Nicole Johnston

Collective Wisdom of The Writing Tribe

Tips for maintaining momentum on your writing

So, you’re writing your book.  There are so many people who say they want to write a book but few start and even less finish. 

You’re already miles ahead of many millions who just talk or think about it.  How can you make sure that you are in that group of motivated souls who finish and publish their book?

Maintaining momentum is key to get there.  It is the small things we do everyday that make the biggest and most lasting differences to our lives. 

Darren Hardy, author of ‘The Compound Effect’ says ‘It’s the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices. Success is earned in the moment to moment decisions that in themselves make no visible difference whatsoever, but the accumulated compounding effect is profound.’

Writing is the same.  It is the writing you do every day that will get your book finished.  Most of us don’t have the luxury to write in huge bursts, as former Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis did for his book ‘Talking to my daughter about the economy’ sitting in a beautiful part of his country for nine days.  That’s fantastic if you’ve got the option but for most of us that isn’t an option. 

So, we’re back to having to write every day.  Given that let’s look at some tips on how to maintain your momentum on what can be months of creating your masterpiece.

Tip 1: Write every day

I know I repeat this a LOT but there is no replacement for writing every single day.  Just as we can get into a habit of writing daily, we can equally slip out of the habit. 

Many writers I’ve met think that they can get away with bursts of writing irregularly, unless you have proven that by writing a book or meeting other writing deadlines consistently then, like the vast majority of us, you need to write every day.

Set yourself a goal – and stick to it.  Whether your goal is a timeframe – 10 minutes, 1 hour or 3 hours a day – doesn’t matter.  What does matter is to stick to it!  You can choose a wordcount instead of a time related goal.

Tip 2: Find a time to write

We don’t all have the luxury of being able to write at a particular time of the day or night.  However, there is little question that forming a routine is incredibly helpful.  Your brain will get used to needing to write at 6am every morning or 10pm every night.  You will very likely find that it makes it easier for to slip into the creative side of your brain when you need to.

It’s not a problem if it can’t be at the same time every day but it must be every day.

If you set a time related goal one suggestion that has worked for many writers is setting a timer and making yourself write for that time.  For example, set your timer for twenty minutes and push yourself to write for that time frame as a minimum.  Most writers will be so into the writing by then they won’t notice timer run out.  If you do notice it run out then get up and leave it until the next day, but you will still have met your writing goal for the day.

Tip 3: Find a space to write

It doesn’t matter where you write – most writers use their dining table.  Don’t let not having a writing room be a reason to procrastinate. 

People write on their commute – plane, train or automobile (tram or bus as well).  Whether you write in a park on a bench, in a café on a table or at home doesn’t matter, just that you have a space to write, every day.

Tips 2 and 3 are incredibly important.  If you have a space and a time set aside then you won’t waste writing time deciding where to go and when.  Even five minutes working it out every day adds up to more than 30 hours over a year.  It can also increase the chances of getting distracted while you decide where to write and win.

Tip 4: Get everything down on paper

Always take a notebook and pen with you or use your phone if you need to.  Some of those ideas we have in the middle of the night are rubbish, but some are not.  Some of the ideas we have on the bus on the way to work are unworkable, but some are not.  Get everything down on paper to ensure you don’t lose it – just in case there is some genius in there. 

Many of our best ideas come to us at the oddest times – when our brains are operating automatically – when we are in the shower, washing the dishes or even getting dressed for work. 

Some of those ideas rely on our brain’s downtimes to be heard, so make sure you listen to them.  If they are not great ideas editing will sort that out but its those creative pieces of genius that can make your book stand out from its competition.

Tip 5: Stimulate the creative side of your brain

Writing a book can be great fun, especially once you are in your creative flow.  However, writing can also be tiring.  If you are writing and working, which most of us are, your brain can be tired. 

Take some time out to regenerate your brain.  The chances are that you already have some strategies to ease your weary brain.  One thing that EVERY writer must do is to read.  If reading isn’t easy for you, then consider audible books.  Reading and absorbing other writers’ works will stimulate your creative juices. 

Stephen King says, ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.’

I have never heard any writer or writing coach who doesn’t agree 100 percent with this.  There’s a reason for that – Stephen is right!

Other things that might stimulate your creative juices are music, spending some time in a quiet space and journaling.  Journaling is fantastic for clearing your head so that you can concentrate on writing.

In the end – Yoda’s quote is probably the most apt ‘Do or do not.  There is no try.’

So, running with that theme, may the force be with you. 

