I can hear it. Although the writing world has gotten a bit quieter as we said goodbye to October dressed in a variety of garish and humorous Halloween costumes I hear the sound of distant typing. And I hear it getting louder…and louder…and louder! That’s the sound of the start of another Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) challenge—bigger and better than last year.
How do I know this? I know this because I have lots of great blog posts lined up with superb infomation. This is the first one–learn about getting from idea to published or publishable product (below). I know this because more unique visitors have shown up at the WNFIN blog in October than in November last year during the challenge (almost as many as during the challenge) and they’ve already scoured the archives of the past five years and looked at three times as many pages in those thirty days as well. Plus, this year I added a contest. I’m giving away Rochelle Melander’s new book, Write-A-Thon, Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It)—I’ll announce the winner at the end of this post. And I’ve added FREE teleseminars to the mix as well. The first one is TODAY at 7:00 PM EDT/4 PM PDT with Roger C. Parker, author of 41 business and how-to books. The topic for this kick-off event will be 7 Time-Management Tips for Completing Your Book During November—an appropriate one for all those WNFIN participants trying to meet their November deadline and for any writer wanting to get published. To learn more about the call and to register, click here.
However, to utilize Roger’s tips or the WNFIN challenge—to start and finish a project in 30 days and to end up not just an aspiring author but a published author—you first have to have ideas. Then you have to actually sit down and carry those ideas out to completion. In the publishing world, you complete a writing project when:
- you submit a manuscript to editors, agents or publishers and it is purchased and published
- you self-publish the manuscript
That’s what I want to discuss in today’s blog, the first of the WNFIN challenge—getting ideas and acting on them. After today, you will be privy to the wondrous posts of my guest bloggers on all but just a few days (when I will pop in again…but just on a few days).
Where Do Your Ideas Come From?
For nonfiction writers, many of our ideas come from our life experiences. This could mean that we learned something in school, on the job, in our relationships, from a negative event, from a positive event, from our travels, etc. We may get our ideas while driving, reading, dancing, working, talking, thinking, blogging, or, as many people do, showering.
Most writers have an overabundance of ideas. I’m a good example. That’s why I have four blogs (five if you count this one) and about eight different books started—but not finished. That brings me to the next point. It’s great to have so many ideas, but you have to do something with them once you get them.
What Do You Do With Your Ideas?
I’ve tried many different things to keep track of my ideas. I’ve written them down on 3×5 cards and put them in a little box made just for cards that size. I’ve written them down in little notebooks just like the ones Hemingway used and that I carried around with my in my purse just in case I had an idea. (A lot of grocery lists ended up in that little black book, too.) I’ve written them down in the back of my DayTimer and filed them there in the three-ring binder section. All well and good. There they stayed for the most part. Nice and safe. And forgotten unless I remembered to go back and look in those places.
It’s true; I can go back and find my great ideas there and later take action on them…if I remember to go back. If you make a habit of going back on a regular basis that’s great. That still leaves one problem: You haven’t acted upon them.
How to Act Upon Your Ideas
That’s where a challenge like WNFIN comes into play—or really any deadline you put into place. Yes, you could do National Novel Writing Month if you are one of those (ahem) fiction writers, you could get yourself a magazine assignment or a book contract with a “real” deadline, or you could get yourself an accountability partner—a friend or coach. All of these things work the same way as the WNFIN challenge. Why? Because you are held accountable to complete a project in a certain amount of time and to produce a certain amount of words in that time.
To make yourself take action on your ideas on a regular basis here’s what you need to do:
- Act on your ideas immediately if possible. This isn’t always possible, but when you can, sit down and write that essay, article, book when the inspiration hits. You’d be amazed how little time it will take you to complete the project when you feel inspired.
- If you can’t act on your idea right away, okay…go ahead and write it down and file it. But…but…make a date with yourself once a week or once a month when you visit that file. On that day you MUST take out one idea and act upon it. That means you must give yourself a deadline to finish that project (or some project in your idea file) and you must start on it that day.
- Set aside one day a month at a minimum, preferably one day a week, when all you do is work on carrying out your ideas. If possibly, put aside an hour a day.
I had the inspiration for Write Nonfiction in November five years ago about mid-October. Two weeks later I had a blog and was blogging my way through the challenge and writing a short book as my own WNFIN project. (I did finish the short book, too.) That’s an idea I put into action and accomplished.
In January 2009 I was given the opportunity to speak on a panel at a writer’s conference a month later. The topic involved blogging a book, but not one panelist was an expert on the topic. I had the idea to become the expert by starting a blog called How to Blog a Book, which I actually showed the attendees when I spoke. Five months later the first draft was completed by writing it one post at a time on the Internet; 14 month after that I landed a book contract. Idea carried out to completion.
I landed a gig to teach writers how to write a short book fast. I had a lot of short books to show them, including some of my own. My own, however, were all saddle-stitched. (They looked like booklets.) Three weeks before the workshop I had the idea that I should have paperbacks of my own, plus I wanted to prove you could produce a paperback in under three weeks. I revised two of my books, created new covers and turned them into perfect bound (paperback) books, and took 10 blog posts, edited them, created an interior and exterior book design, and turned them into a paperback book as well—all in three weeks time. Idea carried out to completion. (I sold a lot of them at the workshop, too.)
On the other hand, I had a great idea for a blog post. I contacted the person, interviewed her, transcribed the tape, edited the transcript, and had it all ready to post. Then I decided it would be a good article. It took me six months to actually write a query letter to go with that article. Then it took me another two months to edit both the query and the article and one more month before I actually sent them off to the magazine.
Why? I had no deadline. I had no challenge. I had nothing pushing me to take my idea and do something with it. Now, I’m a trained magazine journalist. Had I been given a deadline, that article would have been turned in on time. Not one of the magazines or newspapers I have worked for have ever received a late assignment from me.
So, unless you have some internal voice that constantly pushes you to move on your ideas and to take them from untouched to finished, take advantage of the tips I offered and of every challenge, contest, deadline, or accountability partner that comes your way. You’ll never regret the energy you put into it—not when you end up with a publishable or published product.
For those of you taking the WNFIN challenge: Good luck! Please keep me posted on your progress by checking in either on the WNFIN 2011 Status Updates page or on the Write Nonfiction in November Facebook Page, where you can participate in discussions or post on the wall. Come back daily to read the guest blog posts or sign up to receive them by email. And don’t forget to sign up for today’s teleseminar, 7 Time-Management Tips for Completing Your Book During November, here.
And now…drum roll, please! The winner of Rochelle Melander’s Write-A-Thon is: Marion Uekerman, who is writing a memoir. She is tying together a ton of pieces, working with her son, had a plan to finish her book in 30 days. Plus, I felt she would benefit most from this book. However, three other WNFIN participants deserved honorable mention: Shirl Corder, for her great enthusiasm and many plans to complete her book, Marie-Eve Boudreault for her ambitious undertaking and thorough project-completion plan, and Beth Bridges for her winning idea and inspirational plan. To them I offer a free one-hour coaching session. (You can see all their project descriptions in the comments on the Participant Sign-In Page.)