3 things I'm learning while writing a book (book update no. 2)

3 things I'm learning while writing a book (update no. 2) - by Paper + Oats


My last (and first) book update felt like a lifetime ago, but alas, it was just shy of 3 months ago. I had “Book Update #2” on my calendar for this week’s blog post, and thought, well there’s nothing new to say except: I’m still writing it. But then I jotted down some notes and it turned into paragraphs and it appears I have more updates than I realized, so here we are. Funny, that writing thing. It works.

The most obvious update I have is – how far into the sucker are ya?! Well my goal for the final book is to be around 70,000-80,000 words, and right now I’m a little over 12,000. I’ve got almost two full chapters done (out of 9 planned chapters) and the introduction is done (though I’m sure it’ll keep evolving), and I’m feeling pretty good about my progress. Fifteen-ish percent may not sound like a ton, but it feels like a lot considering I was hovering right around 0% just a few months ago.

Some have asked me if I have a working title for the entire book yet? That’s a hard no. I’m not letting myself think about it too much, cause I know my brain will get sucked right down that rabbit hole. Cover design? No clue, but I'm pinning random book covers I like on Pinterest.

I’m also still reading other books – Rising Strong by Brene Brown has been a game-changer, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott might be my new favorite book of all time — literally. If you’re even thinking about writing, you must read this. I borrowed my brother’s copy to read while we were in Italy, so I still need to get my own copy, but I managed to jot down this gem from one of the first chapters, and it perfectly sums up what this entire book writing process is like:

E.L. Doctorow once said that “writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.


three other things I’ve done since my last update:


1 — Schedule in writing time.

I took a trip to Italy to kick off this project (also to eat pasta and hang out with my brother), and having that very official start date helped me stay focused, both before the trip when I was working on other projects, and during and after the trip. Though I only wrote the last few days of the trip while we were in Palermo, Sicily, I did read Bird by Bird cover to cover throughout the whole trip, and got a few big chunks of my first couple chapters written. One thing that helped, is that I got into a routine each time I sat down to write. My brother and I decided to end our trip with this Sicilian wind-down – we built in down time during the day, and stayed in to cook in the evenings. And two other crucial things we had: red wine and Swiss jazz. The red wine is obvious – we were in Italy for goodness sake. And the Swiss jazz was a pleasant surprise when we arrived at our Airbnb, and our host had it playing over the stereo. We kept it playing almost every second of our 2 day stay. And since I’ve been home, I’ve found having some wine in hand and jazz playing in the background is sometimes all the inspiration I need to get started.

Of course our trip to Italy happened to coincide with the start of this project for me, and it’s not typical to fly halfway around the world to do that, so consider something simpler like booking a hotel in your own town for the weekend, and even driving a town over and spending the day at a coffee shop to be your kick off “event.” Something that feels special and separate from everyday life gave me something to look forward to, and not be totally freaked out by.

Once you kick things off, then add in writing time to your calendar. I blew off this advice at first, and just said I’d write when the moment struck, but then I found myself 2 weeks out from Italy and I hadn’t even opened my file back up yet. No bueno. So I went through my Asana calendar and just wrote “Writing Time” on a couple days each week for the next month or so. I chose days of the week when I know I tend to feel most inspired, and that I know I'll have the time and energy to follow through. 


2 — Get organized, but don’t get hung up on it.

The first place I started to procrastinate was with my organization. I’m a planner by nature, I l-o-v-e having all my ducks in a row before I start on a big project like this. So of course I wasted way too many hours arranging and rearranging all my notes and outlines. Finally, I had to stop with the organizing and just start into the writing. I’ve been putting everything for the entire book into a single Google doc so it all flows as one big piece of writing. Some people work better with the chapters split into different files, I prefer it all together, so just do whatever feels more natural to you.

I knew I was going to be pulling some content from old blog posts, journal entries, and other writings I’ve done over the years, so I spent an hour or so copying + pasting all of those things into Evernote, so I’d have them all in one place and know the general topic of each piece of writing. That’s made it easy to skim through each note and see if there’s any other times I’d written on a particular subject that I could pull content directly from, or just read through for some more ideas or inspiration. Once I’d used up a piece of writing, I can mark it as such in Evernote, and keep all the “used” ones together. Yes, I think organization is important before you start, but don’t procrastinate the writing in the process. Just start.


3 — Set a tentative goal date for the first draft, once I had some ground covered.

I’ve had a tentative date in the back of my head for a deadline for my first draft. I didn’t want to make it official (as official as putting it on my own calendar can be), until I had some writing under my belt and could get a feel for how quickly (or not so quickly) 75,000-ish words can come together. I feel like I’ve covered enough ground now, to commit to the date and say it out loud to the good people of the Internet (that’s you), so here it goes. My tentative goal to have my first draft completed is March 10, 2018, which just so happens to be my 30th birthday. That feels fitting, right? It feels fitting, and it feels mostly doable.

I might hit it, and I might miss it. I’m not setting it in stone too much, because writing a book is different than creating a course or building an information product. It’s creative work, and I know from experience that when I force words onto a page when I’m not in the mood, it doesn’t go well. I can easily set a deadline for course outlines and recording and video editing and designing PDFs and building sales pages, but it’s harder for me to set a deadline on my creative work – especially a type of work i’ve never actually done before: writing a full length book. And this book is a big deal for me, so I certainly don’t want to rush it.


what’s next?

More writing, but that’s a given. 

I’m also starting to think about editors, who I want to read through my first draft, who I want to read through later drafts, and what a timeline might look like for those things. I’m sure I’ll have more to share on that phase in the next book update, whenever that may be. We’re a little loosey-goosey with this, remember?

I’ve also got launching in the back of my mind (like way, way back there), and though it feels way too early to start thinking about strategy or logistics stuff, I do know one thing it’s never too early for: building your email list. So in the next few weeks, I’ll be adding some opt-ins to old blog posts in my Single Motherhood category, so I can start building a waiting-list of sorts for people interested in the book when it comes out.

One last update: I checked a big thing off my list that needed to happen, but made me super anxious just thinking about it: telling my ex-husband that I’m writing this book (spoiler: he’s in it). It was a strange, yet mellow conversation, the timing felt right to spill the beans, and well… you’ll just have to read the book to hear about it. (I’m getting really good at cliffhangers.)


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Kelsey Baldwin

Graphic designer + blogger providing design resources to help creative entrepreneurs navigate the world of design + branding for digital products so they can share what they know.

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