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E2A 008: Ready to Write…Rough In the First Draft 

 June 15, 2021

By  Scott A. MacMillan

It’s time for your thoughts, your creativity, and yes…your fingers…to come alive!

In this episode of The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, your host Scott MacMillan details how to set (and commit to) a writing plan: Getting into the right mindset, putting your head down, and getting the first draft out in all its messy glory.

Rough and rugged? Maybe. But you’re finally writing!

Listen to Episode 8 of Entrepreneur to Author and learn the keys to getting your first-draft manuscript out of your head and onto the page.

Episode Links
Setting up and formatting your manuscript

Improving typing speed

Episode Transcript

Scott A. MacMillan:

You're listening to the Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, episode number eight.

Mike Manz:

Welcome to the Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, the podcast that brings you practical strategies for building authority and growing your business. And now here's your host, Scott MacMillan.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Well, we're here. It's that time. It's what we've been working up to. It's time to write. If you've listened to the previous episodes of Entrepreneur to Author, then I'd say, you're ready. If you haven't, that's okay. Those episodes are always available, ready, and waiting for you to download and listen to them. Just like a book, always working, 24/7, even when you're not.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Okay. So let's do this. It's time to help, to educate, to influence. It's time to share, time to reveal. Ladies and gentlemen, all experts in your own right, you are entrepreneurs, and soon to become authors. It's time. It's time to write. I'm Scott MacMillan and welcome to this important edition of Entrepreneur to Author.

Scott A. MacMillan:

This is about as exciting as it gets for those who have never taken the journey. And if I'm honest about it, so it is for those of us who have walked this path already. So let's begin. And as we have in past episodes, we're going to start with a plan. A solid writing plan. Now this writing plan doesn't need to be complicated or burdensome. What it's meant to do is put some structure around your practice of writing. In it, you'll simply lay out some guardrails, some guideposts to help you create a productive and fulfilling writing experience.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Here's the first thought for you. Have you ever considered when you'll write? For example, are you a morning person, or are you better after lunch or maybe after dinner? Maybe you're a nighthawk. Or maybe, just maybe, it's not even up to you. Look, when I was writing my book, Entrepreneur to Author, our little guy was two going on three. And the only way that I could find some solid uninterrupted time was to get up at 5:00 AM. So that's when I wrote. For you, when are you in the best place emotionally, creatively, and yes, even physically for deep work? To really crank it out?

Scott A. MacMillan:

Also, in you're writing plan, consider where you'll write. Do you have a home office? Could or would you go to your place of business to write? That might work for some. Or a local cafe or a co-working space, even. How long will you write in each sitting? And closely related to that, how frequently? Will you write for an hour every day, or 90 minutes every weekday? Now this can be a bit of a moving target.

Scott A. MacMillan:

The fact is, there will be occasions when the words just kind of flow from your fingertips, and others when the thoughts really move more like mud. But the book blueprint that we built back in episode seven, the last episode, with all the structured thinking that went into it, well, you're far more likely to be able to be productive in every writing session now. And that makes this planning all the more predictable.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, if you're flexible in terms of how long you'll write in a session, a great alternative is to target a word count instead of a duration of time. How many words could you write in a day? 500, 1,000, 2,500, maybe more? Now what's cool about a word count target is that it gives you some flexibility in how you'll hit it. You could extend the length of a writing session. Or you could add one, writing both in the morning and at night. And the more you write the faster you'll get. And that also helps in hitting a daily word count.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, can you see that these are handy housekeeping issues that will serve you well in getting your manuscript written? What time of day or night am I going to write? Where am I going to write? How long and how often will I write? And how many words will that produce? These are the basic things you need to commit to. Why? Well, the fact is without a plan, you can fall into a trap of writing occasionally in spurts and starts. And you can guess what happens next. Yeah, life gets in the way. And you look back wondering, what happened to that book that I started?

