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How to Write a Book or Blog (The 6 Danger Stages You Need To Overcome)

Danger -4- 270xYou’ve probably had the experience of starting a novel or blog with great intentions… …only to find that, a few months later, you’ve barely made any progress.

Maybe you started strong but lost momentum.

Maybe you jumped ahead when you should’ve paused. Or maybe you got discouraged and gave up.

And you wonder: how to write a book (or blog).

I’ve coached many writers in workshop groups over the past few years, and I’ve noticed that there are six key stages when projects often stall or go wrong.

Here’s what to watch out for.

Danger Stage #1: Once You’ve Got a Great Idea

Let’s say you’ve got a new idea you’re excited about. Perhaps it’s a great premise for a novel, a topic for a blog, or a prompt you want to work on for a short story. Writers tend to make one of two mistakes here:

  • They jump straight in, full of enthusiasm, without planning. They make a great start, and might get a few chapters into the novel or a few posts into a blog … but then they get stuck.
  • They wait – and wait – until the “perfect moment” to begin actually writing. They put off starting until they’ve got past family commitments and a busy spell at work … or they read about their chosen field of writing without getting any words down on paper.

 

Move Forward

Once you’ve got a great idea, invest some time in planning.

You don’t necessarily need a chapter-by-chapter outline of your novel, but you’ll at least want a clear idea of who your characters are, what kicks the story off, what key scenes take place, and how it’s all going to end. If you’re writing a blog, plan out your next month of posts.

Having an editorial calendar makes it much easier to get a great balance of content and to keep yourself on track and motivated.

Danger Stage #2: When You’re a Few Chapters In

Many writers end up abandoning their books about five chapters in. At this stage, your initial burst of enthusiasm has waned, and it feels like you have a really long way to go until “The End.”

Some writers are serial abandoners, with many just-begun novels, or several attempts at starting a memoir or non-fiction book.

If you fall into this pattern, it’s easy to get defeatist, and tell yourself “I never finish anything.”

Move Forward

Develop a consistent, regular writing routine and stick to it, whether that means writing daily first thing in the morning, writing during your lunch break, or having a couple of evening sessions each week. If you write one chapter of 1500 words per week (that’s about 215 words per day), in six months, you’ll have close to 40,000 words, which is easily half a full-length novel.

You might like to read Darren Hardy’s The Compound Effect for an encouraging look at how small, regular efforts add up.

Danger Stage #3: When You Hit a Roadblock in Your Writing

I can’t think of a single writing project I’ve taken on where everything went smoothly from start to end.

If you’re writing anything longer than a blog post, chances are, you’re going to get stuck at some point. 

Maybe you need to do more research, or you’ve discovered a huge hole in your plot. When you get stuck, it’s easy to put your work aside for a few days while you figure things out.

The problem is, “a few days” quickly turns into a few weeks, then a few months.

Move Forward

Don’t plow on blindly when you realize there’s a problem – there’s no point writing chapter after chapter if you’re going to have to eventually cut them. Instead, grab your notebook, and start figuring out what you need to do to solve the problem.

Asking yourself “What’s the next action?” is vital to David Allen’s process and book Getting Things Done.

Danger Stage #4: The End of Your First Draft

You’ve finished the first draft of your book. Congratulations! Break out the champagne, share the news with your Facebook friends, and celebrate how far you’ve come.

Even if your project is a short story or mini-ebook, you’ve done really well to complete the first draft.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re done, though.

No first draft is perfect, and most aren’t anywhere close to publishable (mine definitely aren’t). However keen you are to be done with your project, don’t rush it out before it’s ready.

Move Forward

Set your book / blog post / short story aside for awhile. Ideally a week or more for a book, and a whole day for a blog post or short story.

Then read through the whole thing, and note any “big picture” changes you need to make such as cutting entire chapters, rejigging the relationship between characters, or adding new material. For more on the editing process, see Eight Simple Tips for Editing Your Own Work.

If you can, get other people to help you edit. You’ll want to do a full edit yourself, then send your work to them for feedback. Knowing that you have readers waiting can help you focus on doing a great job of getting your project shipshape.

