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6 Tips to Get Your Book Done Efficiently (and Ensure It’s Actually Good)

6 Tips to Get Your Book Done Efficiently (and Ensure It’s Actually Good)

My second book is in process, and I’m so excited! (If you follow me on Instagram, especially if you watch my stories, you already know this.) It’s coming out January 15, 2019, and the working title is The Do Less Experiment: A Working Mother’s Guide to Sanity.

I turned in the manuscript this past Christmas Eve. I’d gone under contract for it in May of 2017, then changed what I wanted to write two times and submitted two new outlines with sample chapters, then finally settled on what it was going to be and got writing at the beginning of October 2017.

From start to finish I wrote the manuscript in two and a half months, putting in about an hour a day and missing only a few days of writing. (I wrote on weekends and weekdays.)

Because I documented the writing process on my Instagram stories, checking in before and after each writing session to update my word count, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from fellow writers or aspiring writers on how to fit writing a book into your daily routine, how to stay disciplined enough to get it done, and how to get it done efficiently.

I know plenty of writers who really marinate in their work and take years to complete a manuscript, and I have tremendous respect for them. These people are writing intricate novels with complicated characters and plot lines, memoirs that require peeling back layers and significant introspection, or research-based books that require, well, a lot of research.

So far my books are not any of these things, so I can get them done much more quickly because I essentially am reporting on my lived experience. (I wrote Money: A Love Story by sitting down from 8-9am each day for a month, so this second one actually took me two and a half times as long!)

I’ve culled 6 tips that contributed the most to my ability to efficiently write a book I’m proud of, and I want to share them with you because if you’ve got a book in you, I want to support you in getting your brilliance out into the world!

1. Have an outline.

Writing a general arc of the book ahead of time and making a list of chapters I want to write is key for me. When I start, I start at the beginning and I essentially go through sequentially from one chapter to the next. I certainly change the order of chapters and add and delete chapters as I go, but having something to follow ensures that each day when I sit down to write, I know where I’m going and facing the page is less daunting. It also keeps me on track so I’m not going off talking about things that aren’t relevant to this particular piece of work. My outline for this book had a list of chapters with a sentence or two after each chapter title describing what it was going to be about and sometimes making a note of a story I wanted to tell in the chapter.

2. Have a deadline.

One of the best ways to ensure you get something done is to have a deadline, ideally one that someone else is expecting you to meet and, perhaps even more ideally, some money on the line or something else behaviorally relevant. I knew the team at Hay House was expecting the manuscript on a certain day, and because I respect them and their time, I wanted to turn it in on time (and actually turned it in a week early.) I also value our relationship and didn’t want to sully it by being late. I’m an upholder (if you’ve read about Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies you’ll know what I’m talking about), so not letting others down is a big motivator for me.

3. Get your butt in your chair.

The big secret to writing a book (or doing anything) is just showing up.  That’s it. Getting your butt in your chair and writing. Putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and writing. There’s no other magical thing you can do other than show up that will get it done. If you show up enough days in a row, eventually you will have a book. It’s that easy and that hard.

6 Tips to Get Your Book Done Efficiently (and Ensure It’s Actually Good)

4. Have a ritual.

Every day that I sat down to write, I recorded a quick Instagram story saying I was about to write, lit a candle, said the following prayer: “May I write what needs to be said,” put on the Peaceful Piano station on Spotify, opened my document, and got going. When I’d hit 1,000 words, written for an hour, or needed to stop writing because Penelope woke up or I was cooked, I recorded another quick Instagram story including how many words I’d written, how many more I needed to write to hit my total (70,000 is what my contract was for), and anything else about how writing went that day. Having a ritual kept me grounded and gave me something to do that I didn’t have to think about when I sat down to write. By the time I got to the part where I actually needed to write, I’d already done 5 habitual things and the words just flowed (most of the time).

5. Give yourself permission for it to suck.

You may have heard Anne Lamott talk about the “shitty first draft.” I adore her and this concept. Basically, when I sat down to write I didn’t put pressure on myself that what I wrote had to be brilliant. I didn’t even focus on it needing to be good. I gave myself permission for it to suck. Some days what I wrote sucked and I deleted it. But more days than not, the spaciousness that I gave myself when I checked perfectionism at the door actually opened the creative channel wider and allowed what came through to be even better than what might have if I was trying to make it good. It’s a paradox: the better you try to make it, the worse it is because you’re using sphincter energy to create. And creativity doesn’t come from sphincter energy. Creativity comes from freedom. So if you allow yourself to suck, you probably won’t.

6. Know that this isn’t about you.

An angel I met a few weeks before I started writing this book reminded me that writing this book wasn’t up to me. She reminded me that my job was to show up and that if I did, the book would be written through me. The relaxation I felt when she said this was profound, and I’m quite sure it’s why I got started so soon after and why the whole process was mostly joyful. (I hear so many writers talk about the anguish of the creative process, but I find it to be largely a pleasure.)

