People who know me are aware that I write every day. Sometimes it is a requirement such as when I am developing resources for classes I teach. Sometimes it is for fun as I try to answer the many writing challenges and prompts that I find online. I believe prolonged exposure to this type of activity will eventually create in the writer (me) a desire to expand writing to short stories, fiction and non-fiction novellas and eventually, a longer manuscript. As I reached this point, and I have, I began to look at and skim or scan books on writing. I didn’t read any of them because I instantly labeled them as not worth my time. They were long on circular, philosophical pronouncements and short on measurable, quantifiable, actionable advice. Then I found Start Writing Your Book Today by Morgan Gist MacDonald. Finally, overall, I am happy. I won’t give it five Amazon stars because I found some minor echoes of books I didn’t like, but I would have given it 4.5 stars if Amazon had a system that allowed such an evaluation.
Chapter One was the most difficult to get through because that is where those pesky echoes from previous books reside. MacDonald begins with the requirement for “Perseverance.” Along with “Persistence,” these truths are self-evident. They are ugly, harsh words that look like parents who emphasize corporal punishment but like parents, are necessary. There is no cognitive energy burned in accepting their necessity and I don’t see why I should pay money to be lectured on the obvious. The author immediately redeems herself by throwing out facts and figures. I should plan for a $2,500 -$ 10,000 cash outlay, spend 200 hours writing the book and 50-100 hours on publishing, and additional unquantified time on marketing. And I might not make enough money to repay the initial investment. This is not happy news, but it is also not discouraging. My happiness index motivates me to continue the book.
Chapters Two and Three work well together as they inform me how to break down large goals into small quantifiable chunks. Chapter Three appeals to me because I have been planning a 15,000 to 20,000 work of non-fiction. Following MacDonald’s model, I should be able to do so in six weeks. Even if I allow wiggle time for hiccups at work, I believe I can finish writing in ten weeks. I like writings and estimates that agree with me. The Writing Routines section in Chapter Three is full of action items. Establish a time for writing, Free Write before the main writing session (described elsewhere) and use a timer. Establish, not in your mind, weekly word count goals and track progress on a visible document. Find an accountability partner. I look forward to a discussion on this last point. Can that person be a fellow blogger or an online presence with whom the writer has a longstanding relationship? A very important point in this section, one that should be apparent but I missed it, is trying to limit your writing work on a maximum of two devices. As I read the advice, I said, “of course.” Now I must decide which two devices I will use and begin migrating data.
Chapter Four is both prescriptive with many good ideas but also with a note to the new author. A system is offered but the author, almost by definition a creative person who thinks outside the box, should feel free to tweak time projections appropriate to the project. Still, MacDonald offers a structure.
At this point I am motivated. I am ready to create my workspace, create my working calendars, and begin writing the first draft. Maybe I will come back in a few weeks during one of my writing breaks and read the last three chapters on what to do with my work beyond the first draft, Chapter Six on dealing with criticism, and Chapter Seven, the finished manuscript.
Nope, I’ll resist the motivational rush and at least skim the final three chapters before launching my writing efforts. You should also because if you read through to the very end you will find samples of a writing tacker and a list of resources for further writing advice. Start Writing You Book Today sells for USD 4.99 but is available for free reading through Kindle Unlimited. It offers much valuable advice for the new writer. Because I like the author’s pragmatic writing style, I will read other books on writing by Morgan Gist MacDonald.