If you've ever wanted to write a book, this is how to motivate yourself to do it, writes Simon Hall - who is very proud to have just seen his latest work published!
How to write a book
Whenever I go anywhere, meet anyone, and introduce myself, a comment authors are pretty much guaranteed to hear is:
- I've always wanted to write a book.
If that's you, and there's a book hiding inside you, longing to come out...
This is how to go about writing it.
One word of warning first.
What I'm not going to talk about are the ingredients of a book, the characters, settings, plot, research, all that.
This blog specifically focuses on how to motivate yourself to write a book, and ways to deal with some of the most common concerns.
If these help, there are plenty of resources to help you do the actual writing. I'll mention a couple later.
Writing A Book By Starting Small
After the phrase I've always wanted to write a book, what often follows is, But it's such a huge thing and I don't think I've got the time.
It's true. Writing a book is a big project.
Most works of fiction weigh in at about 90,000 words.
Before that puts you off, the key is not thinking about it as one huge project but instead as a series of small steps.
When I teach writing, I sometimes ask a group this:
- When you get to Christmas, and look back over the year, how fast do you feel it's gone?
Everyone tends to agree the time goes fast.
Now imagine you wrote 250 words every day that year which has just gone.
Just 250. Half a side of A4 paper. Not much at all.
As if by magic, you'd have about 90,000 words, or a book.
I find that helps with the motivation!
A little cheat to get you started on the path to a novel is to write an ebook, which can come in at only 2000 words.
But there's still a market for them, they can generate welcome income, and are also great practice for a bigger project if that's your ultimate goal.
This blog was prompted by the publication of my new book, a guide to public speaking, which came in at about 15,000 words, and was a pleasure to write.
How To Choose Your Story
This section is simple to write, and may come as a surprise.
For the best books:
- You don't choose your story, it chooses you.
If there's a story which has been nagging at you for years that's a hint, so listen to it.
A subject which you feel strongly about will always come across better than one which you have less passion for.
My most recent novel, The Editor, was a story about people who had lost hope in life, and how to find it again.
I wrote it because of the number of people I had met who quietly - often secretly - felt that way, how it moved me, and how I also had an insight which could help them.
Likewise, I wrote the public speaking book because I find the subject fascinating.
I also knew a lot of people would benefit from it, given it's something I'm often asked to teach.
How To Write A Book With Dignity
There's a common trap when you're writing a book and tell people about it.
You get deluged with questions, and requests to have a read, and that can be enough to put any aspiring author off.
Inevitably, when you write, you expose part of your soul and that's always scary.
So, when you start writing, remember this:
- No one has to read it but you.
You don't even have to tell anyone if you don't want to.
Just begin writing and see how it goes.
Tell people later if it's working out, and you need other eyes to have a look at your work.
But give yourself a good chance to start with, and keep your work to yourself.
I did, and eight novels, and some non fiction later, it's a trick I can certainly vouch for.
Find Your Time To Write
This is a really important thought if you ever want to enjoy any success as a writer:
- Find your creative time
When I started writing, I was still with the BBC, working as a News Correspondent, which didn't exactly allow for lots of free time.
But I fell in love with writing and so changed my life to follow my passion.
I started going to bed early, around 9.30, and getting up at 6 to do a couple of hours of work before the onslaught of the day.
Which led to a discovery.
My mind was at its freshest and most creative first thing in the morning, and so that was when I did my best work.
It's a habit which has stayed with me, and always served me well.
Even now, if I'm not working on a book and I've got a tricky business communications problem to crack, or a challenging lecture to put together, I always work on them first thing in the morning.
One of the toughest experiences of being a writer is those days when the words won't come.
They happen, and they're hard, but you learn ways of dealing with them.
Even now, after 15 years of fiction writing, plus even longer with news and the BBC, I have writing days which just don't work.
The trick is to accept that, and walk away...
But then come back later, or the next day, and voila!
Suddenly the words flow again.
Writing is a creative game and the muse is a fickle master.
Work with it, not against it, is my best advice.
A Final Word On Writing
In summary, to borrow a famous slogan, just do it.
Because writing can bring so much to your life.
Personally, it's helped me understand a lot more about myself and the world around me.
It's taken me on adventures, travelling to some incredible places and working with some amazing people.
It's made me feel happy and fulfilled in ways I could never have imagined without it.
On top of which there's the important point that writing in all its forms has also provided me with a wonderful career.
So give it a try. I promise you won't regret it.
And if you do fancy writing a book, I would recommend going to one of the excellent schools over the summer.
My two favourites are the Swanwick Writers' Summer School, and the Winchester Writers' Weekend, both of which I'm proud to teach at.
You can pick up lots of insights into the art of writing in just a few days, and have a great time while you're at it.
I'm a tutor, lecturer and coach in Communications and Business Skills at the University of Cambridge. I also run my own media, public relations and design consultancy, Creative Warehouse, work in government, and across the private and public sectors.
I can offer communications support in all areas, including:
Branding, reports, investment pitches, presentations and speech writing ~ Conventional and social media ~ Websites ~ Photography and videography ~ Public speaking ~ Crisis communications ~ Building your personal brand