If you’ve googled the words “how to write a book,” you’ve probably been bombarded with ads for writing services in the days (or minutes) that follow. You might see things like “Make this the year you finally write your book,” or “go from zero ideas to published in six months,” or my personal fave, “Write your book in a weekend.” The truth that no one wants to say? Good books take time. Although I like to believe that most of the advice out there is well intentioned, I’m about to tell you why writing your book in a weekend is a bad idea.
Aside from dubious claims of the “royalties” earned from such a book, I have to wonder: is it even a good book? Because for the love of god, the world doesn’t need more crappy books. From 2017 to 2018, there was a 40% jump in self-published books, bringing the number to 1.68 million. For perspective, in 2016, there were 786,000 self-published books. It’s a growing industry (which is amazing), and yet our standards are undoubtedly slipping as to what makes a good book.
No, I’m not trying to be elitist and tell you not to write a book unless you can do it perfectly, or that you should leave it to the “real” writers to do that. (I will never forget the anger I felt when I read Ryan Holiday’s post in which he advises all of the would-be podcasters not to bother unless they can do it on a professional level, a la Jordan Harbinger. The arrogance was abrasive.) I’m just trying to tell you that it takes longer than a weekend. In fact, a good solid outline alone deserves a full 48 hours of deep thought and work (if not longer), and a solid outline is required for a good book.
Writing the book itself… well, that takes time. Not only does it take time, but it takes mental, physical, and emotional energy. Yes, emotional energy. Most first-time authors don’t know this, but whether you traditionally publish or self-publish your book, it is an emotional journey. You’ll be faced with your doubts, your greatness, your lack of follow-through, your procrastination, your brilliance, your ideas and the holes in them that you never saw before. You will feel like quitting a number of times, and everything that could go wrong in the rest of your life will probably do so at some crucial point in the process. You’ll be asked to confront yourself on a daily basis, especially when you first start out.
If this is going to be the culmination of your experiences, a professional calling card, wouldn’t you want it to be something worthy of your experiences and expertise? Is a book created in a weekend able to express everything you know? I highly doubt it, unless your “expertise” is comprised of a year or two in your given industry. Then, sure, create an e-book or a downloadable PDF in a weekend and call it good. There is a place for those things… they too drive businesses, downloads, etc.
However, if you want to have pride in your book more than a year from now, if you want to look back and think that your book did some good to someone other than yourself, then take the time you need to create your masterpiece. I tell clients that a 60,000 word book will take at least six months from ideation to publishing. If your idea is well-developed, you’re clear on what you want to say, and you have a methodology that you’ve been teaching for years, six months is doable with the appropriate focus and effort. But if you’re unclear, if you’re still putting together your thoughts, if you’ve yet to teach your philosophy to someone else, you can count on it taking longer than six months. When you factor in normal life, like work, illnesses, family obligations, vacations, and time to yourself, six months is “quick.”
Bottom line, don’t try to write your book in a weekend. In fact, don’t even think about putting yourself under the pressure of writing your book in a weekend. It’s a creative process, and more importantly, it’s your creative process, which means that how it gets written will be specific to you and your own creativity. Take the time you need.