How to get started on a book

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The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question looks at how to get started on a book. If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question. 


How to get started on a book? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, still in pandemic mode. 

I have a question from Maria Alejandra, a writer based in Melbourne, Australia Here’s what she’s asked by email….

“I haven’t written portions of my book on the topic of “Home Management,” because I haven’t done enough research. I’ve written down some ideas and have them in Evernote. Should I wait until I have collected more ideas and done more research before I start writing? And is writing my ideas on Evernote a form of research? I write every night in my diary. Does that count as a writing habit?” 

Thanks for your questions, Maria. I can see that many thoughts and worries are spinning through your brain right now. So, the first thing I want to say to you is: Take a deep breath! 

Your next step — as you seem to have guessed — is to do your research. Writing down ‘ideas’ in Evernote is not the same as researching. I can’t predict exactly what you might need to investigate as I have only a sketchy understanding of your topic. But research should focus on factual information you need to collect before you know what you want to say about it. 

For example, I’m going to assume your book is about the kinds of things one needs to know to run a household. Does that include appliances? If it does, you might need to research the best vacuum cleaners. The best dishwashers. The best irons. 

Or, if your book is going in a slightly different direction, you might want to give advice on the best software for all sorts of things ranging from recipe management, to bill paying, to dinner party planning. 

And if YOU are not sure of the direction in which you want the book to go, then that’s something you need to think about. I’ve never been a big fan of unnecessary work, so don’t start writing until you have the plan for your book sorted out in your own mind.   

One thing you might consider is doing a mindmap about your project. I published a video about how to do that last week and I include the link below. 

Maria, I can see that you’re excited by your project, which is great. But you need to harness that excitement in a way that’s going to inspire you to do the actual work necessary.   

You ask a number of questions about what “counts” as working on your book and so perhaps the most helpful thing I can say is this: 

Anything you do that will take that specific project forward certainly counts. This is why all your research counts. But for the same reason, writing in your diary does not. Why? It’s not related to your project. 

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from the late great American tennis player Arthur Ashe. I know there’s a stadium named after him in Melbourne! I walked through it last year. He said: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” 

Maria, writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. Take all the time you need to do a good job. Don’t be so concerned about what “counts” as writing. Instead, take one step after the next until you have your rough draft.   


If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes.  


How to structure a book (mindmapping video)

Your Happy First Draft