The 5 Irrefutable Signs You Need To Start A Writing Project Now

start a writing project

What you’re best at…sits at the core of your passion.
-Mary Karr, Liar’s Club and Art of the Memoir

Is this the year you’re finally going to write your self-help book or memoir?

Your business book?

Your how-to classic?

Your novel?

Is there a way to know if it’s the right time—or the right year—to start a writing project?

There are signs—five, in fact—that I’ve seen over and over in my 7 years as a book coach and editor.

Sure signals that it’s time to lean your full weight on the spade of authorship—and dare to sink it all the way into the ground.

The 5 Irrefutable Signs You Need to Start a Writing Project

#1. Your idea or story refuses to go away.

You see your book everywhere: in conversations with friends and family, in the movie you’re watching, on the page of the book you’re reading.

It’s like being in love—the beloved has moved into your heart.

#2. You feel like you can’t move forward with your other goals…

… not until (and unless) you accomplish this one.

Your book has become the No. 1 priority for you. You feel a fresh excitement and inner imperative.

#3. People who know you are constantly asking you when you’re going to write (or finish) your book.

Your personal or professional story has meaning for others.

Perhaps your insight and expertise are needed in your field.

#4. The manuscript in your drawer has come out of its coma.  

The pages you wrote last year or 5 years ago have awakened and are calling to you.
You’ve read them over and realize they’re not half bad; in fact, they’re pretty darn good. With your fresh perspective, you’re ready to re-engage.

#5. It’s time to leave your legacy.

You’re nearing the end of a major project or career and want to assume control over the perception and value of your legacy, instead of leaving it to others.

If three or more of these signs are present, the scales have tipped and you’re feeling ready—and empowered—to make the leap.

Almost as soon as you decide “Ok, it’s time. I’m on the go-line,” a couple of things are likely to happen.

You’ll feel like you’re on the way to the Emerald City where the Wizard of Oz is going to take care of everything and the book is going to flow out of you and write itself,

and/or

You’re seized and frozen by the thought: “What if I can’t do it?”

I’ve watched aspiring authors react differently to this alternating wave of elation and terror.

Enthusiastic

If you’re the enthusiastic, go-get-’em type, chances are you’ll dive in and start piling up the pages, all the while telling yourself, “I’m writing a book – so let’s write it already!”

These are typically the authors who realize six months later that what they’ve produced doesn’t have a structure, and they don’t know how to fix it.

Cautious

If you’re the cautious, thoughtful type, you might start by researching. I once worked with a writer who had created a bibliography of works in her field, read them assiduously, and summarized and categorized each one according to how it related to her topic.

She was terrified of infringing on another author’s work, or being accused of not giving acknowledgment where it was due; likely a mask for her fear of getting started.

Let’s look at another, more effective approach that doesn’t put you at the mercy of your wishful thinking or your unreasonable fears.

Author as Product Developer

When a company wants to introduce a new product, they put the idea through the wringer before they start building it. (At least, they did—back in my marketing days.)

Here are some of the key marketing questions that top management and investors want the answers to before they give the go-ahead (and the money!):

  1. High Value: What problem does the product solve? What human need does it fill? And does it solve a problem that enough people need—and want—solved?
  2. Audience: Who’s it for, specifically?
  3. Unique Appeal: How is the solution different from products or services already out there?
  4. Specifications: What are the basic specifications (genre, content and structure) for this product (book)?

Using the product development approach moves you into your confidence as an author in several ways. It:

  • Validates the value of your book before you spend months (and years) writing and revising it.
  • Keeps you from being sabotaged by fear and self-doubt because you have a plan
  • Connects you to your core so you move easily into your flow zone
  • Puts your book on the fast track so you can create your “best book” in record time.

This doesn’t mean you won’t have days when the inner critic rears its damning head, or self-doubt threatens to stop you. But it does mean that those voices won’t have the power to disable you because you have connected with your vision and purpose.

Do you feel ready to make a commitment to start a writing project?  What’s holding you back?

Please share your thoughts and experience in the comments! We want to hear from you.

About the author: 

Sally Wolfe coaches writers to write from a place of clear vision and purpose. Sign up for her FREE author training “The Secret to Fast-tracking Your Book: Write from Your Core,” and free yourself to write with confidence.

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37 thoughts on “The 5 Irrefutable Signs You Need To Start A Writing Project Now”

  • Book as product! I keep hearing this advice, but this is the most succinct I’ve seen it put down. Thank you Sally!

    I’m rather in the stuck-in-editing phase, where I seem to always neglect to push my novel further down the tracks because line editing is so gosh darn tedious.

    Sally, how does author-as-product developer apply to novelists?

    • Sally Wolfe says:

      Hi Chris, Like any product, a book, novel or otherwise, has to have a reader which is the market. The next key are of product development for a genre novel is a well-crafted plot that with several plot “points” that move from clearly defined inciting incident to climax. Thanks for sharing your question.

  • PD Simeon says:

    Just what I needed, Sally! I’m struggling to get my day job done. And somehow my novel seems to take a back seat because everything is so, so important.

    I”m wondering whether at the back of all of this lies the fear that I can’t write the novel?

    • Beth says:

      Hi PD
      I was wondering if everybody else has been able to keep up with the challenge. I’ve also struggled. But I did manage to finish my first chapter in my psychological thriller, The Blade’s Edge. All 10 000 words of it!
      At the moment I am resisting the urge to give it to well meaning friends to see what they think about it and if I should continue in that line. As I got stuck on an opening for the second chapter. That was until I downloaded a pdf from MONICA LEONELLE. Another self published novelist.
      If you are having feelings of self doubt or if anyone reading Mary’s latest blog I highly recommend this pdf. It is titled NAIL YOUR STORY.
      Mary if you are reading this reply please recommend it for all those pdf is struggling with the challenge. It would be appreciated. Thank you.
      Another good book I have found helpful in this challenge is STRUCTURING YOUR NOVEL WORKBOOK by K.M. WEILAND.
      I hope this helps you PD to overcome your fear that you will fail. Because you WON’T! I’m rooting for you to finish it as I look forward to reading your book. So keep going no matter how hard it is.
      Thank you Sally for these useful tips. Much appreciated.

