How I'm starting my book writing process

 
How I'm Starting My Book Writing Process - by Paper + Oats

 

So I’m gonna write a book. There, I said it on the Internet, so it must be true. This post is really different than my usual content, and this entire book writing process seems like it will be really different than my usual projects. And, spoiler: I’m not very far into the process! But I want to blog about the process (because writing a whole BOOK just wasn’t enough writing for me??), for two reasons:

  1. It’s the middle. I’m not done writing the book, sharing my polished up experience. Nope, I’m in the middle of it. The mess of figuring out where to start, how to keep momentum, when to ease up, when to push through. I’m figuring it out as I go, and I’m taking you along for the ride. Cool?
     
  2. Accountability. If I tell the interwebs about my big plans, then I HAVE to follow through, right?! That may not be the case for everyone, but for this people-pleaser, it’s exactly how I operate. Friends are already holding me accountable, asking how it’s going, and I can already tell it’s motivating me to do the work. (I talk about this productivity strategy some in my mini-class Launching for Introverts, if you’re interested in learning how to use your personality quirks to your advantage.)

 

I plan for this to be an ongoing series as I work through this process of writing the book, editing the book, designing the book (looking at you, InDesign!), and self-publishing the book. No idea how many posts this will end up being, when each of these steps will even happen, or how any of this will turn out. I’m in the middle, remember?

 

why I want to write a book

I’ve always wanted to write a book, ever since I was a kid. Which is funny, because I wasn’t a huge bookworm growing up. But I’ve always loved creative writing, storytelling, journalling and the therapy these practices can bring. I never had a clue what I would write about, but it’s always been in the back of my head. And then my life exploded in my face, and I thought, hey, there’s a story.

But it was still early. I was navigating uncharted waters for several years, and didn’t feel grounded to start writing about anything. Then I was listening to a podcast interview with a woman who was struggling with infertility, and something she said stuck out at me like a sore thumb: “Everyone shares the story on the other end, with the happy ending. Not enough people share in the middle of it, and prove that it’s okay to be sad AND joyful at the same time."

I’m paraphrasing her quote, but you get the idea. Again, I’m in the middle. I kept waiting for “the end” to start thinking about a book, but does it ever really “end”? Definitely not. We’re all a work in progress, we’re all constantly in the thick of it, figuring it out as we go.

So I decided to take steps. I started.

 

what will be in this book (and why it’s super scary)

Maybe it’s more important to say what this book will NOT be. It will not be a business book. Gasp! In fact, I won’t be talking much about Paper + Oats at all. This will not be a “how to run a business while being a mom” book. There are great ones out there like this, so read those! 😏

This will be a story book. Without the pictures. Or maybe there will be pictures? I don’t know yet.

I will be writing about my journey through divorce and pregnancy. Learning to be a single mom and learning to be a mom at all. I'll write about resiliency, change, and what happens when you wake up one morning and your life is the complete opposite of what it was the day before. And the complete opposite of anything you ever thought it would be.

I want to tell the story I wish I could have read when I was sitting in an attorney’s office with a baby in my belly. I want to tell the story I wish I could have read when I was sitting in a birthing class hoping nobody asked where my husband was. I want to tell the story I heard second-hand from friends about “this woman I know who is also pregnant and single.” I want to tell the story I’ve been hearing from women online who say “me, too.”

I’m hesitant to write this story because I am acutely aware that it is also someone else’s story. A few someones, actually. My ex-husband, his wife, their unborn child, my now 3-year-old daughter. My family, his family, our friends. It’s a story that I feel at the center of, but that I know is not just my own to tell. I want to respect privacy. I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus. I don’t want to air dirty laundry, but I also want – and need – to tell it like it is. Say what happened, how it made me feel, and I how I got through it.

Because sadly, there’s a woman planning her wedding right now, who will one day sit at her kitchen table and hear the word “divorce.” And she's going to feel like no one understands what it’s like to see her marriage slip through her fingers. Maybe that woman will read this book, and feel a little less alone.

And maybe there’s a woman who just read a positive pregnancy test with her partner this week, but next month or next year she'll be unexpectedly thrust into single motherhood, in the middle of figuring out how to be a mom in the first place. Maybe that woman will read this book, and feel a little less alone.

And there are men and women of all walks of life, going through all kinds of struggles and stages of life, and maybe they’ll need to hear someone else’s mess. Maybe they'll will read this book, and feel a little less alone.

But before I write anything for them, I need to write for me.

I mentioned that workshop earlier, and it’s listed down below in that resource list, but one thing we talked about at this full day session was the concept of writing for one vs. writing for many. Writing is therapy way before writing is income, for me. At this workshop, many people were there to write only for themselves – no one else. They were writing through a tragedy, processing grief, trying to make sense of something, and no intention for anyone else to read it besides themselves. This was refreshing – they had no secret agenda or business strategy they were writing for. They were writing for self. I want to write for myself. Not for this business or this brand or to advance anything except my own healing, and hopefully someone else’s. A huge takeaway from the workshop was that writing for self is THE most important thing, writing to share should always be secondary. You can’t write to share, until you write for self.

 

how I’m starting the process + what I’ve done so far

Ok, this post is getting far too long for my taste, so let’s switch it up with some bullet points, no? Here’s what I’ve done so far to start this book thang:

  • I told people. Accountability, remember? Try it, I dare ya.
  • I read books by other people, telling their stories. Chasing Slow, Love Warrior, and Eat, Pray, Love have been big inspirations for me.
  • I scribbled notes. Pat Flynn’s outlining method (link below) was the first one I tried to start categorizing my thoughts + anecdotes, and it was super helpful + motivating.
  • I went to a workshop. Allison Fallon knows her stuff, and her Write Your Story workshop was a huge jumping off point for me (keep reading for the link!).
  • I kept writing. I know I have to be in the right mood to write, so when I feel it strike, I take advantage. Even in this figuring-out-where-to-start stage, I continue to write anecdotes and journal entries and even quick random sentences that I think of in the middle of the night.
  • I wrote an outline. I knew that was the next big step, but was totally over-analyzing it. Then, I was feeling inspired listening to this Spotify playlist, so I sat down, forced my perfectionism to take a hike, and I organized all the random notes I had pulled together. Yes, some of it will get edited out. Some of it won’t make the cut. Some of it hasn’t even been “lived” yet. But I outlined for self (now), not for many (future).

 

resources that I’ve found helpful so far

 

what’s next?

Writing. Lots and lots of writing. How long will it take? No idea. Should I set a goal for a first draft? Probably. But I’m just gonna focus on starting for now. 😉


Your turn

What big plans are you working towards? What big thing are you afraid to start – or even tell people about? Will you hold me accountable to write this dang book?! 🙏🏽


 

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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