When I began writing my book, it was difficult to imagine ever being able to finish it. It seemed like such a daunting task. During the process I went back and forward almost weekly on how possible it was going to be. Every time I thought I had a grasp on the material I found myself overwhelmed by the next rabbit hole I descended down. What kept me going was my stubbornness not to fail now that I had invested so much time and the fact that I genuinely believed someone had to write this book. If I’m honest, the market for another book on Brexit was not exactly wide open. It was packed, almost over-saturated. Yet no-one I came across had addressed in depth the two parts of the issue I felt deserved more scrutiny. The combined use of personal data and digital advertising and the dark money being poured into the Leave campaign. The lack of oversight on both issues was and still is an issue of major concern for me and how we deal with both in the coming years will shape the political future of our nation for decades to come. I thus felt it was crucial for someone to tell the story of Brexit that no one else had cover, of corruption, deregulation, free market capitalism, and a web of money and individuals that spans the globe.
I like to believe that the process has improved my writing, my attention to detail, and my ability to think on a larger scale. But there were a number of things that I learnt as I wrote the book that may be helpful for any aspiring author.
Be Prepared To Lose Your Original Vision
Sometimes, by some miracle I can imagine, authors will plan their book and as they write it, will not allow their pen to stray from the path they have chosen. In reality, you’ll chop and change chapters until your original plan looks almost unrecognizable.
The shape of my book changed dramatically as I wrote it. I restructured it, rewrote, and removed huge sections, as well as amalgamating and splitting chapters more times than I can count. Obviously you don’t want to alter your main message or story you are telling, except in extreme circumstances, but you should remain open and fluid as to how you approach the structure of the book. There is no point remaining tied to the original chapter plan you laid out at the beginning of your process, this will change as you write and develop your ideas, research different topics, and find your way through.
Never Underestimate Research
When writing Brexit: The Establishment Civil War, I found that the more research I did, the more the book expanded and transformed. My original idea had been to just start writing as soon as possible, my first 6 months were spent wandering quite aimlessly between reading, collating news and facts, and attempting to write a book without a detailed idea of how the whole picture would look. Perhaps that kind of method would work better for a novel, where you can watch your characters develop on the page as you write, but I certainly found that once I put my writing on hold to expand my research that my writing had much more focus. By allowing myself to step back and read around the issue I was able to think and write from a much broader perspective. In my case it helped me to draw a single narrative thread amongst the huge backdrop of information and intertwining stories.
When I sit down to begin writing my next book, whenever that may be, my first 2 months will be spent almost exclusively on reading and research. I feel it’s much better to immerse yourself in the broader topic, even when writing about something that you are already well versed in, it helps form and challenge your understanding and opinions that will ultimately shape your book.
Focus, But Understand Procrastination Is Normal
No mortal (unless aided by some form of drug) is capable of writing tens of thousands of words without writers block, procrastination, and fears of failure. Remember that every great artist or writer has confronted the very real problem of the human mind. Talent is not a tap you can turn on or off and you cannot produce your best work all the time. Paul McCartney said genius is 10 per cent inspiration, 90 per cent perspiration; patience is the key.
Find ways to get yourself motivated and positive. Regardless of how much you love the topic you are reading or writing about, it is natural to find yourself getting bored, distracted, and unmotivated. Our brains don’t always want to be compliant, but there are definitely a few things I found helped me to keep focused and motivated when the demons of temptation and distraction came knocking. I find meditating, even for 10 minutes can help focus my mind and tune out distracting thoughts. Sometimes you will be struggling to focus on a specific topic or chapter, unable to read attentively or write anything down that you are unhappy with. Sometimes you need to walk away and try something entirely different, hitting your head against a wall won’t get you anywhere. On the other hand, you’re going to encounter many situation in which you need perseverance and the will power to get your head down and dive into work when you don’t feel the mood or energy. You’re your own jailer here – only you can make you write the book.
Find Your Voice, Not Someone Else’s
The first time I knew that I had my own style of writing anything was when I started to write music on the guitar. Initially, I found I was stealing lyrics and chords and my songs would sound like cheap knock-offs of whatever music I happened to be listening to that week – usually Oasis or Green Day at that age. However, after a while I began to find an affinity for sounds and lyrics that only I could have written. That’s not to say they were any good, but I was discovering my own style. My literary work was much the same, though in this case I have had years of university and school to develop the way in which I form sentences and paragraphs. I found that friends of mine say that they can hear me saying the words as they read them on the page, if that isn’t finding your own voice, then I don’t know what is. Express yourself in ways that feel natural to you – writing in your own voice will feel much more natural to you and will flow much better, especially during a first draft.
I hope these pointers help you find your way in writing your book!
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