Cohort5 Writing Class 3-4/13 03.02.2020

The first two weeks of a writing class (or any other class) are the most critical in a writer’s book writing journey. This is the time to test your commitment to your newly set goals. Like any other goal, you will be tested one too many times to quit and maybe try another time. There isn’t really a better time to achieve your goals other than now. The challenges you are encountering today will probably be there tomorrow or other complex ones might crop up in the future. The future might be a better time anyway, but who knows. It’s better to work with what you know now than a probability in the future. Make it happen today!
 
Many times we hear people say things like, “I don’t have the willpower to do that,” as they watch others achieve their goals. Sometimes it looks like some people were simply born with divine willpower while others were overlooked as self-discipline superpowers were being handed out by God. This is far from the truth because self-discipline is a learned skill, not an innate characteristic.
 
The good news is, once you acquire the skill you can keep it for a lifetime and you can replicate it in other areas of your life. What I am encouraging you on today is – you signed up for the class because you wanted to complete writing your book, you owe it to yourself to finish that goal. One win can be all you need to start a series of wins.
 
I know there all sorts of challenges you have experienced in the last fortnight – attacks on health, work schedules that have tightened, travels that have cropped up – these are all part of life. Workaround them and do not allow yourself to be distracted or defeated!
 
STAGES IN WRITING PROCESS:
1. Pre-writing
2. Drafting (actual writing)
3. Revising (editing)
 
We looked at pre-writing in the last class, the next step is to do the actual writing or what is called drafting.
 
Goal – Manuscript completion date: Friday 17th April, 2020.
Goal – Graduation to publishing: Saturday 25th April, 2020 (during the iGen Family Reading Picnic Day in Nairobi).
 
DRAFTING / ACTUAL WRITING
From your outline, you should start from chapter one and progress on to the next chapters in an orderly manner. Remember to use the outline as a general guide on the direction your book should take. However, be flexible to add, remove or re-assign the flow as you continue to get further inspiration from the Holy Spirit.
 
The following tips will guide you in your drafting stages:
 
1. WRITE, DO NOT CRITIQUE
As you’re writing, try to turn off the editor in you. You should not constantly review and critique your work. Just write in the same manner as you would talk if you were doing a one-on-one conversation with a friend on the subject matter of your book or chapter.
 
If you are not stopping often to critique yourself, you will form consistency and inculcate a writing habit. This is so important because after a habit is formed, you will begin to enjoy your writing.
 
At a later stage in the writing process, you will have the opportunity to go back through the book many times to re-write and edit if you don’t like some things (and believe me there will be more than one area you will need to rework on). However, at this stage, it will give you a huge boost to just finish the book and stay committed to the process.
 
Everyone who writes is their own worst critic. Be prepared to get serious self-doubt moments where you start to wonder whether you have overrated yourself, whether anyone will need whatever you are writing and whether you are just kidding yourself. Don’t dwell there so much, every writer thinks this every so often. Some of your work may be irrelevant anyway but you can improve on it by re-working or editing later. But you have to start somewhere, so get it all down on paper and then deal with the re-writing later.
 
2. BE CONFIDENT: THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN
 
The truth is that there are no “new” ideas. Everything has been written about before as Solomon, the wisest man clearly expounds in:
 
Ecclesiastes 1:9
That which has been is that which will be [again], And that which has been done is that which will be done again. So there is nothing new under the sun.
 
However, write confidently because it hasn’t been written before from your unique perspective. You are unique in everything you are and your perspective is important to weigh in on that topic. Your job isn’t to come up with never-before-seen ideas – that is impossible. Instead, your job is to explore topics from your own point of view and lend your unique spin on them as led by the Holy Spirit.
 
3. FORGET ABOUT WORD COUNT AND GRAMMAR
Now that you have an outline, you should think of this drafting stage as a freewriting exercise just with more direction. Do not overthink things, just start typing and keep at it. If you require your book to be a certain length, you will have the opportunity to work on that during the editing stage.
 
4. KEEP TRACK OF YOUR RESEARCH MATERIALS
Ensure you put down your references as you continue to do your research to save yourself from looking for the references later during the publishing process. You should cut and paste the references on the last page of our writing pad/book/word processor etc and indicate book titles and the respective authors.
 
5. BACK UP YOUR WORK TO AVOID LOSS
Save and back up your manuscript on the cloud. Over the last decade, I have met many authors whose writing project was derailed for several years because they lost their almost-complete manuscripts.
 
Backing up your work is not meant to give you another detail to stress over, but rather, relieve stress in the event your hard drive crashes, you spill coffee on your laptop or the flash disk gets corrupted. Take advantage of digital storage mediums, it’s cheap (if not free) and easy to store a backup of your manuscript in a replicable solid state.
 