    • Sally Wolfe says:

      That fear always hovers for all of us, PD. The more important your novel is to you, the more anxiety you’ll naturally have that you can’t do it. I find that that even a small amount of time on a REGULAR basis is the antidote, but that time has to be when I’m at my peak, not exhausted or stressed. Thanks for sharing.

  • T.O. Weller says:

    Great post Sally!

    My biggest challenge? It’s along the lines of what you describe in #2: I now have two or three ideas, all of which I love. There are plenty more and, as of this week, they sit in a bucket for future consideration; I’ve actually managed to narrow it down to three!

    I’m hoping that I can now move forward more, but I still worry that three projects are two too many. Perhaps one will stand out as it goes?

    One other thing … along the lines of Chris Douglas Martin’s question: how would we answer the question of the problem we’re trying solve when it comes to fiction?

    Thanks again!

    • Sally Wolfe says:

      HI TO, I attempted to answer Chris’s question about applying these principles to a novel–I think it’s in the area of plot development where this model is most useful. As to your 3 project dilemma, I’m wondering, beside the novel, what they are. My experience: I choose ONE PRIMARY FOCUS that I’m committed to–3 to 4 hrs a day–and before I try to add some smaller ones, I make sure there’s a strong momentum carrying me (thus my image of getting to the center of the river where the current is) and the project is rooted and securely growing (a bit too many metaphors here but you get the idea.) The thing is when you chose one thing then you can’t choose the other and sometimes that holds us back because we don’t want to let go of the other thing. Resonate? Thanks for sharing.

  • Hi,

    The First point of this article is important to me, its been around 8 years since I started to write a story and then stopped after few hundred pages into the story. And though I have clearly given up completing the story, it still keeps on coming to me. The story doesn’t leave me. It comes back again and again.

  • What holds a writer back from committing to a project idea?

    I’d comment; but first I need to think about that. Think Think Think…it can be a great asset to a writer; but also his or her biggest liability to…getting it done!

    Don’t think too much. DO IT!

  • Wendy Rogers says:

    Three out of five especially feeling I can’t move forward with my other goals. Thank you, Sally and Mary for bringing her to us!

    • Sally Wolfe says:

      That’s great to recognize you can’t move forward with your other goals because of the one you haven’t finished (or committed to) yet. Thanks, Wendy, for sharing.

  • Lisa Redfern says:

    Nicely executed article, Sally.

    The ‘after’ reaction descriptions started my day off with a chuckle.

    Changing your perception about your work from a precious baby birthed through
    the depths of your soul into a product for sale is a necessary distancing technique that every author (parent) needs for their project (child) to grow toward maturity.

  • Noellin says:

    Thanks for this important post Sally,
    You couldn’t have selected the points better.
    I’m an Editor, a blogger, video edititor, script writer and some few more to do in the entertainment industry. But my first love is writing my novels, I get stories in my head all the time and my biggest fear is leaving this word without writing at list one novel.
    This load with different things to do is too heavily, I’ve decided to focus 100% on writing a novel this year. Everything else has wait. So so far so good and I’m enjoying writing more than thought. There is still so much to do but I’m looking forward to it.
    You made a very important about genre and specifications I will look into that for my book before it’s too late.
    Thanks a lot.

  • Glo says:

    I have other priorities, but I never go a day without writing something. The family in my book, is everywhere. I have seen them in many locales and situations. I believe they are going to be around for ever. .The question is, can I stop making notes and formalize my characters where they are now?

  • Julie Holly says:

    The product development part of this article was exactly what I needed to move forward on a project that had stalled. Thank you so much. As of now, I only have one of the 5 elements – the idea that won’t go away – which tells me my story needs to continue to mature before it is ready to be written. But my current project has just leapt forward.

  • I agree with the above article the five steps are all me because my siblings and friends went to read my to-be-novel, I find inspiration everywhere and my genre is suspense.

  • Very superb and such a nice article thanks for sharing this post.

  • You get those ideas that just really won’t go away. Things that just keep popping up almost like the universe is give you a sign. Those of the ones that you need to jump on. I also gauge by my motivation to do something.

  • Vanessa S. says:

    Thank you for sharing tips that we can ask ourselves to determine how needed our book will be in society. Appreciate it. Thanks, signed up for your webinar as well!

  • alfalah12345 says:

    Thank you for sharing tips.

  • Ann says:

    #2 is so true for me. I just can’t run away from the stories biting at my heels. So I had to give in… Great advice and inspiring message, because yes, I feel ready to commit to this a hundred percent. There is really no going back.

  • Thank you for posting the great content. I was looking for something like this. I found it quiet interesting, hopefully you will keep posting such blogs

  • I salute writers like you for doing a great job!

  • Donna Foerster says:

    I’m feeling the pull to finish at least one project this year. I have so many writing ideas pulling me in different directions. I’m doing my best to just let it all out and then I’ll sort it out later. This is the most of done in years for my writing. Therefore, I feel like I’m moving in the right direction, even if it’s a several different directions all at once. Make sense?

    Most of your 5 signs are showing up in my life. This WILL BE the year I finish.

  • Thanks for sharing the information. It is very useful for my future. keep sharing

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