Turn Your Freewrite into a Book

In recent entries, I showed you how to name your files and how to freewrite. Now let’s turn your freewrite into a book.

Build on Your Initial Freewrite

After your initial freewrite session, during subsequent sessions, add new material to the bottom of your working file. Then use Cut and Paste to classify and sort your new ideas with the others, as you learned here.

Now read the complete file from the beginning, with your fingers on the keyboard. Automatically your mind will want to expand. Let your fingertips type your expanded thoughts.

You’ll add key phrases and ideas that belong somewhere in the book, questions that you’ll need to research, and clarifications of what you wrote the day before. You’ll think of experts you’ll want to interview. You can put it all in order later.

When you can see that one set of ideas is the embryo of a particular chapter, copy it and paste it into its own file, where it will be easier to develop. Other chapter embryos will emerge the same way.

Writing Your Chapters

Now open up any file. It may be where you have the “low-hanging fruit.” In other words, you won’t need to do a lot of research to complete it. You can freewrite major portions off the top of your head with little research.

Or begin with a challenge. Start with the chapter you know will be the hardest to complete.

Now read it and reread it with your fingers on the keyboard. Expand those brief notes you jotted down yesterday.

What questions come up that you will need to answer? Type them when they arise. Who do you need to interview? What sources do you need to consult?

Get Rid of Junk Thoughts

Those ideas for your to-do list of personal and business chores? Type them up, too. You’ll transfer them to your appointment book later.

Adding those extraneous thoughts to your writing actually helps you keep focused: By writing them down they no longer clutter your mind and you don’t have to worry about forgetting them when you need them.

This is the time to read, and reread, and re-reread. Print out a chapter-in-progress and glance at it in free moments, while you’re waiting for your lunch to arrive at the restaurant, while you’re in line at the supermarket, during commercials in front of the TV before bedtime.

Read it out loud when you can and feel the rhythm of your words. Where does it flow? Where does it feel awkward?

Expand by Anticipating

Remember, you know your complete thought. But your readers can’t read your mind. Read what you’ve already written, but as if you were someone else. Answer any questions that arise.

Anticipate your readers’ questions and answer them in the text, often immediately. If you don’t know an answer and you’re experiencing a flow, write the question in [bold square brackets] so that it jumps out at you every time you read it until you research the answer. Then keep writing.

When Your Freewrite Flow Stops

But when your freewrite flow stops, it’s time to do the research. While you can’t count on the Internet for every answer, it will give you many of them and often suggest places to go for others.   

Do a search in your document for “[” (left square bracket) to easily find all of your in-text queries.

Another major source of information and colorful quotes is personal interviews. I’ll talk more about conducting interviews in future entries.

Your goal is to eliminate all of the square brackets by finding answers to all of your questions, and then tighten the text so it expresses your clearest thoughts with the fewest words. Know the reading level of your desired audience and choose words appropriately.

Two SEO Tips

For the sake of readability and to improve your search engine optimization (SEO), consider these two tips:

  • Break up long chapters by using subheadings. They bring order to your text, they keep your readers’ attention focused, they enable your readers to skim, and they give visual relief to content-heavy text.
  • Use short paragraphs and plenty of bullets. On average, paragraphs should have no more than four to six sentences. Search for topic sentences buried within long paragraphs and use them to begin new paragraphs. With dialogue, let each new speaker begin a new paragraph.

Writing the Conclusion and Introduction

When you’ve completed the final chapter, write your conclusion. There you wrap it all up, answer final questions, and deliver your parting message.

And then you write your introduction. No, not always. By this time, you may have already written an initial draft. Read it again. It probably will need to be tweaked based on your research.

Creating Your Manuscript

Congratulations. All of your chapters are done. Your introduction and conclusion are done.

Now put them all together into one file and name it so you can find it when you need it.

* * *

This piece was adapted from Ken Wachsberger’s You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You. The complete book is available and ready to guide you here. For book coaching and editing help, email Ken at [email protected].