I highly recommend Google Docs by Google, which is free cloud storage for anyone with a Gmail account. You will also be able to access your work from any PC computer, laptop or phone as long as you can log in to your Gmail account.
 
Some writers type their work directly from Google Docs but sometimes when you have to be offline, you can type on your normal word processor but paste the work on Google Docs whenever you stop typing. Avoid the stress that comes with losing an entire manuscript.
 
6. ALLOCATE SOME OF YOUR FREE TIME TO READING
Good writers are born from good reading habits. You should not start reading in order to write your book, however, you should have good reading habits and this is why and how to go about this.
 
While writing, only read a chapter or two of other authors’ books to keep your mind stimulated. Ensure you read in a genre different from yours, one, to give yourself a break from your genre, and two, to avoid being influenced too heavily by another book – you do not want to replicate Myles Munroe’s book on leadership. Your readers would rather buy an original Myles book than a replica. Be unique, add your voice to your subject matter industry – your readers will recognize and appreciate your uniqueness.
 
You should allocate designated reading time that doesn’t interfere with your writing time and if you feel your time is constrained, stop reading for a while so you can focus on your writing.
 
7. TAKE A READER-CENTRIC PERSPECTIVE
While thinking of your book topic, think from your reader’s perspective (not your own). Many people are too self-centered when they write in terms of their interests, their hobbies, their passions.
 
Think about what would your reader be most interested in, what they would like to learn about, what are their problems and pain points and then be a solution giver or pain reliever. When you think this way, it becomes much easier to write your book in a way that provides immense value for the people who matter most – your readers.
 
Above all, write under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He is a great teacher and knows what your readers need at this time. I always start my book with the question, God, what do you want me to say to your people? Then start typing from that angle.
 
8. RECOVER FROM EXTREME EMOTIONS EFFECTIVELY
Self-discipline in writing comes easier on some days than others. If you’re feeling stressed about other parts of your life, it will affect you in general, your writing included. Or if you’re ecstatic about a recent successful project, you may let your good habits slide for a bit as you take time to celebrate. Both extremes (failures and successes) affect your writing project – you have to know how to manage both extremes.
 
Extreme emotions are part of the process of becoming better. The way you recover from those moments is what’s most important. The key is to acknowledge your weak moments and move on from them with even more resolve to do better next time.
 
9. ONE CHAPTER AT A TIME
You now have a chapter-by-chapter outline for your book. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to write your book. But there are some ways that are easier, faster, and more successful than others. In my experience, I highly recommend that you do a mini-outline of your first chapter just as you did with the book then start filling in the details. Brainstorm everything you know about the topic, then organize your ideas and write the chapter following the outline for that chapter.
 
When you are done with the first chapter, repeat this process for the next chapter until your book is completed.
 
10. BEAT WRITER’S BLOCK
Writer’s block can rear its ugly head in many ways. For some, being blocked means no words at all, while for others, it means trying to nail down a functional draft in the midst of a tornado of swirling ideas. When you realize that most of the time, writer’s block is a symptom of a paralyzing fear of others’ opinions, you will give yourself a chance to beat it.
 
One of the ways to beat writer’s block is by looking at your outline again to get fresh inspiration. Looking at the bigger picture helps you see things in perspective and keep going.
 
You can also try a new writing spot to boost fresh creativity. I sometimes leave my office and go to a coffee shop, the library or any other place to give myself a break from the norm. More often than not, I always end up with fresh energy to do whatever I needed to do. Some people even shift from laptop to pen and paper – just do whatever it takes to bring back the creative juices.
 
I also sometimes (maybe many times) do the first draft of an article or chapter, take a break to do other things then come back to read my work. I always find myself flowing better with more details to add. I also talk to my husband about my article and just have a conversation around the topic. I take his input and go back to my typing.
 
If you have a case of perfectionist syndrome like I used to have (I am work in progress), tell yourself it’s okay to write something you’ll later think is terrible. Making something good is what second drafts and the editing process is for. Always remember that done is better than perfect-but-not-done.
 
Finally, stop comparing your writing with other people’s writing. Remember we said that there is nothing new under the sun, but there is no other being as unique as you. So be confident in your uniqueness of character, style and perspective.

Assignments

ASSIGNMENT: WEEK 3 (Due on Monday 10th February 2020)
1. Submit not less than one chapter of your book, starting with chapter 1.
2. Submit your research references. We will use adopted Harvard style for books (Author, Year of publication in round brackets, Title (in single quotation marks), Date of publication, Publisher) and complete URL link for online content.
 
ASSIGNMENT: WEEK 4 (Due on Sunday 16th February 2020)
1. Submit not less than two chapters of your book, starting with chapter 2.
 
The assignments should be submitted via Google Docs (with permission to edit) to authors@cblafrica.com and you will receive further guidance.
 

The next meeting is on: Monday 17th February 2020 at 4 pm Nairobi Time.

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