So you’ve got scribbled notes and ideas in your journal, in the “notes” app on your smartphone, on your laptop at home, your desktop at work, on soiled napkins, and, of course, there are a plethora of ideas in your head. Your book is alive and breathing. When you bring it up in conversation, eyes light up, and curiosities build. And then the dreaded question: “When is it coming out?”
Perhaps you stutter and stammer toward a vague “Soon…” or maybe you change the subject, “Speaking of ‘coming out’ did you see that movie everyone’s been fawning over?” Either way, you end the evening with a declaration that such a conversation shall never leave you shamefully admitting the obvious again: Your incredible book has no plan of actually seeing the light of day.
Here’s what. Your book is waiting for you. Right now. It’s hoping it’ll catch your attention. It’s hoping that instead of checking your email two dozen times before bed, you’ll finish a chapter or even just a paragraph. It’s hoping that you'll skip those pesky Internet rabbit holes—news’ sites, YouTube videos, your four favorite social media accounts—and focus.
Common advice for finishing the first draft include:
And our personal favorite:
But we’re going to assume that you’ve tried all of the above and that like most, you’ve failed, or at least struggled more than you anticipated. (Note: If you haven’t tried all of the above, do that first, and if it doesn’t work, come back to this article.)
Why doesn’t this common writing advice work? Simple. It assumes your book’s structure, characters, client stories, tone, and rhythm are decided and that you all you’re lacking is the time and focus to get your book to the finish line.
The truth of the matter is that most manuscripts will never see the light of day because its writer hasn’t done one simple thing. If this one simple thing were in the passenger’s seat alongside every writer on her mission to complete her brilliant idea fora bestseller, more books would enter the universe, more readers would discover the book they’ve been waiting for, and world peace. Boom.
What is that one thing?
Two words: Brain Dump.
The deal is, you’re in your way because you think your book has to be perfect from the get-go. It doesn’t. You think you need to read all the books on writing before you can pull your car out the garage. You don’t. You think you have to know grammar, punctuation, the latest book trends, have the perfect swirl of ideas paired with brilliant imagery to make the next date with your keyboard perfect. Stop.
Release what you think you need to get your book written. Release comparisons to other writers. Release all ideas of perfection. And then brain dump. Write aimlessly. Write anything that comes out. Skip around. Whenever an idea pops into your head, write it down, but do not, and we repeat, do not wait for those “perfect” moments. If the ideas are there, excellent. If they’re not, dump whatever is in your brain.
Sit down at your computer or with your favorite notepad and just dump. “But it looks like word vomit!” you say. We know. And it’s all good.
This method of finishing your book does three things:
The Brain Dump method is messy and honestly, might feel gross. But, remember, this method is for helping you finish your book, it’s not our method for helping you make it publishable. Your manuscript will never meet its readers if it’s stuck in your brain—if its pieces are scattered about in the limbo of “your crazy awesome idea” and “will get done someday.”
Your brain is the key to unlock your book. So do just that. Make a little pact with your mind. You’ll follow its direction. You’ll listen to every word that comes to you, and you’ll capture its brilliance, no questions asked. No second guessing. No forcing flowery language to usurp your brain’s plain speak.
Your brain is in charge, and you’re its dutiful assistant. And bit by bit, as your book grows full with more content, you’ll keep going until your brain tells you to stop. That’s how this works.
So good luck you to you! The next time someone asks, “How’s your book coming?” Your response should be, “The first draft is almost done! I’m one more brain dump away from finished!”
Amy Quale and Dara Beevas
Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Amy and Dara co-founded Wise Ink Creative Publishing in Minneapolis, a company on elevating disenfranchised and underrepresented voices and ideas. They co-authored the book Social Media Secrets for Authors.