This is post #3 in a blog series on how to tackle writing a book. If you are planning to write a book or are already deep into the process, I invite you to follow along with me.
See Post #2 for help in finding the time to write. This post will help you get started with your research.
Here’s a little disclaimer: My blog series will be most helpful for those who are writing non-fiction. I’ll be honest, while I love to read fiction, the idea of writing it scares me to death. I’m sure that I will have some nuggets of wisdom for fiction-writers in terms of organization and scheduling, but I cannot help with plot or character development.
A little background…
In August 2012, I began writing my first full length book. In the past 12 years, I have written a handful of short biographies, illustrated an entire book of maps (actually several) and published over 35 titles, so I definitely understand the book creation world. I already knew how to research my subject and tell a story. I also understood the diligence required in completing a large project. But I had never really written a book before. A real, full-length book, from beginning to end. I didn’t really know what that would look like for me.
So, I mapped out a plan and followed it. In that my book was a book on geography, I decided to write about one country a month. I was covering 10 countries, so I expected to finish up in May of the following year. I’m excited to say that I not only stayed on schedule, but finished the first draft a month early.
Now, I’m doing it again. This time, I will be covering 11 countries, so I am giving myself 11 months to complete the first draft of A Child’s Geography: Explore Medieval Kingdoms.
Here are My 5 Top Tips for Starting Your Book:
1. Break down your book idea into chapter subjects. Using sticky notes, write down topics that you want to cover in your book. Begin to organize these ideas by category. You can use a white board or a table to organize your notes by subject. Once you have them clustered by category, you can determine how many chapters you plan to write. I read a book by Dan Poynter years ago called Writing Non-Fiction. This may be very helpful for you in organizing your material.
2. Determine your writing schedule based on your content. If your chapters will be long, then plan a month to write each chapter. If they are shorter, then maybe you can write a chapter every one or two weeks. Make appointments with yourself to write. Mark it on the calendar. Take yourself out for coffee, if that helps. Look forward to these times. I like to write early in the morning snuggled up in a blanket on the couch before anyone else is awake.
3. Pick a chapter to write and begin your research. You do not have to start writing Chapter 1 first. Pick the chapter with the content that you are most excited to dive into. It’s important to gain momentum early and the best way to do this is to write the chapter that looks easier, maybe you have less research to do or maybe you just visited a place that is fresh in your memory to write about. My favorite places to research material are my local library and the internet. Always fact-check by verifying the information on more than one site. Wikipedia, for example, has been known to be riddled with errors. Always double-check your facts.
I just started my research a few days ago. Before diving into Spain, I knew there were certain topics that I wanted to cover in this chapter, such as the historical significance of the Strait of Gibraltar, the UK holding of Gibraltar, the Moor kingdoms, Castile y Leon, Ferdinand and Isabella, Christopher Columbus, Basque Country, travel by train, bullfighting and origins of Spanish dancing. Who knows what I will find, but I am exciting to dive into these topics!
4. Start a Pinterest board. I’m a visual person. I like to see what I am writing and refer back to images often during the writing process. Last year, I started a Pinterest board to capture images of places I was writing about. I have just begun to do the same for this book. Here is my very new Pinterest board for Explore Medieval Kingdoms. I am looking forward to filling it up more.
5. Begin writing. Once you have picked your chapter to write, just start writing. Do not edit while you write. Do that later. The writing and editing processes are conducted from opposite sides of the brain – one function interrupts the other. So don’t do it! Write first, edit later. Don’t worry about grammar and flow until you have a good chunk of words on a page. Tip: One tool that makes writing topics and chapters out of order easier is Scrivener. With this software, you can write in your book at any place you want. It’s brilliant! You can even reorder chapters and keep track of your research links right inside the writing software. Check it out here – http://www.literatureandlatte.com/ – and download a free trial version.
I’ll post next week with my progress on Chapter One… Spain!
Question: Have you started your book? How’s it coming?