You Say You Want to Write a Book?

It’s an exciting prospect. It’s also a lot of work. Here are some tips for getting started, based on 14 books’ worth of experience.

Karl Wiegers

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A photo of a hand holding a pen and writing in a blank book.
Photo by Ylanite Koppens

A seasoned author told me long ago, “It’s an exciting day when you hold the first copy of your first book in your hand.” He was right. It really was a thrill. And it never gets old, no matter how many books I write.

I’ve written fourteen books now. Most of them are about various aspects of software development. The others include books on project management, product design, consulting, a memoir of life lessons, and even a forensic mystery novel titled The Reconstruction. Some of those books were highly successful, others not so much. I’m happy I wrote all of them, for different reasons.

I’ve met many people who said they were writing a book, planned to write a book, hoped to write a book, or (really) wanted to have written a book. Most of them never do.

Most of the people I know who never finished a book didn’t treat it as a project. Writing a book takes a lot of time. I usually spend about six months of significant effort on each one, with additional time devoted to revising, editing, proofreading, and myriad other activities during the publication process. If you’re serious about getting it done, you must elevate it to a suitable priority in your queue.

One author I know sets aside several hours to write every morning, starting around 5 a.m. I’ve never taken that approach, but when the urge comes to write a book, I do carve out the necessary time to get it done. Other projects and amusements are put on hold for the duration.

I knew long ago that I wanted to try to write a book someday, but I lacked an idea — an essential starting point. Two converging events led to my first book. First, a strong response to a software article I had written suggested that my topic had struck a chord with readers. Around the same time, I read a book on software management and thought, “I could write a better book than this.” So I did. But it wasn’t easy.

After I decided to try to write a book, I set myself five, somewhat fanciful, long-term goals:

  1. Write a book.

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Karl Wiegers

Author of 14 books, mostly on software. PhD in organic chemistry. Guitars, wine, and military history fill the voids. karlwiegers.com and processimpact.com