12 Secrets Before You Start Writing

If you implement these 12 secrets before you start writing, the process goes much smoother. These elements apply to fiction and nonfiction writing.

1. Study structure.

Structure is about building a naturally flowing manuscript. Structures have a beginning, middle, and end that include an inciting incident, rising action, climax, and resolution. Read as many books as you can about how to set up a structure your readers will love.

2. Read about the craft of writing, especially in your chosen genre.

It doesn't matter how many books you've read or that your Mom said you're a great writer. Even if you think you're the best writer in the world, I guarantee brushing up on the writing craft will improve your skills as a writer.

3. Research Self-Publishing. You don't have to make a decision, but at least know your options. The publishing world is vast and complex, and ever-changing that it can feel overwhelming. The more you learn about the different options, the more you'll make an informed decision if you decide to publish your writing.

Are you ready for self-publishing? Download this Quiz to find out.

4. Heart-storming or Thought-Dumping.

Get your thoughts out of your head and into a document of some sort. Use the tool that works for you (Google Doc, Word Doc, your phone notes, or a journal). The idea is to get all of your ideas (whether you use them or not) into a document that you can comb through for ideas when you're outlining your book. This process can take anywhere from a week to a month or more. Then, organize these thoughts when you start planning.

5. Outline.

Yes! Fiction or nonfiction, you have to outline your book. Now, you can do this in a way that works best for you. I'm a detail-oriented planner. I want to know where I'm going in my story. Other people do high-level outlining where they have a general idea of the main points, but they create the details by the seat of their pants (Pantsers). Either way, you need to outline your book. Outlining your book makes writing the book so much easier. You'll have a more robust structure, fewer plot holes, and inconsistencies, shorter drafting time. There are many outlining techniques, some are detailed, and others are vague. Test them out and see what works best for you. As you write, if you find that a detailed outline gives you anxiety, try making your outline lighter with less details.

6. Who is your book for?

You need to know who you're writing for. If you're writing for children, specific parameters are required for that genre, including the number of pages and words on the page. If you're writing for the fantasy adventure people, the books are longer and more involved. You may be writing for yourself, which only requires you to connect to the words on your heart. Know the audience you're writing for before you begin writing.

7. Plan your Author Platform. This is the time to consider your marketing. If you are going to be on social media, start your presence. If you want to be on podcasts, know the types of podcasts you want to target. It takes a while to build a presence, so start as soon as possible.

And know that you get to decide what your marketing presence looks like. You don't have to build a platform before you start writing a book but have a good idea of what it will entail.

Take your time growing your platform. At the very least, you'll need an author website.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you going to have a blog? What will the blog be about?

  • What platforms are you going to use?

  • What about podcasting or YouTubing?

  • Are you going to offer advice, personal experience, or entertainment?

  • What are the strengths and skills that you can offer to an audience?

  • What other skills can lend themselves to your author platform, too?

8. Book Witching on a Budget.

If you are considering publishing (traditional publishing or self-publishing), there are expenses that you'll have to swallow. If you go the traditional route, your publisher will pay for the edits, copyright, cover and layout design, and marketing. If a traditional publisher asks you for any money, RUN! These are vanity presses that charge a lot of money and deliver a crap product.

If you go the Indie Publishing route, great! You get to pay for everything. There are hybrid publishers out there (I'm one of them) who help Indie Writers (like you) with writing, editing, design, and marketing of your book. You have to pay for the services, but there are no additional fees or royalties after the book is published.

You may also consider PDFs or small printed books you sell on your website. There is still a budget of time, energy, and money to consider.

You can cut corners and create your book on a shoestring but do it in a way that honors your words.

9. Read. Read. And Read some more in your genre.

This helps you as a writer and a marketer. Reading expands your vocabulary and solidifies your technique, which also makes you a better writer. It also shows you what not to do or how to do it better. When you're reading, read with a critical eye, not just as a lover of the genre. If you're reading a book that you don’t like, try to understand what's not working for you. If something is done really well, analyze it. How did the writer accomplish the excitement or love/empathy for a character?

Perhaps you can utilize the technique in your story. That doesn't mean write fan fiction or use the writer's exact words. Familiarizing yourself with the genre makes it easier to write the words on your heart.

10. Set goals, deadlines, and schedules…oh my!

Writing a book takes a long time…much longer than you think. Writing for yourself can still benefit from goal setting and planning. Being specific and creating a process helps you hit your marks or alter (lengthen) your plan. The writing process (especially if this is your first time) is very slow and sometimes overwhelming, especially when you get to the middle of a longer writing project or book. Just sayin’ from experience.

If your goal is to write a book, your goal is a million miles down the road. This is very intimidating and overwhelming.

If you create smaller, more achievable goals throughout the timeline of your writing process, you set yourself up to actually write your manuscript. It also gives you an idea of whether your end goal is achievable in your allotted time or if the deadline needs to be moved out.

Try this as a manageable first goal:

Give yourself one month to outline your book and write 5,000 words.

Once these goals are achieved, create new ones for the next month and keep going until your manuscript is finished.

I would be remiss if I didn't address the Book Coaches on the Internet who claim you can write a book in 30 days. You absolutely can, but that 30 days doesn't consider the planning and outlining or the editing process, which adds an additional 60 days or more. I also don’t want you thinking “you’re doing it wrong if it takes longer than 30 days to write your book.” You’re absolutely doing things right if you’re making progress.

If you're writing a book, don't worry if it's not done at the end of this Ritual. Books have a spirit of their own and their own Divine timing. I've been working on a book for more than a year and just finished the manuscript.

11. Establish your writing space.

There is always a place to write. It's essential to set one up because it tells your mind that you're serious about writing. It doesn't have to be fancy.

You can write anywhere.

First, establish your needs. If you write better on a computer, have a laptop ready to go. If you need solitude, make sure you shoo your people out of your space and close the door, turn off your media for a certain amount of time, so you can have privacy and silence. What atmosphere makes you feel creative? Start there in creating your space.

12. Assemble your writing tools.

You won't need too many. Here's a list of some popular items to have on-hand:

  • A laptop and a comfortable chair.

  • A notebook or journal

  • Your notes and research

  • Pens

  • Paperclips

  • Folders

  • Post-it Notes

  • Large sheets of paper

  • Posterboard or foam core (for visual outlining)

  • A desk or a basket or box to hold your writing space

Don't get distracted by looking for things that aren't in front of you or in your writing space.

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