5 Awesome Writing Tips for Writing Your First Book

Five Tips for WRiting Your first bookThe idea of writing your first book can be seriously intimidating. Maybe even intimidating enough to make you stop before you start. In my experience, a lot of that overwhelm comes from focusing on too much at once–especially for the first draft of your first novel. The reality is, there’s A LOT you shouldn’t be focused on at this stage. To help you get away from some of those sources of intimidation, I put together my top five things you don’t need to worry about.

So with that in mind, here are five things NOT to do:

1) Don’t focus on the end result 

The big picture concept of A Finished Novel (and all of the work it would take to make that happen) can be one of the more intimidating hurdles to get passed. The whole idea gets so much more manageable if you keep your focus on what you can reasonably accomplish within a single day. If you can write 100 words, do that. If you can write 500, go for it. Be reasonable and focus on today’s task only. It may not seem like much now, but every word you write gets you a step closer to completing your book.

2) Don’t focus on how long writing your first novel will take

There’s a quote by Earl Nightingale that I love: “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”

I think this is particularly true with writing a book. It’s a massive undertaking and it will most definitely take time. It might very well take years. But seriously, so what? So what if it does take years? If this is something you want to do, why does it matter how long it will take?

Even if you only write for fifteen minutes a day on your lunch break and it takes you two years to finish a draft, you’ll have a finished draft in two years! Those two years are going to pass whether you’re writing your book or not. If writing a book is something you’ve always wanted to do, not writing isn’t going to get you closer to that goal. Writing for fifteen minutes a day will. And if you start today, you’ll be one day closer to the finish line.

3) Don’t try to make your first book perfect

I get it. Staring at the blinking cursor when you have a story to tell can be daunting. You want to make sure you’re picking the right words and saying exactly what you mean.  But those expectations are enough to hold you back when you’re writing your first novel. I challenge you to give yourself permission to be imperfect and just start writing. Put your characters on the page and let them run. Have fun with your story. Your only concern at this point should be to put words on the page. They don’t have to be the “right” words. You can find those later. (For more on this, I’ve got a whole post on Why Writers Should Embrace Imperfection in Writing.)

And while you’re at it, don’t feel like a chapter has to be perfect for you to move on. Your only goal of a first draft is to finish it. Don’t let yourself fixate too much on what you’ve already written. Once you finish a chapter move on to the next. If you don’t like a chapter or section, make note of it somewhere, but don’t try to fix it now. That’s a revision problem, not a drafting problem.

4) Don’t think of your readers

Another super intimidating element of writing is the idea of someone actually reading what you write. Your readers should certainly be considered and there will be time for them down the road. But now is not that time. Now is the time to be selfish. Think about yourself. Don’t write to be read, write to be happy. Write to tell yourself a story you want to experience. Odds are, if it’s a story you want to experience, there will be readers out there who like the same things you do and who will love to read it. But don’t worry about them now. Worry about yourself. Write for you. Write to be happy.

5) Don’t put pressure on your first book

It can be hard to get started if you’ve decided you need to write the next Harry Potter or Girl on the Train. You may start writing, read over what you’ve written, decide it’s not either of those stories, then delete it all and try again another day (or not).

Not only does that make it difficult to write, but it’s also squashing your voice. I would argue that the highest compliment isn’t to have your work compared to anyone else but to create work that others are compared to. In order to make that happen, you first have to let your voice exist on the page. So allow yourself to write with no pressure or expectations.  Write the story your heart is begging you to tell. It doesn’t have to be anything while you’re writing it. It just has to get written.

Bonus tip: Repeat regularly and build a habit.

Books get written when writers show up at their computers or notebooks on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter how bite-sized your daily goals are or how limited your time frame is. It’s all progress, and progress adds up. So start writing your book today. The sooner you type those first words, the sooner you’ll reach THE END.

I hope this gets you writing!

Now it’s your turn: Got a tip that helps you start writing? Tell me all about it in the comments below. You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

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Why I Write and Why I’m Blogging

Why I write Towards the end of my ninth grade year, in the spring of 2004, I decided I was going to write a book and get it published.

Not only that, I was going to write an entire series. I have always been a series girl. I spent most of middle school reading Harry Potter on a loop and Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed my world. Now I was going to write my own fantasy.

I had written a lot in the past, but it had always been for fun. I never planned anything I wrote all that much, but this was different. I wasn’t just writing a story anymore, I was writing a book–the first in a series. Planning seemed like a good idea. After all, that’s how J.K. Rowling had worked. I got a whiteboard for my room and started planning my series.  I planned for a year. By spring of my sophomore year, it was starting to come together. I had characters. I had a plot. I was close to being ready to write. I just had one more big plot arc to figure out. It was the plot that would run through the entire series. That year, I spent the first night of spring break in my room, brainstorming on my whiteboard.

I was at it for hours. I completely lost track of time. When I finished it was well after midnight. I remember looking at the board when I was finished and knowing this was it. This was my thing. This was my new way of life. It was exhilarating in a way that was addictive.

That feeling is why I write. If you found this blog, you know probably know what I’m talking about. That’s the feeling I’m always chasing. It’s what made me want to start writing, and it’s why I still write today.

So, that’s why I write, but why am I blogging?

I’ve been writing seriously for thirteen years now and one thing I’ve noticed is how easy it is for writers to get caught up in the doubt and rejection and fear and all the other negative aspects of writing. And I get it. I can be absolutely gutting. But I think when we put too much focus on the negative side, it makes it harder to celebrate and strive for the positives.

I was given a gift. I found writing when I was too young to realize that I was supposed to care if I was good or if someone else would like it. All I knew was I liked how it made me feel. That’s all I really cared about–the story and how writing it made me feel.

I think that because I started in such a pure and positive place, it was a lot easier to stay focused and build a life around those positives. I’m not going to say that a rejection or judgment has never gotten to me, but those moments have been few and far between. And when they have popped up, they didn’t weigh me down.

I’ve realized that a major reason for this was that the entire time, what I cared most about was learning to tell my stories better. Every new tool I could add to my writing toolbox excited me. I learned to take feedback, but also keep my circle limited to those who saw what I was trying to do and could help me make my stories stronger. Every new direction or idea I explored gave me that feeling–the same one that captivated me when I was in tenth grade.

And because of that, I realized halfway through my journey that I will always be writing, and I will always be trying to get better–whether I ever got published or not. It simply makes me a happier and more complete person. It’s how I want to live my life.

This realization changed everything. Ironically, it took understanding I didn’t need to be published for me to know with absolute certainty that I would be someday. Because I knew if I was going to keep writing and keep learning, I would keep getting better. And if I was going to keep getting better, then I might as well keep trying to get published because why not? And if I kept trying, I had to believe at some point it would happen. Even if I had to wait until I was sixty, it would happen.

Because of that mentality, rejection and negativity couldn’t touch me. I never wrote for anyone else’s approval. I wrote first and foremost to be happy and fulfilled. No form of rejection could ever take that feeling away from me.

I realize this won’t resonate with everyone, but if there’s a chance it can help another writer be more optimistic and undeterred then this is something I want to share. This philosophy has meant everything to me. It not only helped me reach my goals, but it also put me a good mental space to truly enjoy the process. The writers who don’t reach their goals are the ones who give up. I’d like to help you keep from giving up–and have a ton of fun along the way.

So please, take a look around! I hope I can help you.

Happy Writing!

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