I’m quite sure that there are as many different ways to write a book as there are people who write books, so this article will certainly not be exhaustive. But I will share from experience some methods I have learned which can be very productive when working on a new book, and I’ll also share a few insights related to author colleagues, friends, and family members, who play the book writing game a little differently to me.
The Blog to Book Approach
I have been running a philosophy blog since 2012 and the last time I checked I had written over 500 articles. Not every one of those articles is packed full of groundbreaking philosophical insights; many were personal reflections and life updates and I also shared some art, music, poetry, and even a little humour.
What I have found, though, is that the posts that I’ve written in the areas of philosophy and theology have provided an excellent starting point for books that I’ve gone on to write. I didn’t set out to do things in this way, but it is an approach that I would highly recommend.
My blog articles are typically between 500 and 1000 words long, which I feel is the perfect length for a short chapter in a book. I’m an unusual philosopher, in that I don’t find satisfaction in writing tomes and tomes of gobbledygook. I much prefer my gobbledygook to be concise and to the point. My best selling book to date was created using a series of blog posts as the basis for the content, which I then expanded upon and edited extensively to make the chapters suitable for publication in a book.
The process of turning blog articles into book chapters has worked so well for me that while I used to blog without a specific plan in mind, I now do so quite intentionally. For instance, I’m currently writing a series of posts about how contemporary language might develop in order to reflect certain truths about God. Each post is intended to encapsulate a different insight in relation to this subject, and these insights will eventually be compiled into an essay, which I plan to then make available in book form.
The Author Retreat
I have a sister who is a talented writer. Not as talented as me, of course, but she’s a journalist who has written quite a few novels.
My sister has a passion for going on writing retreats. These group retreats are designed to help people develop their novel writing skills, and normally include some private writing time as well as some sessions where individuals share some of their writing with the rest of the group.
Being the anxious soul that I am, the idea of reading my work out to an audience frightens me, and I have always been afraid of being in the spotlight, ever since the rock band I used to play guitar in performed a sold-out show at the most prestigious venue in Oxford, and I had to take several trips to the lavatories shortly before going on stage because I was so severely anxious I thought I was going to vomit. I have also been on ‘expert’ panels as part of jobs I’ve done while working in the music industry in the past, and the experience was similar.
Admittedly, reading one’s writing to a group is a little less scary than the scenarios described above, but I still find the idea frightening and unappealing. I’m much more of a recluse and I enjoy the safe distance of communicating with others from behind a computer screen.
I’m not denying that I may one day succumb to the temptation of doing a TED talk or something similar, but I certainly don’t relish the idea. But for my sister, and others like her, the group dynamic, and the focus of a dedicated retreat, can be a great way to develop one’s writing and make progress with a book project.
The Early Bird
Many people who aspire to be authors work 9-5 jobs and have very busy lives. For such people, setting aside specific times in which to write are the only feasible means by which they can make progress with their book writing.
I have heard of authors who will set an alarm for 6am or even 5am, and then will go somewhere entirely private, such as a home office or a converted shed at the bottom of the garden, and will write for an hour solidly before beginning their commute to work. How people are able to turn their inspiration on and off at will in such a way I do not know, but it certainly seems to work for some writers. I admire and appreciate the passion that such people show, and I know rigorous writing routines are employed by many famous and prolific authors.
The Challenge Writer
Some of the people reading this post may be familiar with NaNoWriMo, which is shorthand for National Novel Writing Month. This is an event which takes place annually in the month of November, and participants attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. The first NaNoWriMo took place in 1999, but it’s still going strong with hundreds of thousands of people taking part in recent years.
Some writers feel they need some kind of a push to motivate them to put pen to paper, and for such people a community event like NaNoWriMo can be a fantastic way to make progress. In the era of smartphones there are also a wide variety of apps that we can use to challenge ourselves to be more focused and productive with our writing – just search the app store for ‘apps for writers’ and you may be surprised by just how many there are.
In this article, I have touched upon a few of the countless methods authors use in order to make progress with their writing. Perhaps you have used one of these methods, or perhaps you use a different approach entirely, but I hope that the methods I have described have provided you with some inspiration, or at least food for thought. You’re welcome to leave a comment below with any tips you have in relation to your own writing efforts that might inspire other writers to try something different.
Next, learn about the four stages of publishing, beginning with Manuscript Editing and Proofreading.