1. Find your niche.

This might sound obvious but the better you know what your topic – the more successful your blog will be.In business we know that targeting a specific audience is more likely to succeed than trying to be all things to all people. Blogging is the same. People are going to read your blogs if they reflect or represent something that your tribe really wants or needs to know about.

2. Be consistent.

Whatever you choose to do – stick with it. If you blog daily, weekly, every fortnight or monthly – stick with it. Let people know when they can expect to hear from you.

There is so much content on the net right now. A lot of ‘noise’ and information attempting to distract your readers from their scrolling.Aside from the fact that the more you engage, connect and post the more likely it is that social media platforms will prioritise your posts, how great would it be if your readers were looking out for your next post?

If you post once a day for two weeks and then don’t post for three weeks you may lose the audience you’ve built up and need to start again. I’m not advocating posting blogs every day – just make a decision that works for you and stick to it.

3. Write about something you’re passionate about

As a reader you know the difference between someone writing about something they love and those who don’t.Those who write know how much easier the words flow when you’re crafting a piece about something that really matters to them.The easy way around this is to choose your blog from the things you most want to talk about or do.

4. Know who you’re writing for

Who is your ‘ideal’ reader. If you’re writing about starting a business – then start-ups or those contemplating starting their own business are very likely to be your readers.

If you’re writing a blog about how to run events – then your audience is primarily those who can’t afford to subcontract an events company to do it for them – charities and small businesses.If you know who you want to read your blogs then you can work out what it is they will want or need from you.

If you’re blogging on business starts up – what do new business owners need – practical tips, reassurance, resources and perhaps to virtually or directly connect with others doing the same.

5. Not too many statistics

If you’re trying to inform your readers about an issue then some figures can be incredibly powerful. The recent figures about the number of women experiencing sexual harassment, abuse and even rape in their workplaces were shocking.

Short, sharp references to figures like this can focus your audience on the ‘problem’ you’re writing about, so you’ve established the importance of your subject early on in your blog.However, people don’t have a long attention span for statistics.

They want to read ‘stories’ about real people and their lives. Preferably they want to know about people like them and their lives. If they have to wade through piles of figures and graphs they’ll move on to something else.

6. Be you

There are so many blogs and articles on the net. What can you do to stand out? Be you. Don’t try to imitate someone else’s style or their content. Its very rare that any of us have anything truly different to say in our writing. What we do have to bring to our blogs is ourselves, our perspectives, our learning and our experiences.Someone may have heard the same thing from one hundred writers but there may be something about the way you write it or use your experiences to demonstrate a point that will resonate with a specific audience.

People want to connect with people. They don’t want a perfect public face. They want to learn from people who have had failures and success, who have imperfections and flaws. So put down your mask a little and let people know the person behind the blogging.

7. Encourage engagement

Allow comments, shares and likes. On most social media the reach you get is based on this level of interaction. Your writing will resonate with some people and not others. Timing is important – every now and then we read something at exactly the time we needed to hear it. It jumps out and grabs us. Give your readers the chance to tell you that.Ask them questions – open ended ones that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. We get to know so much about our readers through comments. It will give us ideas on what other content they’d like to see, which will help you plan your future blogs.

Nobody can please all of the people all of the time. Unfortunately there are a lot of people with too much time on their hands and its very likely these will be the people who will post negative or personal comments. If they are expressing a genuine opinion – it may cause more engagement and discussion amongst your readers.

Even those who disagree with you can give you ideas for blogs.If they are just trolls then feel free to delete them. Its your page and I operate a zero tolerance on abusive or discriminatory language or behaviour. Happily I have never had to block anyone for this behaviour.

Okay there is only one rule of writing and that is – write, everyday!

Aside from that – it really is whatever works for you.There are writing tutors who will tell you that you need to plan your book – we’ve all hear ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’.

That’s not true – I’ve written 7 manuscripts – that’s effectively seven novels. The only novels I ever planned I never wrote. Fact – you can plan the best book in the world but if you never write it – then its just a great plan.

Whatever makes you write – do that! If you don’t know what works for you – try each way and work out what works best for you.

So – what are the different types?

Plotter

The planners of the writing tribe are most commonly known as ‘plotters’. They outline, plan to varying degrees their non-fiction or fiction books. James Patterson and J.K Rowling are two well known examples of plotters.

James Patterson outlines all of his books, even those he co-authors with others. His outlines are paragraphs of each and every chapter of his novel. He and his co-authors work through each chapter consecutively.

