So how did Sarah Palin manage to crank out Going Rogue (which topped the best-seller list weeks before its release) in only four months?
Answer: she had help, and she is Sarah Palin.
I have not checked for details, but it seems safe to assume that agents and publishers were pestering her with offers months before she committed to writing the book. Another huge advantage she had was a compelling reason to write. For better or worse, whatever personal motivation she may have had, the over-arching importance of this book will be its role as a political platform document, and Sarah is obviously committed to her political career.
My assumption before reading it is that comparing Sarah’s book to writing most readers of this blog will do would be like comparing carrots and kiwi fruit. But even so, there are some valuable lessons to be learned from her process.
- She was persistent. According to a report on the Time website, she wrote a four-hundred page draft in four months. Don’t faint. That’s one hundred pages a month, or five pages a day, five days a week. If you just blast out draft without stopping to read, edit, tweak, or obsess, that’s entirely doable, in only a few hours a day, depending on your typing speed.
- She had an overriding purpose. I’ll leave it to the pundits to ponder her motivations, but it hardly seems coincidence that hype for this deeply discounted book is hitting the news at the front edge of holiday shopping season and just before next year’s elections begin to heat up.
- She had help. I have no idea whether anyone worked with her on her concept and draft, but the TPM LiveWire site reports that she spent much of August in San Diego working with veteran ghost writer, Lynne Vincent. Vincent signed a non-disclosure agreement, but the Time article sheds light on the general process of ghostwriting.
- Get focused. Being clear on your concept and purpose is a large part of the battle. If you aren’t sure of your focus, jot down the first thing that comes to mind and get started. It’s okay if it evolves as you proceed.
- Set a schedule and deadline. You don’t have to write every day, or finish one hundred pages a month. If you can only devote an hour on Sunday afternoons to your writing, make that sacred time and stick to it. Making a personal commitment to having something to show people by a specific date, like your birthday next year, can speed things along. Especially if you tell them about it.
- Blast through a draft. This may be the hardest thing for most people to do. Just write. Don’t look back. Don’t even think of rereading or editing until you’ve written at least twenty more pages. Otherwise, you could die with seven pages that you wrote seventy times.
- Get help. You may not be able to hire a high profile ghost writer, but you can find a writing group, take a class, or read books on writing. You may be able to afford a few coaching sessions, or help from a reasonably priced editor.
Write now: set aside an hour and write a purpose statement for your project, and set up a writing schedule. If you already have a purpose statement and schedule, spend the hour writing. If you are still searching for a concept, do some freewriting to uncover one.