“This is the year I’m going to write my book!”
I hear this sentence at least once a day, usually from people who, in fact, will not publish a book this year. Or even write one.
On the contrary, when I tell people that for most of my clients and for me, it takes 24-48 hours of actual writing time to write a book, they scoff and assume we must be writing some terrible books.
This cracks me up, since a truly terrible book, to me, is one that isn’t written and isn’t making a difference. In the course of history some of the best books in the world were written in a month or less including:
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens in 30 days
Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle in 21 days
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess in 21 days
Glory Road by Robert Heinlein in 17 days
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs in 11 days
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury in 10 days
Rasselas by Samuel Johnson in 6 days
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand in 3 days
On The Road by Jack Kerouac in 3 days
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley overnight
Kazuo Ishiguro, the British novelist and the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote his bestselling book, The Remains of the Day, in just 4 weeks. The reason it worked for him is the same reason it works for our authors. When you create an environment where finishing the book is inevitable and the book and the author essentially become one for a short period of time, you create space for mastery.
I call this focusing your author mojo and freeing your inner author but Ishiguro explains exactly what it took for him.
Ishiguro says “I wrote free-hand, not caring about the style or if something I wrote in the afternoon contradicted something I’d established in the story that morning. The priority was simply to get the ideas surfacing and growing. Awful sentences, hideous dialogue, scenes that went nowhere – I let them remain and ploughed on.”
In The Author’s Way speak, we say “Keep Writing Forward” – no matter what “Keep Writing Forward.” I say it so often, that several years ago one of my clients insisted all my #incubatedauthors get tattoos saying it. So now when you join my program, you get one for each week you are a member. No excuses allowed!
I was a ghostwriter for 17 years and I’ve written dozens of books, often on topics I knew nothing about, in 8 to 12 weeks. As a professional book writer, you can’t really run a business taking a year, or two, or three to get a book done. The job just doesn’t pay well enough; and herding an often busy and high-profile client for more than a few months is untenable.
Writing quickly for me was a necessary job requirement, but what I didn’t realize at the beginning of my journey was that it was also the key to my success.
Why? Well first of all, it’s much harder to write a book in 9 months than it is to do it in 9 weeks.
The longer a project would go on, the more the scope of the work would change. I realized if I could bang out a draft and get sign off quickly – often within just a few days – then I could do the manuscript clean up without having to deal with the topics and chapters and concepts shifting beneath my feet.
The same is true if it’s your own book. Every day that passes, your book idea will shift a tiny little bit, just like the time of sunset will shift a minute or two each day. Within a month or two, the difference is minor, but in 9 months or a year the book will have changed so much you will almost certainly be tempted to give up or start over.
When I tell people I write my books in a week or less, I know to a lot of people this sounds like a crack-pot idea. I know it, because they are not shy about sharing their opinions. And look, it’s definitely not the only way to work, but for my clients and I, I’ve found it to be effective and most importantly, it gets books into reader’s hands in just 4 or 5 months.
So here’s the down and dirty of what it takes to write a book in 9 weeks or less. The good news is, it’s simple:
Total commitment and a willingness to suck
Why a willingness to suck? Because the only way to get to a refined edit of a manuscript is to have a first draft manuscript and a great editor. Editors can’t edit air, they need a manuscript to work with. There is simply no way to get your book published if you don’t write it. That is just one of the required steps.
If you are lucky, a writer’s workshop produces some pages – not a manuscript. And book coaches? Don’t get me started on book coaches! Most of them will let you pay them for the honor of talking about your book.
No, to get a book done, you need to focus on completing a manuscript in 9 weeks or less. It’s the simplest, most efficient way to make a difference with a book and get your message to the masses.
In the history of literature there has never been a finished book that didn’t have a completed manuscript draft. Not once ever.
There are other steps to write a book of course. For our books, we require our authors write about an area of expertise they have already mastered, so they don’t need to prepare research in advance. And there are processes and systems that can make creativity and connection to inspiration much easier and more likely.
All the authors who wrote their famous books quickly had those systems in place, whether they knew it or not. There also can’t be a loop hole for not finishing. Finishing has to be absolutely inevitable. That’s why we have such a crazy-high success rate with only 1.47% of authors who participate in The Author’s Way failing to finish their books.
Literary geniuses like the Mary Shelley’s and Jack Kerouac’s of the world might have the training and discipline to do it on their own, but mere mortals need help. And that’s cool.
If you are one of those people who has said “This is the year I’m going to write my book,” the truth is, we are running out of time. The year is half done and the authors who start with us right now will have manuscripts done in 9 weeks, but then the editing and design phase will put their publication date out to November. If you want your book written and published this year, the window is a’closin’. It’s doable, yes, but it requires a commitment and action.
Most people would rather talk about their someday-book, or worse, criticize those who have figured out that actually writing a book just does not take that long when you have the right support in place. #Incubatedauthors, for sure, are not “most people.”