How I Wrote My First Book in Under 3 Months
I recently published a book called The 50 Laws of Freelancing. I started outlining the book in early June 2020 and it went live on August 5th. A lot of folks asked me how I planned, wrote, edited, and published a book in under three months when many authors talk about it taking years to get a book out the door.
In this blog post, I’m walking through the process I used to create a 144 page book in such a short period of time. If you’re thinking that you want to write a book, or are just curious how I did it so quickly, keep reading!
Write a book by doing one thing at a time
First things first: I am a writer and blogger (here on PulseBlueprint, for clients, and on my newsletter Remotely Inclined), so I was able to lean on that experience. However, you can copy my process even if you’re not a writer.
Whenever I write an article, I only do one thing at a time. Here’s what I mean:
Research: This is just googling, putting links in a document, or writing down my own thoughts and experiences. There is no order here, no priority. This entire step is just getting all of my thoughts down on paper (I use Google docs, but you can do this with good old pen and paper if you’d like).
Outlining: Once I feel I have enough information to get going, I start outlining. Sometimes I’ll end up doing more research during the outlining phase, but it’s a bit different. During outlining, all I care about is the order of information – does it flow well, are the facts making sense, am I introducing something I explain later, etc.
In outlining, I use bullet points to note the facts and statements I want to include in the piece.
Drafting: The only goal I have with drafting is to complete a draft. It doesn’t have to be pretty. I personally overuse the word “that” a lot in my writing, and it shows up in my first drafts. So in this phase, I don’t care about quality. Instead, what I’m doing is connecting all the bullet points in my outline with segues, connector words, and full sentences.
Editing: This is when I actually go through to make sure I’ve written something worth reading. I fix my “that” overuse and check to make sure I’ve truly explained everything I wanted to.
Polishing: This final step is when I check to make sure that I’ve produced something that’s formatted correctly, looks good, and has a good visual flow (with images, quotes, charts, etc.). Then I’m ready to hit “publish.”
In each step, I only do one thing. It not only helps me focus, but helps me get into deep work where I actually become more efficient than if I was trying to do everything at once.
I chose a topic I had experience in when writing the book
I wrote about freelancing, and I’ve been running my freelance business since 2017. Naturally, I had a lot of lessons to share just from memory, personal experience, and interviews. But the other reason why I chose this book topic is because I’d been doing research on the freelancing business since I started my own.
I was not familiar with freelancing until I stumbled into it, so I had notes, ideas, and thoughts scattered in my email and notepads. This made planning a book much easier because a lot of my “research” phase was collecting insights from research I had already done.
Picking a topic I had experience in did two things:
- It gave me a leg up so I was not starting from scratch.
- I knew I already liked the topic, so the hard parts of writing a book would be much easier for me.
I focused on progress, not deadlines
As I was going through my process from researching to polishing, I never said I needed to get it done by X date. While this may not work for you if you end up working with a publisher (I chose to self-publish), I was able to focus on simply getting things done. Because I was only doing one thing at a time, it became fairly easy to measure.
If I had pages of research and couldn’t think of what else to look up, chances are I could get to outlining. When I had 50 laws written down with bullet points for each, I was confident I could start drafting. And on and on.
Pre-marketing helped me build early momentum for the book
After I’d drafted some of the book, I decided to tweet about it. A tweet not only helped me get some early traction with people asking me about how they can get the book, it also held me accountable.
I decided not to talk about the book publicly until I’d completed some of it because that way I had accountability to continue. If I’d tweeted about it before I started, chances are I would have been more easily distracted and never actually got around to writing. For me, if I talk about something too much before actually doing the work, I find I don’t end up doing the work.
I made the book process social
There’s a lot that goes into writing a book beyond putting words on paper. There’s picking cover art, choosing formatting, and structuring the book in a way that makes it ready for sale. Instead of doing this all myself (frankly, I didn’t know how to do it), I made it more social.
The biggest social element of my book writing was the cover art. I did a couple mockups and tweeted about it – and people had a lot of opinions. It helped me immensely in choosing a cover because:
- I got more eyes on the cover, so I had a lot of great feedback.
- The winning cover was chosen by potential customers, which helped me better understand my buyers.
I learned “just in time”
When I wanted to write a book, I knew I could write. However, I didn’t know:
- How to design cover art.
- How to format a book properly.
- How to upload into Amazon’s publishing software.
- How to write book descriptions.
- And a bunch of other things.
Just thinking about these topics gave me anxiety. What I focused on instead was just getting whatever step done that I needed to and then figuring out the next step. For example: I didn’t care about cover art until I was done drafting, since there’s no point in having a beautiful book cover when you don’t have a finished book. I also didn’t worry about uploading to Amazon until the book was edited, since there was no point in learning that beforehand.
This shift to just in time learning helped me so much because it removed all anxiety. Whenever I worried about something in the future, I reminded myself that I have work to do in the present that I know how to do. I thought about it like traffic lights – if you worry that three lights up is red, you might miss that the one right in front of you is green.
I kept the book as a side project
It’s easy for a big project to become all-consuming, and I was very conscious that I didn’t want my book to take over my life. I had clients, a relationship, friends, family, and other life priorities.
So I carved the book as my side project. I stopped all other side projects so I could focus exclusively on the book, but it was still only ever a side project. If I had a client deadline, that took priority. If I got an opportunity to see an old friend, I took it. Focusing on progress over deadlines really helped here, too, since I could easily see that I was making progress (or not) and then react accordingly.
This helped me in two major ways:
- It kept my mental health in check the whole time – the book never took over.
- It helped me focus on my business and life – which in turn gave me motivation to write more of the book.
I learned from other authors
This is my first book. I’ve written and edited thousands of blog posts but never a book – and books are a different beast. So I focused on learning from others.
In particular, I read three books that helped me immensely.
If you’re thinking you want to write a book, I highly recommend these resources.
The journey never ends
Now that the book is live, my “side project” is marketing it! I’ve already recorded podcasts, been interviewed about the book, and am speaking at the 5 to 9 conference for freelancers.
I got these different opportunities by talking about my book journey online and engaging with anyone who wanted to talk to me. Some of the opportunities are pretty big and others are small, but they all came from putting myself out there.