Scott A. MacMillan:

So you've committed to a plan, but I also want to share a few strategies. Tips for writing productively as the rubber hits the road, or in this case, as the fingers hit the keyboard. Okay. Here's a good one. Perhaps it's a bit counter-intuitive, but don't worry about what order you write in. Yeah, it's true. Don't worry about what order you write in. If you're having trouble cranking out that first page of the introduction, well, don't stress it. Just pick a subtopic from your book blueprint, one that you know well, and just start there. Then move to another area and write that. And so on and so forth. This way, you're easing into things. And as you do, the rest will come to you, I promise, at this stage, you really just need to do whatever it takes to start writing and to maintain momentum.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Another writing strategy to remember is to have a plan for every writing session. The clearer you are about what you're going to write, the less time you'll spend staring at a blank screen. So, back to your book blueprint. Well, at the start of a writing session, once you've picked a topic to write on, if you're still feeling a little bit stuck, well, don't be afraid to flesh out that topic even further. Add another level of detail. That'll give you even more structure to your writing session, and that's really going to help you get moving.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Next? Well, keep writing and don't stall. Stopping and starting is one of the biggest traps that new writers fall into. They self edit as they go. And that, my friends, will slow down your word count to a crawl. There will be plenty of time to dress it up later. But for now, let's get through that first draft, shall we? As ugly and as quickly as necessary. You have to get through it, warts and all. Don't let perfect be the enemy of done here. Just get it done.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Okay. Here's another tip. Consciously work to increase your word count productivity. Now you may not be able to choose how quickly you write, I get it. But you can commit to increasing your per hour word count productivity. How? Well, the best tip that I can give you is to track your writing. Use a writing tracker to record your writing statistics, and then work to improve them using the other tips that I've shared. Typing speed is certainly an asset too. And I'll put a link in the show notes for a cool little typing trainer that can help increase your productivity.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Here, this one's a big one. Hold yourself accountable. Now, maybe that sounds like a given, but it's important to mention. Setting goals for yourself and meeting them is very, very important. We know that as entrepreneurs. You can always check in with yourself at the end of the week to hold yourself accountable. But better yet, pair up with an accountability buddy, a writing partner, or a group, and hold each other accountable. Discipline, right? It's important.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Okay. Here's something else you might want to consider. A writing retreat. It works, it really does. And who doesn't love getting away from everything and blocking yourself off from distractions and really focusing in on your writing. Sometimes it's that kind of change of scenery is all that you need to get rolling. Sometimes it's helpful to get away to think about a tricky topic or bang out a big chunk of words, maybe to a hotel or a cabin or a boat.

Scott A. MacMillan:

The bottom line with this strategy, to have an effective writing retreat, is that you have to be able to block off the time. You have to remove yourself from other distractions and focus exclusively on writing. Unless you can block off enough time to bang out the entire manuscript, please, don't use the writing retreat as an excuse not to commit to writing regularly. Otherwise, you might end up with a half-written manuscript sitting on your hard drive.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, a very effective motivator when it comes to kick-starting the writing process is to set yourself a deadline for your manuscript. You may already have a deadline in mind for when you want to have your book ready. Maybe you're speaking at an event or planning to launch a new product or service. If you are, and that book has to be ready by then, you can work backwards from that date.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, count on at least four months after your manuscript is written to get it published and to have books in hand, if you're working with a reputable service publisher. But even if you don't have a hard deadline, it's also good to set yourself a goal of completing your manuscript by a specific date. The more you make it real, the more real that deadline gets.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, we're just scratching the surface on specific techniques and working backwards from there. But now that you've mapped out a strategy and you've got into the mindset, let's discuss some writing tools. Every carpenter relies on their tools, right? It makes the job far easier. And frankly, it can be fun jumping in with a new piece of equipment, regardless of what it is. So I could say we're preparing to put pen to paper here, but we all know that technology is our friend. So yeah, have a pen and paper handy, but there's some other writing tools that will really help in our journey here.

