Sadly enough, the majority of guides you'll see when searching for how to get set up in, well, any activity, are written very specifically, but not for the reason you think. It's not as much about the content and getting the reader what they need, as it is about the way the article is set up and the keywords it has to increase gains for the writer, whether it be in backlinks or notable content for writing jobs. Instead of seeing real step-by-step instructions, you see numbered lists with short paragraphs using buzzwords that really don't go anywhere. "10 Ways to Increase Your Focus" or "The Top 20 Mistakes New Authors Make" are good examples of this. Instead, I'm going to begin a series of posts that will give some insight on my personal process of getting started, written not for profit, but for information's sake.
As a side note, this guide is aimed at writing your book in an eBook capacity, but these practices lead to the possibility of a print version as well. In my own process, I write my material directly in eBook creation software so it can be distributed when I'm ready, but once you're done you can easily transfer the content to another program suitable for print production.
Preparing to Start - Gathering Materials
While this part isn't really crucial for everyone, it's better for a lot of people that feel comfortable with solidarity. Some of us can be doing something completely unrelated and get stricken with an idea, then immediately stop what we're doing and write it down for later, while others work better when they sit down, get comfortable and concentrate on the task at hand. This is split into two parts-the physical materials, and the digital materials, which I'll cover separately.
- Clear your schedule - Use a calendar tool or an actual calendar to visualize your days and find openings where you'll be able to comfortably sit down and invest some focus and energy into your writing. You won't get far if you remember ten minutes in that you have a doctor's appointment and have to leave. Write down actual times where you're meant to put effort into just writing, and nothing else.
- Clean up your space - Make sure that not only your writing desk, but the room its in, is in good standing order before you start. Clutter and dust and the like can make for an irritating energy in the room, which in turn can influence your mood-and writing-in a bad way. If you're outside with a laptop or in a public place, make sure you bring headphones, bug spray or whatever else you think you might need to create a comfortable environment.
- Grab something to eat and drink - Getting sidetracked by thirst or a rumbling stomach is something that happens to everyone, but how you set up for it makes a difference. Instead of having to leave your space and break concentration to go into the kitchen, fill up a water bottle, grab a cup of coffee and some finger food like chex mix or fruit that's easily accessible and keep it on your desk.
- Turn on your 'do not disturb's - This is a hybrid area between physical and digital, but making sure you can concentrate is key. Set your Skype and any other digital programs to Busy, and put your phone on vibrate or silent. Just make sure you don't forget if you have children or someone else that may need to get a hold of you.
- Find useful pages online - Create a new bookmark folder and drop some useful links into it. Websites that have writing prompts, background noise like rain or other ambiance, similar books to what you're writing for ideas on structure and pacing, and resources on the topic you're writing about are all good to have handy.
- Download your tools - I use Sigil to write my eBooks, but you may find that something else works better for you. Here is a list of eBook creation software you can look through to see what suits you best. If you find that you don't like the setup of Sigil or one of the other tools, you can always use Microsoft Word, or better yet, OpenOffice. OpenOffice is free, constantly updated and includes plugins from the community to help streamline your process.
- Keep contacts handy - We've all met some people through writer's groups on social media or other places. Keep the emails or websites of people you mesh well with near so you can reach out if you need help. A beta reader, someone that's good with formatting or someone you can ask about world building are some examples of good people to have around.
Once you have everything you need together, you're ready to dive into your project. It never hurts to make a checklist of these things for future use in other titles, or just something to look over each time you sit down to write. I've created one based on this article that you can print off and post on the wall near your writing area.
Part II will cover a few topics such as brainstorming, outlining, and what to do in various situations when you've hit a wall. Stay tuned!