10 Things I Learned from Writing the First Draft of a Book

The first draft of a book is a major hurdle toward getting a book published. I recently finished the first draft of the book I hope to publish in the first quarter of 2016. It was exactly 35,800 words and felt like a major accomplishment. I know that there’s a great deal of work left to do in the editing process, but I felt a true sense of accomplishment as I wrote those last few words of a first draft.

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The process of writing the first draft was fun, frustrating, and frightening. I suppose it could be compared to labor pains (although I have thankfully never had to have that experience). As I reflect on the process, I have learned some important lessons this first time around. I hope to apply these lessons for my next book (I hope this book is the first of  many), and am happy to share these lessons with you. Whether or not you are now, or ever will be writing a book, I hope these lessons will be helpful to you.

  1. I need guidance. I found my guidance in the form of an online “course” that helped me, called “Author Launch.” Author Launch is a series of weekly materials and videos that walk writers through the process of becoming authors of books. I can’t recommend Author Launch highly enough. I would never have written a first draft without the things I learned.
  2. I need encouragement. It’s tough to spend the hours and days writing a book without encouragement. I found it in three places: My wife who constantly encouraged me to sit down and write; a Facebook page set up by Author Launch where all those in the program encouraged one another; and a team of four people I put together who held me accountable and applauded me for my milestones. Encouragement is a nearly essential ingredient in getting a first draft written.
  3. It is good to get away. About two-thirds of the way through the process I was able to spend a week in a cabin the North Carolina mountains thanks to the generosity of some friends. I was at the point in the writing process where things had come to a screeching halt. The time away was just what I needed to dig deeply down and accomplish a great deal toward getting the first draft complete.
  4. It took me far longer than it should have. I began writing the first draft in February and didn’t finish it until December. I let too many distractions and “life” get in the way. I used too many excuses not to write. Had I really buckled down I probably could have finished the first draft in about three months. That will be my goal in the future.
  5. I enjoy interviewing people to learn from them. The book I am writing is largely based on the interviews I did with people. As I did them early on in the process, there were times when friends or family would listen in on the interviews. After I was finished with each one I wondered whether the people who listened found them as fascinating as I did. To a person they all did. As a result, I hope to launch a podcast in the new year that will be patterned after the interviews I did with the people I questioned for the book. I’d also like to use this tool for future books.
  6. I need a team to surround me. As I said, Author Launch encourages writers to create a team: 1. An Ideator; 2. A Writer; 3. An Editor; and 4. A Marketer. These people were kept apprised all along the way, and will now serve very important roles as the book moves from the first draft into the creation of a book that will be edited, published, marketed, and read.
  7. I love Scrivener software. Many authors use Scrivener software. It allows a writer to jump from one place to another (for instance, from chapter to chapter) as you write, instead of having to scroll through an entire document like you have to with a Microsoft Word document. It helps with organization and even publication. You can even use the software to publish a book to Kindle platforms. It’s a powerful tool.
  8. The best way to write is to sit down and do it. It may sound obvious, but you won’t write unless you’re sitting in front of the computer with a blank screen and an idea in your head. You have to commit to writing. It takes dedication. It takes effort. It takes time. It won’t happen unless you make the commitment to do it, and then…do it.
  9. The best time to start writing a book was yesterday. Finishing a first draft showed me that I can, indeed, write a book. It’s something I always wanted to do. Now I have. I have learned that I wish I would have done it a long time ago. I should have started writing “yesterday.”
  10. You can write a book, too. If I can do it, you can too. Trust me. There is absolutely nothing extraordinary about me or my ability. I simply sat down and did something I had always dreamed of doing. I have no doubt that you could do the same. Really. Start writing now. You won’t regret it.

If you would write a book, what would be the topic?

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2 thoughts on “10 Things I Learned from Writing the First Draft of a Book

  1. I’m working on an ebook called #transformed which focuses on Bible study tools. Hoping to have everything completed and launch in March 2016. It’s nothing huge only about 10K words or so, but I’m hoping it’s simplicity will have a big impact.

    Once #transformed is complete, I hope to have another ebook completed by the end of summer focusing on #DigitalOutreach.

    I’ll have to invest in Scrivener. I’ve heard of it before, but for now I simply use EverNote to keep everything organized.

    • Excellent, Heather! Keep up the great work. Check out Scrivener. Once you get over the hump of learning a little about it, you will love it! Can’t wait to read your finished products!