Pros of being a plotter·

  • You know exactly where your book is going;
  • It is easier to determine how long your book is going to take to write;
  • It is much easier to see the holes in your story;
  • It is easier to see in advance where there are loose ends that need to be tied up by the end of your book;
  • Virtually every agent will require you to provide a synopsis – depending on what they are asking for exactly – an outline can be cut and pasted saving you having to draft a separate synopsis;
  • Some advocates of plotting say that its prevents writer’s block because you know what you need to write next;
  • It can help avoid inconsistencies in plot and characters;
  • The editing process is usually much easier

Cons of being a plotter·

  • Spending a lot of time plotting and planning can be a distraction from the actual writing that will get the book finished;
  • The story can take a different turn leaving writers with a dilemma as to whether to follow your outline or off on a tangent;
  • It can feel a more logical brain exercise rather than a creative process;
  • Margaret Atwood says that she considers planning to be a bit like writing by numbers

Pantsers

The term pantsers comes from the phrase ‘flying by the seat of your pants’.

I am a pantser – I’ve taken advice twice to outline my book and both times it has felt like once the outline was done – the book was done – which it wasn’t. It felt as though it ruined the creative flow for me. I like finding out about my characters as I write. I find it exciting and not unlike reading.

Stephen King starts with a character and a circumstance for example a man’s car breaks down in a remote area – he knocks on the closest door. That’s what he started with, ALL he started with and it became ‘Misery’.

Another pantser is Margaret Atwood who says that planning her books would be too much like ‘painting by numbers’.

For every plotter there are equal numbers of pantsers. And then there are occasionally those who are ‘in-betweeners’. Those who do a version of both.

‘In-betweeners’

One author I met said they write about three chapters of their book while they get to know their characters without any planning. Then they stop – take stock of what they’ve written and do a basic plan of the rest of their story.

TIP: DO WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOU – WHATEVER GETS YOUR BOOK OR STORY WRITTEN IS YOUR STYLE. IGNORE ALL ADVICE TO THE CONTRARY AND JUST WRITE.

TIP: IF YOU’RE NOT SURE WHICH YOU ARE – TRY BOTH AND SEE WHICH SEEMS TO WORK FOR YOU BEST.NEITHER IS WRONG – IT REALLY IS ABOUT WHATEVER GETS YOUR BOOK WRITTEN.

If I had a pound for every time, I’ve been asked how to write a book I’d be a multi-millionaire.  So many people around the world want to write a book – yet so few people do?  Why? 

I’ve spent several years coaching, mentoring and training aspiring authors and there are a few key reasons:

  • A lack of time
  • A lack of space
  • A lack of confidence
  • Not sure which book to write
  • Not sure how to get started

These are subjects that come up in my writing tribes daily. 

So, let’s get straight to the point. 

Step One: Decide which book you want to write.

There’s a good chance that you’ve got a book in mind.  Decide whether you want to write fiction, nonfiction, a memoir, a novel or a business book.  There are so many types of books to write.

What appeals to you?

Have you wanted to write creatively – create a fiction story? Or is your desire to share your experience, information and knowledge with the rest of the world?

Action: Decide which you want to write first.  There can be other books, blogs, articles, papers, speeches etc.

Narrow it down to fiction or non-fiction – that’s a great start.

Step Two: Decide which topic or genre to write.

If you’ve decided on fiction – do you have a character, a situation, a conflict or an experience you want to fictionalise?

If you’ve decided on nonfiction, professional or business book then what topic or subject?

Tip: If you’re not sure write every topic you can write about and group them into broad subject areas then consider the following questions while deciding:

  • Which would your readers want to know about;
  • Which do you know the most about;
  • Which are you the most passionate about

Action: Decide whether you prefer to write fiction or nonfiction.

Step Three: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Plotters are the planners of the writing tribe.  They like detailed plans and outlines.  Some examples of plotters are James Patterson and JK Rowling.

Pantsers (which comes from ‘flying by the seat of your pants’) are those who choose not to plan their books.  Stephen King and Margaret Atwood are pantsers. 

Neither is right or wrong – it is simply about what gets those words on the page.  If you’re not sure – try both and decide then.

A plotter can have anything from a spreadsheet with scenes and chapters outlined or a detailed outline of fifty or sixty pages with scenes, characters and even some dialogue planned. 

If you decide you are a plotter the simplest way to proceed is to list each chapter – including an introduction and conclusion/summary for nonfiction, according to subject areas you’ve decided to include.  Then fill in what you’d like included in those chapters.

Tip: Remember you can change those chapters whenever you choose.

If you are a pantser then it can be as simple as choosing a character and a situation and from there – just start writing.  One famous example is Stephen King deciding on his character – an author is driving down a remote road and his car breaks down; he knocks on the door of the only house in the vicinity.  He let the characters do ‘their thing’ and that became ‘Misery’.

