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How to Write a Book In Your Spare Time

How to Write a Book In Your Spare Time

Today, I’m going to let you in on a little secret:

Anyone can write a book.

Yes, that’s right, I said anyone. Even you. You have stories you want to tell. You have things you want to say. You are the only person on Earth who can tell others how you see the world, and you feel about a given subject, a particular theme or trope. Whether you’re a natural writer or in need some polish, you can write a book.

How many times have you heard something like this: “To be a writer means you’ll die, penniless and alone, in a garret somewhere!” “Don’t you have to take up alcoholism, as a hobby, to be a writer?” “Who’s going to read it?” “When will you find the time?”

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These are myths. While it is true that many writers like their sauce, and some have starved or frozen to death in drafty, unheated attics, and few have been wildly successful, none of these apply to you. You’re just starting the journey. If you decide later on to be the kind of writer who never touches a drop of liquor, likes indoor heating and plumbing, and attracts legions of fans, then you’re breaking the mold and God bless you for it. For now, it’s time to get to work on that story you’ve been aching to tell since you can’t remember when.

As to the last objection, many people have to stifle the urge to cry, “Ain’t nobody got time for that! Spare time? WHAT spare time!?” Everyone has spare time, whether they realize it or not. You may have to sacrifice your TV time or hanging with friends, but look at what you stand to gain. If you really want to write, you can and will make time for it.

This is how to write a book:

1) Now is the time to start

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    It took me fifteen years to write my first novel. Why? Because I let absolutely everything that crossed my path distract me. I always knew I’d get it done someday, but when I look back, I could kick myself for all the wasted time I spent playing video games, dealing with aborted romantic entanglements, and working at dead-end jobs. The time to start is not when it’s convenient, when the kids are grown, or when your boss isn’t breathing down your neck 24/7. The time to start is NOW. But how?

    2) Set realistic time and word count goals

    Professional writers can spend their entire day putting words on paper, planning stories, and taking care of first-round editing as they go. This is not your job right now, and you probably don’t have that luxury. Your job is to sit down and get words on the page. If you have two hours a day to spare in which you can write, then take two hours. If you can only commit to fifteen minutes, then take fifteen minutes. The point is to write as much as you can, as often as you can. Like anything else, writing takes practice and discipline to become proficient. You will find as you progress and come to enjoy writing more that you can fit more writing into less time, but getting something on paper is the mission of the moment. If you think you can lay down 19,000 words in 24 hours, go for it. Pro tip: There’s a reason they invented DVR. If you’re a TV junkie, use it. Better still, kick the habit altogether. More on this in a few minutes.

    3) Make time for it

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      It’s easy to say, “I’m too tired. I don’t feel like it. My favorite show’s on tonight. The kid/spouse/boss has this thing…” All of these are excuses. I know, because I’ve used them. I still do sometimes. If you’re really serious about getting the book written, you will make time for it, even if it’s only ten minutes before you go to bed. Type out the notes you scribbled in your steno pad during your lunch break. Please, don’t ever, EVER use “writer’s block” as an excuse. I personally believe writer’s block is a myth that people use to explain why they’re not working.

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      4) Carry a notepad with you

      Sometimes you’ll find you get a great idea: a clever turn of phrase, a precise description of someone’s eyes, or just a cool scene you want to write. The problem is, you don’t have anything to write with! The easiest cure for this is to carry a notepad at all times. That way, you can jot down notes whenever the spirit moves you without trying to remember all of your story ideas until you can get to your computer.

      5) Set a writing ritual

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        Writing is a special kind of work, and it requires a special space and time. (At least until you get your wheels under you; then, feel free to experiment.) During this time, turn off all your phones, lock the door, tell the spouse, kids, roommates, or friends that you’re on lockdown until further notice, get off the Internet, and feed and water your pets. Eliminate any possible reason anyone can have to break up your mojo and shut off anything that might create a distraction. Turn off the TV! I cannot stress this point enough. Television is to writers as Round-Up is to weeds. It will kill your creativity and your flow. Pro tip: For helpful white noise, try playing music that’s appropriate to the scene you’re writing. I personally like contemporary jazz for love scenes, rap or metal for fight scenes, and appropriate music for scenes of calm or tension. Experiment and discover what works best for you while in the middle of a given scene.

        6) Seek out other writers for inspiration and challenge

        Many writers hang out on Twitter, and they love to encourage new authors. If you want to test yourself, try following a few and look for the hashtag #1k1hr or something similar. This means “1k (1,000 words) in 1 hour.” It is a friendly challenge; there are no prizes and no one’s going to give you a hard time if you don’t make the goal, but it’s a good way to flex your writing muscles. You start a timer and write like a crazy person until the timer goes off. Then you report your result. Some people surprise themselves by laying down 1.5k or even 2k words within the time limit. Test yourself! This is also a great way to communicate with other authors, and start networking early.

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        7) Ask questions

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          Another good resource is Writing.com. This is a great place for getting positive feedback, and it has forums where you can ask questions about plot, spelling, and all manner of nuances related to writing. I strongly suggest you do your writing first, and then post any questions you’ve generated during your writing time, afterward.

          8) Don’t worry about getting published right now

          By the time you’ve followed the previous seven steps, you will be in a pretty good place. Your story should be moving along, and maybe you’re thinking about publishing it. This is not the time to worry about it. You can’t sell a product you haven’t finished at this stage of the game. Worry about getting the book done first.

          Once the book is done and you’ve typed the words “The End,” walk away. Put it in a cabinet, a desk drawer, or anywhere you won’t be tempted to drag it out and mess with it. Leave it for at least two weeks and do something completely different to rest your weary cranium. (Many professional writers, like Stephen King, suggest a month to six weeks, but I think two weeks is plenty. Do what works for you, though.) After time has passed, print out your book and read through with a red pen. Notice any places where you have repetition, misspellings, or awkward working, and mark your copy appropriately. Next, rewrite. If you can cut without losing the flow of the story, do so. In the process of editing, sometimes an entire chapter goes to the wood chipper, but you’ll be a lot happier with the results.

          Improve Your Business Writing

            The best part is, once you’ve done all this, now you can start thinking about agents and publishers. When someone asks you what you do, you can look them in the eye with absolute confidence and tell them, “I’m a writer.” Don’t EVER use the word “aspiring.” You’ve done the work and you’ve got the product to prove it. You’ve earned the right to call yourself a writer. Be proud of it!

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            Last Updated on September 16, 2019

            How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

            How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

            You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

            We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

            The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

            Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

            1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

            Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

            For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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            • (1) Research
            • (2) Deciding the topic
            • (3) Creating the outline
            • (4) Drafting the content
            • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
            • (6) Revision
            • (7) etc.

            Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

            2. Change Your Environment

            Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

            One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

            3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

            Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

            Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

            My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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            Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

            4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

            If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

            Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

            I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

            5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

            I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

            Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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            As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

            6. Get a Buddy

            Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

            I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

            7. Tell Others About Your Goals

            This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

            For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

            8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

            What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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            9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

            If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

            Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

            10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

            Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

            Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

            11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

            At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

            Reality check:

            I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

            More About Procrastination

            Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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