Back in 2008, someone told me that as a blogger, I should write a book. I had been blogging for a few years and the idea sounded compelling. I had written a lot of posts and figured that I could just combine them into a longer document. I had heard that time boxing could help me get a book done. I decided to give it a try.
However, when I sat down to write, I decided to try a little experiment. I am a big fan of the writer, Og Mandino. He wrote fiction. His motivational stories of a human ragpicker changed my life.
I knew I had written a lot of non-fiction blog content. I felt confident that I could write a non-fiction book, but I questioned myself; could I write fiction? Could I write a story with emotion and conflict and even disaster, like Og did? Could I go from just facts and figures to one with a plot, places, and characters?
I decided to find out.
I got a cup of coffee, a pen, and paper, and found a quiet place on the couch.
I set a timer for fifty minutes of uninterrupted time and picked up the pen.
My mind was blank.
What was I going to write about?
Then I thought back to Og’s books. He always wrote in the first person. He was the main character. He wrote about people, places, and things.
He often noticed the smallest details. Sights, sounds, and even smells.
I looked up from the couch and saw the vacuum cleaner across the room.
In my mind, I could hear it whirring. I could see myself pushing it. I could see the dog toy next to it getting sucked in and stuck.
I started writing. That toy getting stuck was the first paragraph of my first fiction book.
When the timer went off, I had two pages written.
I got up for a minute, refreshed my coffee, and sat back down for another fifty-minute stint.
When the timer went off the second time I kept going until the first chapter came to a close.
My sentences were clumsy, I wasn’t sure how to write dialog, and my descriptions were bland and unremarkable.
But that didn’t matter.
This simple fifty minute writing test had created something special.
I had written a story that had a mystery.
I simply needed to know what happened next.
The next day before work, I wrote chapter two.
Now things were getting interesting.
There was an old bible with a brownie camera on top in the window of an antique store.
Why did the storekeeper in the story want $500 for it?
I had to know. I knew if I sat down the next day my muse would tell me all about it.
All I had to do was write it down.
Over the next fifteen weeks, I started using a laptop with a word processor.
I would write when I could, usually in the early morning when the house was quiet.
My muse came to visit me reliably, every time I sat for a while.
The book came together chapter by chapter, and miraculously it all tied together at the end.
It still had clunky sentences, strange dialog punctuation, and dull descriptions.
But the first draft was done.
I hired an editor, and we worked five chapters at a time over the next two months.
She took my clumsy sentences and worked magic. She massaged my dialog and enlivened my descriptions.
In the end, she taught me how to write fiction.
A hands-on priceless education.
When we were done, I learned how to self-publish, and one month later my first book arrived on my front doorstep.
The Path of Consequence became a reality.
Today, nine years later, I have three other published books with another two in the process.
All because of a 50-minute timer and a muse that keeps telling me stories.
Fifty Minute Writing Test
Here is a challenge for you.
They say that everyone has a book in them. Yours might be a mystery, a historical romance or even a dystopian thriller.
It might be a how-to book, such as a recipe book or homeowners guide to installing a garbage disposal.
Whatever the content, you’ll never know what it is until you start writing.
The easiest way to do this is . . .
- Get a journal or ruled notebook and a pen.
- Find a quiet place. Turn off all distractions.
- Set a timer for 50 minutes.
- Notice things, hear things, imagine things.
- Pick up your pen and write.
- Don’t worry about spelling or mistakes.
- When the timer goes off, take a short break.
- Repeat again
If fiction doesn’t work for you, try non-fiction. Find things that you enjoy writing about. Programs like Grammarly can help you correct mistakes.
I’m so glad someone encouraged me to write a book back in 2008. At first, I didn’t think it would be possible. But it was sitting down and giving it a try that opened my eyes. My words were clumsy at first, but my editor was kind and patient. In the end, it was the story that came through.
If you find this simple experiment fun, you’ll want to check out this helpful article from Jeff Goins.
It’s a great next-step resource to help you get traction as a writer.
Jeff Goins: How To Write a Book
We all have stories.
The world is waiting to hear yours.