Tip: If you are choosing nonfiction then I would strongly recommend you develop some sort of plan – even if it is only a one-page outline.  Aspiring authors often try to shoehorn everything they know into their first book out of fear that they might not have enough information ‘to fill a book’.  That is never true – most writers end up having to cut a great deal of irrelevant information or repetition out at the end of their draft.

Step Four: Start writing.

You need to write every day – even if it is only for 10 minutes a day.  Writers need to get themselves into the habit of writing every day and it will make it easier to get into the creative side of your brain when you want to.  The creative side of our brains is like any muscle – it works better the more you exercise it.

Put one word after another – you start, continue and finish your books exactly that way. 

Tip: If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of an entire book – just do ten minutes writing today, then 10 minutes writing tomorrow and so on.  Your only job is to complete that ten minutes writing every single day.  That will get your book finished without the idea of producing an entire book at once.

Tip: Do not jump between the right and left sides of your brain – concentrate only on writing during your daily writing sessions.  Leave editing, researching and reviewing until later – they are tasks completed by the logical side of your brain.  If you jump between the creative and logical side of your brain you will stop your creative flow and more than likely end up with writers’ block.

Tip: You do not need to write chronologically – you can pick and choose what and when you write each part.  Just ensure that you save it carefully so you can put it together at the end.

Step Five: Maintain momentum

It is the small things we do every single day that make the greatest changes in our lives.  Keep to writing every single day, even if it only ten minutes at a time.  Your growing wordcount will keep you motivated, and you’ll be astounded by how much you can get written in such short time.

Step Six: Finish.

You will know when you’ve finished your book.  Either the loose ends in your novel will have been tied up and the conflicts for your characters resolved or you will have reached the end of your non-fiction book outline.

Now you will need to:

  • Put it aside for some space
  • Read it through in its entirety for a ‘sense check’
  • Read through for typos and grammatical errors
  • Read it out loud – boring but incredibly effective

Now you’ve finished the first draft of your first book.  Congratulations.

I strongly recommend a professional editor if you choose to publish.

If you’d like more information on how to write a book check out my free, online writing tribes:

Fiction and nonfiction: https://facebook.com/groups/NicolesWritingTribe/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/NicolesWritingTribe

Nonfiction and business writing: https://facebook.com/groups/NonFictionWritingTribe/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/NonFictionWritingTribe

You are very welcome to join us!

Nicole J

#novelnicole

1. Write what you know
This seems basic and all writers – fiction or non-fiction are given this advice – but its particularly true in non-fiction writing. We write non-fiction to share our expertise, skills and experience with others. It’s very likely that that has brought about the desire to write in the first place.
The whole process is easier and frankly more fun if you’re basing it on what you know.


2. Ignore everything you learned about writing at school and university
Unless your readers are going to be academics then put aside everything you’ve learned about writing correctly.
If your message or information is important enough to writing a book, blog, article or report on then its important enough to do in way that your readers will find engaging. Simple language is the way of the world. People don’t have the time or the inclination to have to ‘translate’ complex language.
Write the way you like to read. Clear, easy and consistent. Your readers will stick with it and understand the message or information you’re trying to convey.


3. Plan
Whether you are a plotter or a pantser (see Getting Started: Topic 2 ‘What type of writer am I? for more information on these types) there will need to be a bit of planning for non-fiction work.
Write a bullet point list with what topics you want to cover and make them your chapters. Then include a note on any sub-topics you want to remember to include under those.
Then, if you’re a plotter, continue padding this document out until you have a synopsis of what each chapter will cover.
Remember that outlines or plans are organic documents and can be added to or subtracted from as your book evolves.
If you’re a pantser – once you have a basic idea of your chapter headings – start writing. Just populate those areas, adding in others as they come up and just get writing. There is no reason for non-fiction writing to be any less creative as a process. You can cut and paste at the end. If you’re a pantser then you may need a more thorough editing process at the other end.


4. Don’t edit as you write
Even if you are writing non-fiction if your creativity and words are flowing – don’t stop to research, edit or check facts. Make a note in your text or on a post-it note and come back to it when you edit. Getting into the flow is hard to manage in a world full of ‘noise’ and distractions.
There is always time to edit and make changes at the end.


5. Write every day
Successful writers are not successful because they are talented – they are successful because they are persistent and consistent. They show up and write every day! Even if its only ten minutes a day – commit to it. Your writing skills will improve with practice.
If this book, blog or article is important to you – carve out time in your day. Find the best time in your day for you to write and make it happen!