? This becomes part of the author biography for inside the book. It helps people get to know you as an expert.
- What is this book’s main theme? Sometimes the story is so big in our mind it’s hard to write because we don’t have clear understanding of the main point to address or main problem we want to help people solve.
- What is this book’s main purpose? In other words, why are you writing this book? What do you hope this book will do for you and your business once it’s published?
- If writing fiction, write a page or two about the antagonist and protagonist. For example, physical description (eye color, height, weight, skin color), favorite color, favorite food, family (siblings, parents), where they live (geographic location, house versus apartment or castle), and ideology about the world (politics, economics, prejudices, education). Nonfiction writers can do this too. This is basically an expansion of item number one on this list.
It’s alright to not have all the answers in one day. Today do one of these exercises, whichever one you want. It’s not necessary to start at the top of the list and work your way down. Pick one and write the answer. Then tomorrow write the answer to another, then another, then another in order to develop the good habit of writing something every day. Before you know it, you can hold your finished manuscript in your hand.
Take these exercises and turn writing dreams into writing actions, and then into a finished manuscript. It’s a choice and the choice is all yours.