Writing a Book for the First Time? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
Writing a book for the first time is hands down, the best decision you can make as a writer.
You get this huge monkey off your back. Writing a book for the first time makes you feel like a real writer regardless of how well your book sells.
That’s the thing — books aren’t even close to the best way to make a living writing, so you shouldn’t look at them that way.
Books are a timestamp of your thought processes and worldview at the time you wrote the book. Books are momentos. There’s just nothing that can replace the accomplishment that comes with making the commitment to a long-form piece of knowledge.
I just published my third book.
The funny thing?
When you’re writing a book, you tell yourself you’re never going to write one again because it does take a lot out of you. But as soon as you publish your new book, you want to write another one.
Writing books creates this masochistic joy that I can’t fully explain. You have to experience it for yourself.
That being said, writing a book for the first time is the trickiest of all the writing beasts.
Here’s what you need to know if you want to finish the process successfully.
Your First Book is For the Trash
Ugh. In my opinion, my first book sucks. I can’t even bring myself to read it. Seriously, it makes me cringe.
But even if I write a book that sells a million copies one day, it won’t be a tenth as important as that first cringy book I wrote.
I’ve used this example ad absurdum, but I’m going to use it again because it’s a great example. James Altucher, my favorite blogger, struck gold selling a million copies of his ….17th book.
But you’re waiting until you have the chops to write the Great American Classic.
You’re not going to write it. Ever.
Across the globe, there are a bunch of pretentious MFA grads who are constantly tweaking their perfect manuscript, only to never publish it.
Meanwhile, there are a bunch of writers who decide to get their work out the first, and figure out the details later. The point isn’t to write a shitty book on purpose, but rather to write your first book knowing that it’s just not going to be all that great compared to what you put out years from now.
Writing that first book facilitates better books in the future.
Would I say to write a book right away if you have no experience? No. I’ve seen some writers who weren’t ready that published truly god awful books.
But, if you have a year or two under your belt, for sure go ahead and write that crappy first book.
Speaking of crappy….
Follow the Golden Rule of Writing Books
I wrote an entire guide on writing books that you can find here, but let me pull this most important piece of it and share with you.
Your first book will suck.
And your first draft will…really suck.
You’ve heard the “crappy first draft” cliche, but like I say in much of my self-improvement writing, true improvement comes from embracing cliches.
When you write your first draft, work on it daily until you’re done with it. 7 days per week, non-stop, until it’s done.
Don’t edit while you write, at all. Even leave the typos in there. Do nothing to break your mental flow. Nothing.
Life is a game of momentum. Writing is the ultimate game of momentum. Stops and starts aren’t neutral, they push you even further away from your goals. Each gap and lull you create in your writing career makes it even harder to get back on the horse, so never get off it.
I credit my writing success to the fact that I never stop writing, ever. Even when I don’t feel like writing, I write. Even when I think my ideas suck, I write. Especially when I feel any tinge of perfectionism coming on, I write.
Get your draft done.
When you’re done, you’ll have something to work with. A crappy manuscript is better than no manuscript.
Finish the Race
After you write your first draft, you’ll go through your editing phases:
- Developmental – During this phase, you’ll go through and look at the entire book from a bird’s eye view. You’ll see certain sections that don’t fit, incomplete ideas, and areas that need to be revamped
- Second pass polish – During this phase, you’ll go back and look sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and chapter by chapter to omit all needless words, phrases, and even full paragraphs. You’ll also go back through and add ideas.
- Read aloud – Reading your book outloud will astound you. You’ll hear phrases that sound completely off and your prose will come across better and more conversational after this phase
- Final pre-edit polish – You’ll go through your book one more time to make sure everything is near perfect before sending your manuscript to a real editor
- Professional editing phase – Your editor will show you how much your book still sucks and you’ll go through the entire process all over again. And it’ll be well worth it.
Again here, remember your goal. Your goal is to publish the book. Your goal is to put your words out into the real world where other people aside from you can read them.
Seth Godin has a term for this “shipping.”
Until you ship your work, it doesn’t count. A dusty manuscript in your drawer might as well have never been written. Until you face an audience with your words, you’re not a real writer.
I have to try to put myself in the shoes of someone who won’t publish their stuff because I’ve never had that problem.
Why? To me…it never, ever, ever, ever made any sense to give a damn what random people in the internet thought of my writing.
Sure, sharing my writing with people I actually knew was one thing, but strangers? Don’t care at all. Never did.
Why would you? They’re 1’s and 0’s.
Don’t get me wrong, I deeply care about the opinions of those online in that I want to write prose they love, but I could care less about the negativity.
Put yourself in the mind of a troll or someone who goes out of their way to leave some sort of negative comment or review on your writing. Why would you care what they think? These types of people are losers with nothing better to than troll online.
You’re going to let them get in the way of your dreams?
Hell no. Publish the book, know that the one star reviews will surely come, and get over it.
Create an Upward Spiral of Success
Three assets that earn me money while I sleep, purchased from people all around the world.
Three solidified pieces of thought I can always look back on and say “I did that.”
I plan to write at least one book per year until I croak. Maybe I’ll hit the New York Times bestseller list when I’m 87. Or maybe never. Doesn’t matter.
I looked at my amazon author profile the other day and saw the covers for all three books.
It doesn’t even feel like I put it all that work, but I did.
If writing a book for the first time is the cake, writing books two, three, four, and beyond puts you in a sugar coma of icing.
It’s not so much that you need to build a giant catalog, but you’ll want to.
That catalog is the accumulation of your effort. It’s the accumulation of pieces of confidence you added to your soul.
Write your first book.
Then write the next one.
And never stop.
That’s my advice.