Writing longer documents – 5 tips
Don’t be afraid of writing longer documents like books… in many ways they are just a series of short, well-written documents.
Read my 15 tips, summarised under these headings:
- You CAN do it
- Be sure to plan and structure your work
- Make the writing process easy – and enjoyable!
- Ensure as much of your writing as possible is GOOD
- Running out of stamina? Let’s finish the job.
You can do it…
1) Use a theme, eg conveyed through the chapters and headings, to provide a coherent whole.
2) You don’t have to write a long book, and you don’t have to be a great writer – after all, you are not aiming to write a great literary work, or a best-seller. Rest assured that if you have passion for your subject it will show up in your writing, and that will make for an interesting read.
… just be sure to plan
3) Before you start, have a clear idea of your goals and what your book will look like – the content and format, what readers will gain, etc. Use key cards, mind maps or whatever system you like to organise your thoughts. ONLY start writing when you have a clear plan for the whole book.
4) Start somewhere you feel confident – it doesn’t have to be the beginning. The beginning will be easier to write when you can see the book as a whole – probably when you have finished.
Make the writing process easy
5) We tend to put writers and books on a pedestal, and that makes us fearful of writing. But good writing is no more than well-spoken dialogue, and that is what you should try and emulate. If you find it hard, use a voice recorder, or software that converts your spoken words to text.
6) Choose the day, time and environment, etc. that you like to work – whether it’s 5am or past midnight, in the library or on the sofa, with music or without. Whatever works for you!
7) Give the job the attention it deserves. Before you start, remove any worries you can (deal with any nagging jobs), focus your mind (eg go for a walk and/or clear your desk,), and apply yourself to the job (avoid any interruptions, and give yourself at least 2 hours to make some worthwhile progress).
Make your work count
8) Write without editing – at first at least. It’s may seem tempting and logical to edit as you write, but it will slow you down and get you frustrated; leaving the editing till later has the advantage it will get your writing and confidence flowing.
9) Each time you start writing, make sure you have a clear plan of that section’s content. It doesn’t need to be long and detailed, but doing so will ensure your narrative flows, and there is a logical and orderly structure for the reader to follow.
10) Try and break your chapters/sections into ‘stories’, to help the pages turn. Yes, even non-fiction can be written as stories. Here’s one story line: To achieve something, A needs B, … but C… possible solutions are Y and Z.
11) Nick ideas. Take a trip to a library or bookshop, but don’t spend a penny. See what books grab you, and why, and copy their techniques into your writing and book format.
Finishing the job
12) Set yourself some targets, and allocate a regular time to write. You may need to organise the rest of your life better, create imaginary ‘appointments’ with your PC, or have ‘writing buddy’ to whom you deliver xx words per week. If you keep to your targets, the chapters will get written. But once you miss targets and delay things you could lose your momentum.
13) Incentivise yourself with rewards. Writing is a solitary activity, and it may mean being unsocial to friends and family). It is not everyone’s cup of tea; not everyone finds it easy. So treat yourself – with larger treats for larger accomplishments.
14) Visualise the final outcome, if necessary with a Post-it note on your wall beside you. Remind yourself why you are writing a book – imagine your book on the shelves, how you plan to use it, etc. No author ever regrets writing; nor will you.
15) Plan the overall job, with target dates for completing your text and for publication. Announce the dates to others, to increase your commitment. (Most find it easier to write a book over a short period; spreading out your writing runs the risk of losing continuity and spending recapping where you got to before.)
Nothing beats targets, rewards and deadlines