Whether writing a book on your own or collaborating with a ghostwriter, getting started can be difficult. Often, the hardest chapter to write is the first one. Whether you begin with a preface, introduction, or chapter one, many authors find themselves writing, rewriting, analyzing, and overanalyzing that opening section again and again, struggling to get it just the way they envision it in their head. Days, weeks, and even months might go by. They get more confused and unsure about their idea. Worse, they tire themselves out, so the finish line seems so much further away than they imagined. This can discourage authors and derail projects, so before you fall into this cycle of doom, you want to get out in front of this issue. 

IDENTIFYING PROBLEMS 

When it feels like you’re spinning your wheels on the first chapter, you typically have one of two potential problems. 

#1. A Flawed Concept 

You can’t build a house on a shaky foundation, so if you don’t have a strong concept and outline, there is a very good chance that you can struggle right out of the gate. So, instead of trying to force a round peg into a square hole by writing your way out of this problem, return to the source and rework the concept. 

For example, your idea might be better suited for two books instead of one, so the content feels disconnected. You might be trying to force a style or voice that doesn’t mesh well with the type of book you’re writing. The outline might be out of whack, and readers don’t have all the necessary information needed to understand your point, so you’re trying to cram too much explanation up front. There are numerous other examples. If the words don’t flow naturally, go back to vet your concept and the structural foundation of the book to make sure what you’re trying to do works. 

#2. Striving For Perfection 

If you’ve put in the time to create a solid outline, the problem is often that you’re putting too much pressure on yourself to be perfect. You’re writing this draft as if every sentence will be what’s printed on the page of the actual book for people to view for eternity. Every word becomes precious and needs to be analyzed to make sure your phrasing encapsulates your message. 

This ultimately creates paralysis by analysis, and it can stall a project, making it extremely difficult to make progress or build momentum. This is one reason why many authors start writing a book and never finish. The solution is not to settle for subpar work but to give yourself a break. Put the process in perspective and understand that you’re not writing a final draft. 

YOU CAN ALWAYS REVISE

An editor once told me, “You start by writing the introduction for the book you want to write, and then when you finish, you go back to rewrite the introduction for the book you actually wrote.”

Writing a book is an arduous slog. It’s a journey that takes a long time. This is an organic process that continually evolves. You will learn a tremendous amount about your ideas and yourself as a writer. The content, the approach, and the style can all change as you continue to write. The deeper you get into the book, the clearer the vision and the sharper the voice. You fall into a groove. Everything takes shape, and that might differ slightly from your original vision. What’s funny is that what you create is often better than what you first pictured. But to experience that breakthrough, you have to earn it by putting in the work. 

FROM DONE TO GOOD TO GREAT

If you find yourself overwhelmed or struggling out of the gate to capture your vision on the page, and the problem isn’t with your concept or outline, take a step back. Don’t strive to be perfect. Instead, simply get it down. Your first goal should be to get it done. That takes a tremendous amount of pressure off you, and it will create a major psychological win. It makes the finish line seem closer and the process less daunting. Don’t look backward. Just continue moving forward until you are finished. This doesn’t mean settling for sloppy or careless writing. Simply execute the material as best you can at the time, knowing that you will return to it later. 

When you have completed a first draft and look back at the beginning of the manuscript, something amazing happens. First, you recognize how far you’ve come because it feels like that opening material was written ages ago. Second, it’s never as bad as you fear it might be. There will be sections that need to be rewritten or cut, but overall, you will have done some solid work. More importantly, the heavy lifting will be done, so all of these small tasks required to make the book better feel much more manageable. 

If you find yourself struggling to make progress, don’t strive to be perfect. Get it down and get it done. Then, worry about making it good and eventually great. If you enter the process thinking like that, it will take the pressure off and make writing much more enjoyable.