Danger Stage #5: Your First Rejection

Whatever you write, and however good you are, there’s one difficult moment you’re certain to face at some point in your career, and that’s your first rejection.

It could be a rejection letter from an agent or editor, your first negative review, or the first critical comment on your blog. Some writers get so upset by rejection that they let it stop them entirely. They’d rather give up than face negative feedback.

Move Forward

Every author gets rejected. It’s no reflection on the value of your work (or of you as a person). S

ome editors simply won’t “click” with your style, some blog readers will be having a terrible day when they leave that snarky comment, and so on.

Do the best you can with your writing, but don’t be afraid to put it out in the world. If you do get a rejection, give yourself a limited amount of time (maybe 24 hours) to feel sorry for yourself, then get straight back to writing.

Danger Stage #6: After Your Work is Published

Your blog post is up on your site, your book is on Amazon, or your short story collection is available for free online.

Whatever form publication takes, your work is out there for the world to see. (If you get stuck just before publication, read Carol Tice’s post Scared of Publishing? 2 Proven Ways to Write With Confidence.)

Many writers don’t realise how crucial promotion is.

Unless you’re writing purely for personal enjoyment (a diary or memoir), you’ll want as many people as possible to read your work.

How can they do that if they’ve never heard of it? Even if you have a publishing deal, there’s a limit to what your publisher will (and can) do for you. Most authors have to arrange their own book launches, do their own social media, and so on.

Move Forward

Get to grips with the idea of promotion – it doesn’t mean becoming a scammy marketer. Instead, it means getting the word out about your book.

For bloggers, one of the best ways to promote your work is to build relationships with other bloggers.

This could mean getting to know them on Twitter, or pitching them a guest post for their blog, which will give you access to their audience.

Is your writing project currently at one of these danger stages?

Now you know what to do to navigate it successfully. But maybe you have other strategies that work for you.

If so, tell us in the comments below. And if I’ve missed any danger stages, share those too.

About the author:  Ali Luke’s course “On Track” is a free, seven-week program designed to get your project moving again. If you’re feeling stuck, in need of inspiration, or just want a bit of guidance through the different stages of your project, click here to find out more. You’ll get a bonus ebook, Seven Pillars of Great Writing, as soon as you join.

Image: Danger courtesy of Bigstockphoto

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23 thoughts on “How to Write a Book or Blog (The 6 Danger Stages You Need To Overcome)

  • Jane

    Danger #4 sounds pretty familiar to me Ali :) I’ve been stuck there for a while with 2 of my ebooks.

    Once you finish the first draft you get a mixed feeling. You think you have accomplished something great and you need to take a break. And then once the heat is down, you feel that there is still so much work to do before you get the book ready for publishing and this though pulls you down :)

    Thanks for the heads up :)

    Reply
    • Marcie

      Hi Jane,

      I have quite a few “drafts” that I need to get through. If you want like to become accountability partners, let me know. That’s my biggest challenge right now.

      Reply
    • Ali Luke

      I know just what you mean about those mixed feelings, Jane. It’s a tough point to get past — with ebooks, I find it helps to promise my audience that they’re coming and to set a launch date!

      Reply
  • Laura

    Stage 2 is definitely my biggest danger stage and I am definitely a serial abandonner. I have so many half finished things on my computer!

    Reply
    • Ali Luke

      You’re definitely not alone, Laura! I hope you can push your next project past Stage 2 — you’ll probably find it gets much easier from that point on. :-)

      Reply
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  • Jack Cordwell

    You definitely nailed it.

    I’ve seriously begun writing my first novel now (jackcordwell.com chronicles the process) after waiting forever for things to be perfect. As though my boss would one day tell me that he’s sending me on a paid sabbatical (nope), or my book to miraculously outline itself (it didn’t) or my family to tell me that they were fine with handling everything themselves and playing quietly in another room (never going to happen).

    It was time to suck it up and figure it out. And just write. No more excuses, no more perfect, just messy life and a laptop whose battery always seems to be near death. But it’s working, and the book is getting written.

    And you know what? It’s even better than I thought it would be.

    Reply
    • Ali Luke

      Good on you, Jack! It’s always so tempting to wait for the perfect writing conditions (or at least *better* writing conditions…) and to hope that spare time will miraculously appear. It sounds like now you’ve made a start, you’re on a roll. Good luck with the rest of the book!

