Writing frees the flow that will bring forth your gold! To help you avoid a slippery slope, here are ten simple steps to writing your book in retirement (or any time!)
Good writing is always about something. Write the argument of your book in a sentence, then stretch that out to a paragraph, and then to a one-page outline. After that, write a table of contents to help guide you as you write, then break each chapter into a few sections. Think of your book as a beginning, middle, and end. Anything more complicated will get you lost.
John Grisham began his writing career as a lawyer and new dad — in other words, he was swamped. Nonetheless, he got up an hour or two early every morning and wrote a page a day. After a couple of years, he had a novel. A page a day is only about 300 words. You don’t need to write a lot but write often. Setting a daily goal will give you a target. Make it small and attainable so that you can hit your goal each day and start building momentum.
Consistency makes creativity easier. You need a daily deadline to do your work — that’s the best way to finish writing a book. Feel free to take a day off, if you want, but schedule it into your diary ahead of time. Never let a deadline pass; don’t let yourself off the hook so easily. Setting a daily deadline and regular writing time will ensure that you don’t have to think about when you will write. When it’s time to write, it’s time to write.
It doesn’t matter if your write-zone is a desk or a restaurant or a kitchen table. It just needs to be different from where you do other activities. Make your writing location a sacred space, so that when you enter it, you’re ready to work. It should remind you of your commitment to finish this book. Again, the goal here is not to lose time thinking. Start writing.
Once you’ve started writing, you need a total word count for your book. Structure "thousand-word increments," for example. Break each chapter into roughly equal lengths. Here are some general guiding principles:
You need a weekly goal. Make it a word count to keep things objective. Celebrate the progress you’ve made while still being honest about how much work is left to do. You need to have something to aim for.
Nothing stings worse than writing a book and then having to rewrite it because you didn’t let anyone look at it. Have a few trusted advisers to help you discern what’s worth writing. These can be friends, editors, family. Just try to find someone who will give you honest feedback early on to make sure you’re on target.
No matter what, finish the book. Set a deadline or have one set for you. Then release it to the world. Send it to the publisher, publish it on Amazon, do whatever you need to do to get it in front of people. Just don’t put it in your drawer. The worst thing would be for you to bail on your project after pouring all that time into writing. That wouldn't be anything even CLOSE to Best Work, and it won’t allow the world to benefit from your unique ideas!
As you approach the end of this project, know that this will be hard and you will most certainly mess up. Just be okay with failing, and give yourself grace. That’s what will sustain you — the determination to continue, not your elusive standards of perfection.
Most authors are embarrassed by their first book. I certainly was. But without that first book, you will never learn the lessons you might otherwise miss. So, put your work out there, fail early, and try again. This is the only way you get better. You have to practice, which means you have to keep writing.
Every writer started somewhere, and most of them started by squeezing their writing into the cracks of their daily lives. That’s how I began, and it may be where you begin, as well. The ones who make it are the ones who show up day after day. You can do the same.