Priming the Writing Pump
Beyond Free Writing

Baby Steps to Writing a Book

Beach_clouds_wind_244169_lI've been having some issues with my left knee, which sometimes makes it difficult to walk.  Now, I've been a walker for 30 years, so this is not a happy thing for me.  But I put a brace on and perservere as best I can. 

My favorite walking routine begins with a hill.  My knee doesn't like hills or stairs much.  And, probably if this hill were further along my route, it wouldn't be such a big deal.  But the hill is at the start of my journey and the knee is still stiff and resistant.  So the hill looms large.

The other day as I walked up it, I had an epiphany: I don't have to do the damn hill at my usual long, fast stride.   I can do it slowly.  I can take baby steps.

And guess what?  Slowing down and taking smaller steps is all that is necessary to get up the hill without bothering my knee. 

The same thing is true in writing.   Take writing a book, for example.  The thought of it is daunting to many people.  All those pages!  All those sentences!  All those words! How do you go from idea in your head to finished manuscript?

You do it with baby steps, that's how.

Books get written one word at a time.  I know, duh.  But we forget this. 

So, how can you create some baby steps for your book?  What follows are some suggestions for a loose path to follow. (My creative muse demands that everything be somewhat loose.  He doesn't like being boxed in by routine or rigidity).

1.  Brainstorm Topics.  Make a list of potential topics.  If you're writing fiction, make a list of potential scenes, characters, and settings.  This list doesn't have to be organized or in order.  It's just a starting point.

2. Freewrite.  Now that you've got a list, you can start writing from it. Don't overthink it, don't have an emotional reaction to the topics on your list, just write to them.  Set a timer and write for 20 minutes without stopping.  By the way, this process will likely create more topics.  Add them to your list.

3.  Stay Organized.  You can be organized without being rigid.  Keep your writing in a folder or binder or file on your computer, categorized in a way that makes sense to you. 

4. Start to Shape.  Now that you've developed some material, you might want to start shaping the flow of the book.  You can make piles of finished free writes on the floor, or write topics on index cards and shuffle them about.  Again, this process will generate more ideas because you'll see where the holes are.

5.  Put it All Together.  When you've exhausted your list of topics, and filled in all the missing pieces that #4 revealed, see if you can't make yourself an outline of how you think it goes together.

6.  Rewrite.  Now its time to make it pretty.  Or have it make sense--remember that first drafts can be crazy, wild and free.  In this step you think more of the reader and how best to present it to her. Bear in mind that this step is often multiple steps, because most books get revised several times before heading into the world.

7.  Submit.  Now it's time to send your baby out!  Which means you have to quit clutching it to your chest and let go of it.  Yes, you really do.  Research agents and editors, write yourself a kick-ass query letter and start sending it out.

I know, I know.  I make it all sound so simple.  Obviously, writing a book is a bit more complex than this.  But, in truth, this process I've outlined is the bottom line of how a book gets written using baby steps.

So what are you waiting for?  Go write!

How do you take baby steps to write?

Image by mailsparky.

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