As a thriving example of the new author-publisher-entreprenuer model, Scott Berkun has wisdom to share. He made a successful transition from software development at Microsoft and WordPress.com to full-time writing, speaking, and consulting.
“My primary business is writing books,” he notes. “It’s writing good books that led to everything else I get paid to do.”
Writing a good book, compared to a bad one, involves one thing. Work. No one wants to hear this, but if you take two books off any shelf, I’ll bet my pants the author of the better book worked harder than the author of the other one. Call it effort, study, practice, whatever. Sure there are tricks here and there, but really writing is a kind of work.
As silly as this sounds, the first question I ask people when they ask about writing books is this: Have you written a page? And when they say no, I suggest perhaps their problem isn’t with writing books, it’s with writing a page. If you can’t write a page, don’t worry about books, worry about paragraphs.
Many people with an idea want me to tell them their idea is worthy. Why is approval of your idea necessary? You are the one who is going to do all the work. It is only you that needs to love the idea, not me or anyone else.
The second draft is always a delight to actually work on. It’s as if a gift was given to me: much of the heavy lifting is done. Even if a chapter needs rewriting the creative energy required is much less than working with blank pages. And since often the best move is to rip things out, the book gets better in big swings at every turn.
There are good books about writing proposals. Go read one. This is the beginning of the many hours you must put in.
The best solution to subjective creative challenges with cheap materials (e.g. words) is to make a big list of candidates. As big as possible. Include anything you like, including cliches. Take your time, over days and weeks. Show the list to lots of people with the goal of making the list bigger. Often there are hybrids and variants that you’ll discover only by growing your list.
On starting: there is no single easy way. Everyone is different. There are tricks I list in this essay on writing hacks, but some or one will work for you. The truth is how you start doesn’t matter, but if you wait for a perfect way you’ll never get started.