This week I reflected on my writing. It has gone so fast since I published my first book in 2010 – Ulovlig Norsk. Completely clueless, yet with an idea and a story to tell. After publishing 4 more books, 1437 pages of texts and countless hours spent on writing I would like to share some advice on how to write a book.
First rule of innovation – go out talk to people about your product and use their feedback to develop a good product. First rule of book writing – forget about other people. Write for yourself. That worked for me, but it is confusing right? I love listening to people, but not when it comes to books. I believe that the more you think of what others will say about your writing, the less are the chances for you to actually finishing the book. There are of course exceptions to the rule, like guidebooks and teaching books. But still.
Have fun with this – write what you want! Free yourself from others expectations and opinions, you can get started already today.
Write everyday. My first two books were based on my diaries from the time I was a refugee. Diary was my best friend in tough times. When the timing was right to write a book, I went through my diaries and found stories and facts that I had forgotten. It took me 6-7 years to write a journal, but it took me less than a year to write and edit and publish my first book. It became a bestseller and led to a change in the law for refugees in Norway.
Write a diary, write on your phone, write funny emails to friends, write when you are angry or happy or hungry.
Think chapters. To write a whole book seems like a huge task. That is why I start my book planning in the Excel sheet. What will be the structure of the book? What are the chapters? Who is it important to interview for each chapter? When you have a list of topics, books or people you would like to research – write them a polite email, get your recorder and go get your interview. And you have started to write a book!
Try Excel or make a mind map or write on big surfaces or A3-pages to kickstart.
Forget writers block. I think when you are writing a non-fiction book there is no such thing as writers block. You have interviews, you have research and you have ideas. You are not starting from scratch. If you need to think about the book – do it, but dont call it a writers block. Depending on what type of writer you are. Some people like to walk and think and one day write the whole chapter. Some people like to write and edit and edit and edit and than they are done.
Find your path. Dont read too many advice on how to write:-D
Dont drink while writing – may be it works for some, but not for me. Writing for me is freedom. Why shall I confuse my mind and body with alcohol when I am already free? I prefer to write in the morning between 08-13 am and then again from 20-22 in the evening. I took this test on different chronotypes and adjusted my effectivity to it. It kind of explains why the creative naps in the afternoon:-D
Write good sentences. Sometimes writing is about not just telling the facts but about writing good sentences. For me a good sentence is about a powerful and meaningful construction of words that can provoke an emotion in the reader. To create a good sentence you have to leave your ego at the door – it is not about how many smart words you can add, or the length of the sentence. It is about connecting with yourself and the reader. That is why it helps to read books by great writers, poets, journalists. Reading like a writer is a really good book that helps you with that. However, read these books before you start writing. While you write it might be too much to read the classics.
Get feedback especially if you want to get published. There are many good editors in the Norwegian publishing, and several of them told me that they like to get involved early on in the project and develop it together with the writer. So dont wait to finish your book. Reach out, ask for advice first and listen to their feedback. Sometimes they are really wrong, sometimes they have great ideas.
A good editor gives you constructive feedback – like this sentence is good, can you write more about it, or this chapter lacks depth and etc.
Hope this was helpful! Feel free to add comments on your best writing tips!
And check out my latest book – Startup Migrants – written with Nicolai Strøm-Olsen