Scott A. MacMillan:

First, you'll need a text editor. That's number one. It's job is to give you a place to type your words. And for that, really there are countless tools that can do the job. Book writing doesn't require complex formatting. In fact, simple is best. The industry standard is Microsoft Word. And truthfully, you're going to be expected to submit your manuscript as a Word file.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, although Word has all kinds of options, it's best to make it simple. Choose an easy to read font. Something simple, like Times New Roman. Avoid fancy formatting. Google Docs is another good tool, and it's free. Now. There's another tool that's popular among writers and it's called Scrivener. But Scrivener is really designed for someone who plans on doing a lot of writing. It's really effective for fiction. But if you're planning to write multiple books, then you might consider Scrivener. There's a bit of a learning curve to it, but it really makes it helpful for managing a large project of books.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, as far as blocking out distractions, nothing beats a really good pair of headphones. Noise-canceling headphones are terrific. And if you're going that route, consider the wireless feature. If you're fiddling around looking for some focus inducing music, here's a thought, Brain FM. I use it. It's a really great tool. It uses a science-based approach to create what they call functional music. Now whether it's their science or the placebo effect, I really find that Brain FM works for me.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, while we're on the topic of focus, as a side note, you might consider using website blocking software if you're prone to distraction. Another great tool for increasing your speed is dictation software. While you need some time to clean up the output, speaking your book into existence can skyrocket your word count. So that could be a really effective tool if you're more comfortable speaking than you are typing. And also, like I mentioned earlier, writing trackers. They encourage you to track your writing sessions so that you know what you're outputting and how quickly. And it allows you to really look back at your stats and improve those over time.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, as you start writing, you're going to need to think about how you set up your Word file and how you format it. And I've got a really good YouTube video that goes into the details of this. It's very detailed and it's very visual so I'm not going to go through it here, but I'll put the link in the show notes so you can access it there.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, I'm going to share three ways to ease the burden of writing. If the thought of actually writing still feels daunting, consider one of these options. One, work with a co-author. Two, hire a team. Or three, work with a coach. So on the first one, working with a co-author, it's not only an excellent way to share the burden of writing, but it's also a great way to shore up expertise in an area that might be outside of your comfort zone.

Scott A. MacMillan:

As for hiring a team, some publishers offer what's called collaborative ghostwriting services. Basically, the way that works is that they interview you to provide your vision for the book. And you certainly weigh in and review, but a professional ghost writer does the writing and the publisher manages the entire project, start to end. Now this is a pricier option than writing the book yourself, but it can be worth it if you really want to get your book out there, but you don't have the time to commit to it.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Finally, you could work with a writing coach. Coaches help regardless of the activity. There's one-on-one coaching, there's group coaching, online coaching, even hybrid coaching. And regardless of what kind of coach you choose, finding the right coach is important. The relationship needs to be the right fit. So ask yourself, what do you feel you need most out of the relationship with a writing coach? Make a list and be honest, and don't be afraid to ask the tough questions of it would be writing coach. That's a really great way to develop a trusting bond, right from the get go.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now, we've covered quite a bit of material in this episode. Once all those thoughts and experiences are written down, you'll see just how much you've accomplished and what still needs to be done when you're rounding out your first draft. That is to say, you'll be taking a second run at it, refining it. You'll be adding supporting content, things that need to be added to make your points crystal clear. You're going to be self editing. It's amazing what a copy looks like the next day or a week later when you come back to it and start making some tweaks. And of course, after self editing, you'll be having some professional editing done.

Scott A. MacMillan:

The point that I want to make is this, your first draft is just that, a first draft. It doesn't to be perfect. In fact, if it is, you've probably taken too long on it. Awkward at this stage is perfectly fine. Nobody's going to read it. So just focus on getting the message out. Focus on making sure that the message is the one that you want to deliver.

Scott A. MacMillan:

When finally sitting down to write, remember this ... Momentum is vital when you're writing. It's critical. So once you begin writing, your number one job is to complete your first draft as quickly as you can. Don't lose momentum. What's your writing plan? Don't have one? Well, make one. It helps hold you accountable and provides clarity around everything. Consistent forward progress is so, so important when you're writing a book. There are just too many distractions. Too many reasons to stop, to pause, to take a break. It takes dedication. But soon you're going to have your first draft. So keep your eye on that prize. Your first draft is a big deal.

Scott A. MacMillan:

Now's the time. It's time to write. Time to publish. And time to grow. I'm Scott McMillan, until next time.

Scott A. MacMillan


Scott A. MacMillan is a speaker, international best-selling author, entrepreneur, and the President and Executive Publisher at Grammar Factory Publishing. He and his team help expert entrepreneurs write and publish books that build their authority and grow their business.

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