      Reply
  • Toyib

    Well, all I can say is that I’ve not benefitted from any blogger more than Ali Luke even though this is her second post I’m reading. The first was on social media examiner.

    God bless

    Reply
    • Ali Luke

      Thanks so much, Toyib — I’m really flattered! If you want more posts from me, I’ve got quite a few on Write to Done, plus more than anyone would want to read on various blogs around the web (Google “Ali Luke” and you’ll find plenty). :-)

      Reply
  • Marcy McKay

    Hey, Ali – I’ve written four full novels and launched a blog this spring, and you nailed it, baby. I’ve been guilty of #1 both ways: blinding jumping into my first three novels without a plan. Then with my blog, I was TERRIFIED to wait until it was perfect. Neither extreme is good. Thanks for all your helpful hints.

    Reply
    • Ali Luke

      Thanks Marcy! Well done on you with the novels and the blog. There’s definitely a balance to be struck between doing enough planning to know where you’re going … and accepting that you’ll never know EVERYTHING and starting anyway. Best of luck with the blog (and novel #5?) :-)

      Reply
  • julie mayerson brown

    I have “known” every single one of these dangers! Great article. Will keep it handy and refer to it when needed.
    And just fyi, I’m a fan of the outline and have developed some strategies… My recent novel takes place over a six week period. My OUTLINE was a hand-drawn calendar in which I “scheduled” the major events down to date and time. It kept me on track and helped me make sure I didn’t create mistakes in the timeline. Happy to share details if anyone needs help.
    Julie Mayerson Brown

    Reply
    • Ali Luke

      I think a calendar’s an excellent way to do an outline, Julie (twice, I’ve ended up creating mine in retrospect, when trying to make sure the novel’s events fit together properly … I wish I had the forsight to do them in advance).

      Reply
  • Kevin Duncan

    Hey Mary & Ali,

    Great thoughts here, Ali. I find #6 to be the big one as a blogger.

    When you start out as a blogger, promotion is such a foreign concept. “People will magically find me,” some bloggers think to themselves. Okay, some bloggers INCLUDING me. :-)

    But you quickly realize promotion is just as important, if not more so, than the creation of the content. You have to build relationships. Network. Get the word out on social media. Hire a sky writer. ANYTHING to get eyes on your content!

    Congrats guest posting on Mary’s great site here.

    I’ll be sharing this on Twitter in just a second…

    Have a great day!

    Reply
    • Ali Luke

      Thanks Kevin! And I definitely had the same experience as you when I started out … I did do a few basic promotional things, but I had very inflated expectations about results.

      It’s always a great pleasure (and a bit of a thrill!) being a guest on Write to Done. :-)

      Reply
  • Munish

    I always encounter with Danger #3 whilw writing. I like to write big and long but sometime get stuck. The only action when I got stuck, START NEW. But not from today. I will follow “Move Forward” like you have told and will complete all my writings.

    Thanks a lot for such a great tip and to encourage new writers like me…

    Reply
  • linked here

    I am planning on being a creative writing teacher for my Senior project. The problem is, I can’t think of a grade that kids start creative writing. I would rather deal with younger kids than older ones because in the end I want to give them a book of the classes collected works. I was thinking 3rd Grade, but I can’t remember when I started creative writing. Any and all help would be much appreciated. Thank you. :).

    Reply
  • anti moth

    I really love to write and I’m pretty good at it. But whenever I try to write a story or something I start off good but always end up throwing it away–I can never seem to finish it. . . Sometimes I have a good idea that I really like but it’s just hard for me to write a story about and keep going. I like creative writing, but now I’ve almost given up because I can’t even write a short story. HELP!!! What should I do?. Any good creative writing websites to help me get started? Books?. I’m DESPERATE!!.

    Reply
  • Heidi

    hi!,I love your writig very so much! percentage we be in contact more about yolur article on AOL?

    I eed a specialist on this space to unravel my problem.
    Maybe that’s you! Having a look forward to see you.

    Allso visit my wenlog … dog thyinks – Heidi -

    Reply

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