14 Stages of Writing a Book

1. Confidence. I’ve crafted a killer proposal to write a book based on an original, amazing idea and a unique approach. My book solves a problem lots of people have, and by writing it I’ll create bounty and blessings for all. I write a proposal oozing with wit, charm and warmth: I smugly mail it off, channeling Jack Nicholson as The Joker, “Wait’ll they get a load of me….”

2. Anxiety. Why aren’t they getting back to me? Hello? Where is everyone? Why haven’t they accepted the proposal? Wait – will they accept my proposal?! Crap! My cell was off! What if they tried to call? Is it hot in here… or is it me?

3. Elation. YES!!! I’m writing a book!

4. Fantasy. I’ll get up early every morning and go to the coffee shop, where I’ll write in the same booth in the back. I’ll wear a thoughtful expression and maintain a writerly, quiet demeanor. The staff will get to know me; and respectfully they’ll have my latte waiting and save the last scone for me. Maybe I’ll wear a beret. Maybe I can have a launch party there…

5. Self-doubt. Wait… I’m writing a BOOK? Who am I kidding? What do I know? What have I gotten into?

6. Procrastination. I have plenty of time. The manuscript due date is when… well, whenever. Ages from now. Wonder what’s happened on the last five years on “Lost”? I could watch all the episodes online now and be clued in for the finale! Also, I should call my high school friend Todd. It’s been years — wonder what he’s been up to? I think I’ll “Google Image” him…

7. Realization. Wait. The manuscript is due WHEN?

8. Bargaining. If I finish this paragraph, I’ll let myself eat the chocolate chip muffin saved from earlier. Or maybe I should eat half now so I have the energy…

9. Depression. This is horrible. I hate this. This is stupid. I’m stupid. I’m ugly. I hate writing. I have nothing new to say. I don’t want to do this. I can’t do this. I wish I were dead. Also, I wish I had another muffin.

10. Repeat steps 5-9 above, for an indeterminate period of time, in an endless, private circle of hell.

11. Annoyance. Leave me alone! Stop calling me! Stop emailing me! Stop knocking on the door! Stop asking what’s for dinner! I’m writing a book – can’t you see that?

12. Actualization. (Silence. Save for tap-tapping on keyboard.)

13. Exultation, served with a side of relief. YES! I wrote a book. I’m an author! (Phew.)

14. Consciousness. Time to market the book? Oh, right. I used to be an author. Now, I’m in sales.

photo credit: Yomi955

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  • Anonymous

    Yes, please.

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  • This is funny but so true all at the same time! Mad me laugh AND made me think! Thank you!

    • annhandley

      Glad my personal hell made you laugh… : ) Seriously: Thanks, Giselle!

  • This is funny but so true all at the same time! Mad me laugh AND made me think! Thank you!

  • Clearly, I need to FedEx you some muffins.

    • annhandley

      Yes, please. Banana nut.

  • Oh man, have you ever hit the nail on the head with this one!
    Especially #10 – moving past that (and as quickly as possible through #11) is what makes the difference between author and wannabe.

    • annhandley

      Right. Ultimately it's all about #12. But getting there — or steps 1-11 — are purely awful!!

      • And the person who invents a way for #12 to happen all automagically will be named the patron saint of authors and publishers, and be granted an unlimited supply of fresh muffins.

  • Very well done… I especially love the glamorous thoughts of wearing a beret in the back of the coffee shop. I am only a blogger for now, and I have often thought glamorously about blogging. It really is hard work and I am sure writing a book is light years harder. Congrats on getting to Stage 13 and good luck with Stage 14.

    • annhandley

      Thanks, Russ. Don't tell anyone.. but I'm not quite at #13. Yet. Close. *This* close, in fact. But still.

  • CBWhittemore

    Ann, I'll meet you in the coffee shop. Beret mandatory; launch party too. At least one of them. LOL CB

    • annhandley

      Berets all around, in fact!!

  • Ann, this is great! Your post made me laugh a lot and even cry a little for your frustration in stage 9, but definitely gave me a new perspective on writing a book. Maybe soon, but not now.

    • annhandley

      Well, when you're ready… I'll be there for you! ; )

  • Livepath

    I think you forgot Stage 15, which is where we say this:

    “CRAPP!! Those muffins have made me fat. I have a double chin in my photo. I have nothing to wear to book signing!! Curse you, moist, sugary, delicious crumbling goodies from Hell!”

    • annhandley

      LOL!!! Right…!! Better than hitting the vodka, though. #justsayin

  • BryanPerson

    Love it, Ann! Some of these steps are eerily similar to the experience of “working from home,” especially that Fantasy part 🙂

    • annhandley

      YES! Absolutely. This pretty much applies to any focused work that's <whine> *so hard*! </whine>

  • Ann – Did I tell you that I'm also writing a book? It's called, “The 14 Stages of Writing a Book” – So. Yeah. Thanks for stealing my idea. Or wait, maybe you just provided my 14 chapters! Yes.

    All in good fun. Love that you always have the (what's that word?) to put yourself out there like this. Great post. Fun and helpful … for when I *do* write that book someday.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

    • annhandley

      Stupidity? Craziness? Whichever? Or both?

  • andydonovan

    Hilarious…my brother went through this while he was “penning” his first book on dispelling the myths of plumbing. Now it's doubly so as he is drafting the follow up edition…just gotta do it and go through it vs looking back and saying “if only”. Great post.

    • annhandley

      Thanks Andy. Good to know your brother survived and went back to do it again!

  • rhjr

    Yup. That about sums it up.

    • annhandley

      I think so too! (Notice how I'm here commenting as opposed to doing #12?)

