Five mistakes people make when they try to write their own book

Deciding to begin your book writing journey is huge and the task can seem daunting when you are first getting started. But before you throw yourself into your first creative writing blitz behind the computer, take stock of these five mistakes that first-time writers make when they set out to write their own book.

It is my hope that these tips will help you to avoid a lot of the common traps and have a more efficient and fulfilling writing journey.

1. Zero planning

It is wonderful when inspiration strikes and you have a powerful urge to let your fingers loose on the keyboard, but without taking the time to channel that inspiration into a constructive plan of attack, you are setting yourself up to waste countless hours.

Consider who will benefit from this message so you can make sure that you are writing for them, in a way that will truly resonate.

Before you think that your book will appeal to ‘everybody’, be aware that going into the book with this type of mindset means you will most likely end up with a manuscript that appeals to ‘nobody’.

Taking time to lock this in will help you with the flow of your chapters and what you choose to include and exclude from your manuscript.

2. Not having a defined purpose

Whether it is to share a lived experience to help others avoid travelling the hard path as you have, or to showcase your expertise to channel people into coaching programs with you or booking you as a speaker at their next conference, it is important to be clear on what the purpose of your book might be.

You might have that grand dream goal of being an Amazon best-seller, or simply want to create a book that can become a marketing tool to give to potential clients.

Defining what your purpose and your message is will be key to creating the perfect manuscript that will connect with the audience you have taken the time to define.

3. Negating your own voice

Just because you are writing a book, doesn’t mean you have to take on a Shakespearean grandeur with your language, or feel like you have to bring out the thesaurus to make use of large, impressive words you wouldn’t ordinarily use in your everyday speech.

Readers can detect inauthenticity a mile away. The cure is simple, just be yourself! It is true that the spoken word does differ slightly to the written word when it comes to structure, but you can 100% still be yourself and still connect with your readers through authenticity.

4. Forgetting to show, not tell

Show, don’t tell is a common phrase in the literary industry and it can mean many things across the different genres. When it comes to non-fiction books, it is about capturing your thoughts and experiences in a way that draw the reader in without relying on the need to tell your readers why something was funny, or why something made you react the way it did.

Simply finding a way to communicate your lived experiences, or how you came to learn a particular lesson, in your natural story-telling voice (ie how you would tell your mates or your partner if you were to recount the event) is much more powerful.

It might seem counterintuitive, but you don’t really want your readers to admire the way you have constructed a sentence or reiterated that someone joked, quipped, chortled etc. You want them to be so engaged with what you have to say that they feel those punchlines and emotional tensions without you having to specify that they were present.

5. The pursuit of perfection

Yes, it is a part of the book writing process that eventually your words will have to come under the microscope for an edit – but many first-time writers fall into the trap of demanding perfection from the outset.

All this does is see you write a paragraph, then rework it, add another paragraph and then tweak the first one again… Before you know it, you’ve spent an hour and not yet filled up half an A4 page. Talk about frustration central!

There is a simple rule to combat this and that is to completely separate out the writing and editing process. This will save the different sections of your brain – the creative writer and the disciplined editor – from waging a constant battle with your thoughts.

Of course, you can always outsource one of these components. Engaging a ghostwriter will take the stress out of the writing process for you and then you are free to engage your disciplined editor’s brain on the finished content.

Or, you can give writing a go yourself and then send your manuscript to an editor for polishing.