Nearly two years ago this month, I officially completed my first book The E-Ticket Life. What started with sporadic and, for lack of a better term, unfocused writing sessions had become more structured in the weeks leading up that magical moment, enabling me to cross that finish line. Of course establishing that structure was easier said than done.
That’s why, last week, I decided to pen an article offering various tips for writers looking to finish their own book manuscript based both on my own experiences as well as advice from others. While researching the topic, I came across a book whose title immediately grabbed by attention: Writing the Damn Book by Stacy Nelson. Not only am I a sucker for mild profanities tossed into titles but I also thought it perfectly expressed the frustration writers often feel when trying to bring the book that’s in their head into existence. As it turns out, Nelson’s book lives up to its brilliant title and has a lot to offer would-be authors ready to take the plunge.
In one of my favorite parts of the book, Nelson discusses what she calls the honeymoon period. This is where, after resolving to write a book, you start compiling ideas for it, regularly jotting down notes for inclusion, and perhaps even composing passages of it in your mind (guilty). Incidentally this is a stage I’ve been stuck in for months without taking the next step and putting pen to paper — or fingers to keyboard, actually — so reading this section was as if she’d peered directly into my lazy soul.
Following a mild kick in the butt to get started, Nelson shares a number of different techniques she or her clients have used to see their projects through. While some are more conventional in nature, suggestions such as “the 24-hour book,” which essentially amounts to a last-minute writing binge a la a college term paper, may catch readers by surprise. Additionally, despite my previous dismissals of the Pomodoro technique to writing, Nelson’s assessment of it and explanation for why she likes it has started to change my mind on the method.
Another interesting point that Nelson makes is that many writers likely already have more material for a manuscript than they might realize. She discusses mining everything from blogs to emails to even Facebook posts that may be able to be reworked into something that fits your project. This isn’t to say that every tweet you’ve ever sent should be collected for publication, but that you may have stumbled on an idea in an earlier post that’s worth exploring in greater detail.
Beyond the nuts and bolts of sitting down and cranking out a manuscript, Nelson also touches a bit on some of her methods for promoting your book along with her overarching philosophies on the relationship between reader and author. This includes the recruitment of what she calls “book angels” that help spread the word about your book release in exchange for a free advanced copy. You’ll also see the phrase “love on them” (them being your readers) used more than a few times throughout the course of this quick read.
It should be noted that the subtitle for Writing the Damn Book is How to Start, Write, and Publish a Non-Fiction Book for Creative People Who Have a Hard Time Finishing Things. As that (lengthy) title implies, you won’t find much in the way of advice for novel writing in this particular work. That said, some of the advice — from creating an outline to finding your “book angels” — will surely apply to fiction writers.
Overall I found Writing the Damn Book to be informative, intriguing, and motivational. Even as someone who’s been through the process of writing a manuscript before, I was still able to learn a lot from Nelson and also gained some new perspective on the process. Naturally I don’t exactly agree with everything she preaches, but I’m sure she’d acknowledge that every writer and author is different.
So if you’re ready to stop procrastinating and write your own damn book, I recommend giving this one a read first.