By Leo Babauta
I’m often asked about writing (something I’ve done professionally for 22 years), and one of the most common things people want help with is writing a book.
I’ve written a number of books, including 110,000 words of a novel in a month (in addition to blogging regularly), and numerous non-fiction books. I could share a lot of tips for writing a book, but my favorite secret is how I can write a book in just three days.
I’ve written several books this way, and really, it’s the same process I used to write 110,000 words in a month. If you want to take several years to write a book, that’s fine, but you’ll want to skip this post. If you want to finally get that book done, here’s how to do it.
And trust me, it works.
- Create a Time Limit. I like to narrow the topic of my book down to something very specific, and keep it short and simple. If you do this, set a short time limit — a couple of times I set a three-day time limit for myself. I write quickly, so you might want a limit a bit longer, like 5 or 7 days, or two weeks if the book is longer or you are a slower writer. For a novel, 30 days is a good limit.
- Make a Public Challenge. This is really key. Tell people about your time limit, and when you’ll be doing it. For example, if you set yourself a limit of 5 days, tell them when the 5 days will be, and what your challenge is during those 5 days. Tell them that you’ll report to them each day during the challenge. You might make the challenge public on Facebook, Twitter, email, a blog, Google+ or a forum, for example. The challenge will motivate you to stay focused and get the writing done.
- Get Your Pre-Writing Done Beforehand. Before the challenge starts, do the research and make the notes you need. I will often outline my non-fiction book and save any information I need to my hard drive, so I don’t need Internet access during writing. For novel writing, I’ll make character sketches, plot notes, think through different themes, etc. Going on runs or taking long walks helps me to think through my writing before I write.
- Find a Distraction-Free Zone. I like getting away from my home and finding a tea house or library without Internet. I will often use headphones to keep from being distracted by people around me. I’ll close my browser and all programs but my writing tool. I’ll get other things done before the writing session starts.
- Get Some Inspiration. I like to read other writers as inspiration, and read about the writing habits of other writers. Sometimes music serves as good inspiration, or inspirational quotes from writers I admire.
- Work in Bursts. When I’m ready to write, I go to my distraction-free zone, play some music, and set a timer. I like to write in 15- or 30-minute bursts, take a 5-10 minute break, then repeat. During my break, I will walk around, do some exercise, stretch. Again, walking helps me to think through my writing.
- Report Your Success. Every day, stick to your commitment to report your success — or failure, as the case may be. Don’t let embarrassment stop you from keeping yourself accountable. This accountability will help you stick to it, and the reporting of success is like a celebration of your accomplishment that will motivate you to keep going as well.
That’s it. It’s a simple formula but it works well for me, for any kind of writing. In fact, it can work for any kind of creativity and any kind of work at all.
Happy writing, my friends.