How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps (Part 3)

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Part 9. Eliminate distractions to stay focused

by Jerry Jenkins

Are you as easily distracted as I am? Have you found yourself writing a sentence and then checking your email? Writing another and checking Facebook? Getting caught up in the come-ons for pictures of the 10 Sea Monsters You Wouldn’t Believe Actually Exist?

Then you just have to check out that precious video from a talk show where the dad surprises the family by returning from the war. That leads to more and more of the same. Once I’m in, my writing is forgotten, and all of a sudden the day has gotten away from me.

The answer to these insidious time-wasters?
Look into these apps that allow you to block your email, social media, browsers, game apps, whatever you wish during the hours you want to write. Some carry a modest fee, others are free.

10. Conduct your research

Yes, research is a vital part of the process, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction.
Fiction means more than just making up a story. Your details and logic and technical and historical details must be right for your novel to be believable.

And for nonfiction, even if you’re writing about a subject in which you’re an expert, as I’m doing here, you’ll be surprised how ensuring that you get all the facts right will polish your finished product. In fact, you’d be surprised at how many times I’ve researched a fact or two while writing this blog post alone.

The last thing you want is even a small mistake due to your lack of proper research. Regardless the detail, trust me, you’ll hear from readers about it. Your credibility as an author and an expert hinges on creating trust with your reader. That dissolves in a hurry if you commit an error.

My favorite research resources are:

  • World Almanacs: These alone list almost everything you need for accurate prose: facts, data, government information, and more. For my novels, I often use these to come up with ethnically accurate character names.
  • The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus: The online version is great, because it’s lightning fast. You couldn’t turn the pages of a hard copy as quickly as you can get where you want onscreen. One caution: Never let it be obvious you’ve consulted a thesaurus. You’re not looking for the exotic word that jumps off the page. You’re looking for that common word that’s on the tip of your tongue.
  • WorldAtlas.com: Here you’ll find nearly limitless information about any continent, country, region, city, town, or village. Names, monetary units, weather patterns, tourism info, and even facts you wouldn’t have thought to search for. I get ideas when I’m digging here, for both my novels and my nonfiction books.
The last thing you want is even a small mistake due to your lack of proper research.

The last thing you want is even a small mistake due to your lack of proper research.

11. Start calling yourself a writer

Your inner voice may tell you, “You’re no writer and you never will be. What do you think you’re doing, trying to write a book?” That may be why you’ve stalled at writing your book in the past. But if you’re working at writing, studying writing, practicing writing, that makes you a writer. Don’t wait till you reach some artificial level of accomplishment before calling yourself a writer.

A cop in uniform and on duty is a cop whether he’s actively enforced the law yet or not. A carpenter is a carpenter whether he’s ever built a house. Self-identify as a writer now and you’ll silence that inner critic, who, of course, is really you. Talk back to yourself if you must. It may sound silly, but acknowledging yourself as a writer can give you the confidence to keep going and finish your book.

Are you a writer? Say so.


Jerry Jenkins is the author of more than 186 books with sales of more than 70 million copies, including the best-selling Left Behind series.

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