  • JamieLee

    Ann – I LOVE this. Too funny. I AM sitting in a coffee shop – not writing a book (yet) – just blog posts – and definitely not wearing a thoughtful expression – I'm actually grinning like an idiot because your post made me laugh out loud.

    I think this describes the writer's life on a daily basis. We are a strange breed, for sure … schizophrenic doesn't even BEGIN to cover it. 😉

    Sharing this with all my writer friends.

    • annhandley

      Absolutely agree. In fact, this is pretty much how I approach most tasks in my life that I despise doing. I'm one of those writers (like most of us, I think) who hates to write but LUUUUVS to have written!

      • JamieLee

        I can relate to that. I often procrastinate to within an inch of my life, but usually I find that once I get going it's not nearly as horrific as I thought it would be. And then when I look back at the finished work (even if it's just a first draft), I feel fabulous … for about 5 minutes until I remember that there's yet another deadline looming. 😉

  • I just heart you. (see, http://contentstrategy.com)

  • Starting my second book. I'm on #5.

    Loved the stages.

  • Oh God. This.

  • This is hilarious and very familiar.

    • annhandley

      Thanks (and sorry). : )

  • Hilarious. But seriously, I am thinking I will have to read this book to see if and how the content you are presenting can be adapted for use in a classroom. It could be very helpful or not related at all, but I won't know until I read and analyse it. — Speaking of which, PLEASE tell me this will be available on audible.com!

    • annhandley

      Kyle: Curious about what you're curious about… do you mean, whether it can be used to teach marketing writing?

      Audible.com: Definitely working on that.

      • No, I am working on a Masters degree in Special Education. I am curious about if and how I may be able to use the lessons in the book with my future K-12 students – to get them more interested and engaged in their own learning. I am sometimes amazed by where I find inspiration that looks like it may be useful in a classroom. I am just musing about whether I will be able to draw educational inspiration from this book.

  • I'm stick in a loop on #10. Is that bad? (Funny post)

    • annhandley

      Yes, it's bad. I mean, for you. But otherwise it's normal, as near as I can tell. I was there for most Q1 2010 and all of Q2.

  • Fantastic post.. I'm somewhere between 4 to 5th step currently.. Lets see. Nice one.

    • annhandley

      The best is yet to come.

      Or not.

  • stephendenny

    Stage 13.5(b): The book is FINALLY done… or is it?

    Like the angry blonde from Fatal Attraction, it just keeps sitting up in the tub! Damn.

    Die manuscript die!

    • While this comment scares me because I know we'll be at this phase in no time, it made me laugh out loud so thanks for that!

      • stephendenny

        Sure, you're laughing now…

  • Yeah, you left out a step or two–the ones about the rewrites, read, rewrite some more, re-read, rewrite a lot more, re-read, and a few more rewrites, more re-reads, and FINALLY the damn polish is done. Or is it.

    • annhandley

      OK — *NOW* I'm officially depressed…. ; )

  • I've written more than 70 and it doesn't get much easier. Thanks for this great post. I'll keep it in mind — and possibly check it for accuracy — when I start my next book. I'm already up to step 4 this time around…

  • 15 – Get real – I'm just writer, I'm not working on the cure of cancer. Let's not make such a big deal of it.

  • I have been in 9-5 for 1.5 years I cannot wait to get to 13!

  • I have been in in 5-9 for 1.5 yrs. Ready to be at 13!

    • annhandley

      Seriously? 1 1/2 years? I can't imagine Jeffrey…

  • Timely. Sh*t, I'm screwed! 😀

    • annhandley

      Yes. You are. How many books did you contract for again….? ; )

  • And to think my latest book could have saved them all that trouble ….!

    http://amzn.to/bpgrQH

  • Michelle

    Love this. Even though I'm not a writer I experience one or all of those stages every day. I particularly liked the concept of an endless, private circle of hell.

  • I can attest to this one as another Wiley upcoming author. One consistent stage: COFFEE. 🙂

    • Oh and coffee shops aka “legal crack houses” were my location of choice as well. Nicely played.

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  • NO matter what you do in life it always seems to come down to #14. 😉

  • Hi, This presentation is about how to get started in writing your breakthrough novel … cheer you along -Energy!

  • jamieturner

    Hi, Ann and C.C. —

    Congratulations on your book! I'll be one of the first to buy it when it comes out in December. And thanks for the great blog post on the 14 stages of writing a book.

    I just finished my manuscript for “How to Make Money with Social Media” which will be published by the Financial Times Press in October. (Special thanks to Ann who provided some MarketingProfs data for the book. I really appreciate it.)

    The biggest challenge I've found is that writing the book is only half the battle. After that comes marketing of the book, which is equally challenging.

    Congratulations again. If the book is half as good as the content in MarketingProfs, it's sure to be a best-seller.

    All the best,
    Jamie Turner
    The 60 Second Marketer

    • annhandley

      You're welcome, Jamie. Glad it worked out.

      I can't say I'm looking forward to the marketing piece… but guess that's inevitable, eh? Just trying to take it one day at a time. Like anyone else, I guess. : )

  • Haha. This is good. I'm about my second loop of stages 5-9. More coffee please 🙂

    • annhandley

      LOL.. I've been there for MONTHS. I no kid.

  • I love this and no doubt will be living it.

    • annhandley

      Thanks, Malcolm. And good luck.

  • So I'm not a loser for feeling like steps #5 & 7 applying to ONLY me, a chubby Mexican living in New York! Yay, thanks for making me feel normal again….and I can now move into step #11. You rock.

    • annhandley

      Oh good. Today's work is done!

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  • Great post. Excellent!

  • Great post. Excellent!