Writing a book for the first time can be a daunting task. What should I write about? How do I make it interesting? When do I stop researching and start writing? How do I structure my book? Here are 5 mistakes a lot of first-time authors make, and how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Deciding your book title too early on.
Sometimes first-time authors come to me with a fully-fledged title for their book. That’s all very well, but if you haven’t planned what you’re going to write about then you may have just wasted your time. First, research your reader and what they need. The book you want to write might not be the one they want to read! When you have done this and spent some time looking at what other books there are in your market, you may have changed your mind about what you want to write about, and that witty title you came up with could be obsolete. Don’t restrict yourself at this stage – keep an open mind and a blank page, and you will find the book title will evolve once your book is underway.
Mistake #2: Not planning the book’s structure in advance.
This is a big mistake made by first-time authors. Sitting down to write before you have worked out why you want to write a book and what kind of book that is going to be is liking shooting in the dark. You will end up writing the first few chapters and then find you have totally lost your way. First, try thinking about which type of book you are writing: is it a guide book? A memoir? A self-help book? A parable? What are the main points you are going to put into the book? And how will you organise these? There are two main approaches to non-fiction: linear and thematic (NB. you can learn more about these on my One-Day Book Planning Workshops). Decide which of these will be easiest for your reader to follow and base your book structure around it. Once you have a detailed contents page, you can start to write your book in order, knowing that you have a recipe to follow.
Mistake #3: Trying to write the book all at once.
Many first-time authors set themselves ridiculous deadlines and word targets. Even experienced authors tend to write little and often, so set up a writing schedule that is achievable. If you write 500 words a day (no more than a blog post) for 5 days a week, you will have written a 40,000-word book in just 4 months. Don’t think of it as a marathon, but a series of shorter races. Focus on your daily target and build up a habit – for habits are hard to break.
Mistake #4: Editing as you go along.
The circle of doom for authors. When you write a chapter of your book and return to it to edit before going further, you do more than just lose your momentum. By re-reading what you have written, you take your eye off the ball and interrupt the flow of your book’s structure. It is also easy to become despondent, as your writing at this stage will be quite raw. Try continuing instead, putting a blanket ban on re-reading any of your work, and watch your writing ability naturally evolve and improve.
Mistake #5: Not seeking professional help.
If I were interested in learning archery, it is unlikely that I would just pick up a bow and arrow and start to shoot. Instead, I would seek out a professional teacher, someone who knew what they were doing, and learn by tuition. If you are a first-time author and you are struggling with your first draft, seek the help of a professional who can help you to structure your book correctly from the beginning. If it’s accountability you need, try a book writing group or a writing coach. My coaching packages start from just £350 a month, and include two face-to-face meetings and as much feedback as you need. First-time authors who have a writing buddy or coach are more likely to finish and publish their book than writers who go it alone, so seek the help you need.
To learn how I can help you on your writing journey, contact me for a free consultation here.