Four tips on how to start writing


As a publisher of 25 years and writer of 30 years I am often asked the following question, ‘I’ve always wanted to write a book, how do I start?’

It’s a really good question and one that most people struggle to answer, whether they want to write a book, an article, white paper, thought leadership piece . . . whatever. So here’s four tips to help you get started.

1. Commit before you start.

While this may sound like odd advice but its critical to ask yourself if you are prepared to make the time to commit to writing?

Writing is like anything other job/project/goal. You have to make a commitment to it, otherwise it won’t happen. Words, stories, ideas, thoughts and feelings stay in your head unless you commit to write them down/type them.

Make time to write every day, or every other day . . . even if it means you have to get up an hour earlier, stop watching television or defer watching the latest movie or series you have downloaded.

There’s always a reason not to write, believe me I’ve found most of them. If you want to write something, anything, you are going to have to make the time to write.

2. Who are you writing for?

Most people start by thinking about what they want to write, what they want to tell the world, their family or even just themselves. It’s important though to have a clear idea about who you think will want to read what you are writing, as it will have a significant impact on what you write, how you write it and how much you write.

Writing your life story or that of a family member is a completely different writing task and writing a thought leadership piece on, say, design thinking. This may seem obvious, but it’s absolutely critical that you are very clear about who you are writing for.

Write a list of the audiences you are trying to reach, what they are interested in and, if you can, what they are currently reading. This is the landscape where your writing will sit.

3. What do you have to say?

Jot down in dot points the key elements of what you want to say/what your story is about. You might end up with 10 dot points or 100. The important thing is to get what is in your head, out of your head and on to paper or a computer screen (or tablet, mobile device).

Keep working on this until you feel you’ve clearly captured what it is you want to say. You can then start to create a logical order for these thoughts (these might later become your chapter headings and groupings).

It will also help you to refine what you have to say in relation to what others have said, or not. This is a crucial element when you are writing a thought leadership piece, blogs and articles to help position you as an original thinker, someone with something to add to your industry sector and/or secure clients.

4. Set a deadline

Whatever reason you are writing, set a deadline for the completion of your first draft and focus on this. Unless you make writing one of your priorities something else, or someone else, will always get in the way or be more important. Any excuse will do.

If you are serious about writing, you need to be as disciplined about it as say booking your next holiday, completing work projects, turning up to your children’s school events or family commitments.

Part of setting a deadline is making a plan to achieve it. I’ve always remembered Dennis Conner’s response to a question a journalist asked after he won the America’s Cup in 1987. The journalist ask Dennis, ‘How did you win?’ Denis’ response was succinct. ‘I had a plan to win.’

In short, if you want to start writing:

Commit before you start.

Work out who you are writing for.

Define what you want/have to share, and

Set a deadline.

If you want/need some help in any of these areas The Book Coach is here to help. As I develop and start to share a set of tools and checklists for writers, I can provide you guidance, support and encouragement. And, let me know if these hints have helped you by sending me a message:[email protected]