Know this: you have wisdom inside of you that needs to be shared. If you think you have a book in you, you do. The world is hungry for your insight, your story, and your particular way of seeing things.

Yes, someone has likely written a book on the same topic that you want to write a book about. But YOU have not. And therefore the canon is missing a book. And it’s yours.

May these steps help you get going, get it done, and complete the canon.


Which of the 6 tips speaks the most to you? How will you implement it in your own writing? Tell me in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!


  • Show up and the book will be written through you – brilliant!

  • As an unpublished author for a work of fiction, I think giving myself permission to have the first draft suck resonates with me. That’s a tough one but so necessary.

    Thanks for posting this, Kate!

  • Laini

    This is really helpful Kate! I’ve been journalling all my life – I write to make sense of things and I feel I have a book in me but geez it’s scary! I think the two best pieces of advice here are to have a ritual and put your butt in the seat! My writing is often intermittent – I won’t write for days and then I’ll write for ages – and in the middle of the night. I want to create the habit for writing so thanks heaps for these tips! Laini x

    • Kate Northrup

      I’m so glad these tips are helpful. If you already are a journaler then transitioning to writing for consumption hopefully won’t be too tricky (though it is quite different at least you know how to flow!)

  • Eva

    These tips are helpful, practical, and for me, very timely. “Creativity doesn’t come from sphincter energy”. Indeed!

  • Just want to say how perfect these tips are. Thank you for sharing!

  • I never considered myself a writer. In 2016, I hit rock bottom after emergency surgery, I was diagnosed with severe physician burnout, after going through 5 major life events in 3 years and trying to do my very responsible job just as good as always.
    Something incredibly strange happened. I couldn’t speak in my native language. I could only speak English (with no background of it other than professional use in my job). When I was contemplating my word of the year 2017, I stumbled upon ‘writer’, but it didn’t make any sense to me so I choose the second word that came to mind.

    Over the last couple of months, during my recovery, I thought of 2 book titles and I’m pretty sure I will be writing them. One about recovering from burnout and the gifts it had in store for me and another one about embracing our feminine rhythms. And I have a vague idea for a novel too. So, I figured, maybe I am a writer after all, I just need to start.

    I really like your tips on starting and being consistent and having a ritual. I’m a ritual girl. ;)

    Thank you for the encouragement. I am very much looking forward to your new book!

    • Kate Northrup

      Wow. What a crazy experience. And it seems you are a writer. If you’re thinking of books left and write it must be! Sounds like yours is a story that people need to hear.

  • Thank you Kate, the words you wrote here come at exactly the right moment for me. Hesitating for months if i should write a book or not,
    i was waiting for a clear sky. Your words tell me now to start before i am totally ready: now! Because when i’ll wait when i’m ready for it, the inspiration will be dry and i won’t have the push anymore that i have now. My inspiration pushes me to do it! And your words gave me an extra push to start! So thank you!

    • Kate Northrup

      It’s true – just like having a baby. there’s never a good time to write a book! Start and enjoy the process!

  • “Know this: you have wisdom inside of you that needs to be shared. If you think you have a book in you, you do. The world is hungry for your insight, your story, and your particular way of seeing things.”

    The tips are great, but these are the words I needed to hear. Thank you.

    • Kate Northrup

      I’m so glad that’s what you needed to hear Kristine. If there’s desire in you, there’s a need in the world. Go for it.

  • Hi Kate!

    I’ve been such a fan and follower for years, and am once again totally inspired by this post!

    I started writing my 1st book 3.5 weeks ago, following a 12-week course outlined by one of my mentors.

    All of your tips are totally in keeping with what I’ve been practicing.

    It’s meant getting up an hour earlier each day so I can keep meditating (to set the tone for the day), and so I can have some quiet time to focus once my husband and daughter are out the door to work and school respectively, and before I head to work.

    Some days are easy, some days more challenging. Ultimately though, knowing this book is for me, but not about me (I see it as Spirit, Universe, Creative Source Energy expressing itself), is a big inspiration to keep going. And having a deadline (and telling people about it!) is another biggie.

    Your #5 just made me pause, and smile. Not cringe, and think “oh my gosh what if…”. That’s exciting for me, ‘cus it means I’ve done enough work on pushing past limiting beliefs so far to actually be okay with others not liking it. Another opportunity for healing, growth and expansion – huzzah!

    I’ve been talking about writing a book for over 10 years, and right now, I’m actually doing it! Doing it, with the intention to self-publish by mid-April of this year!

    Thanks so much for all you are and all you do Kate!

    With infinite love and gratitude,
    Lesia :)
    Victoria, BC

  • Thank you Kate! I’m in the process of writing my book and I DEFINITELY needed the reminder to let myself suck as I’m writing. I have found that I am more creative when I “color” outside of the lines. There is always room – and time – to clean things up once they get on the page. Best wishes with your finishing touches on your book/process!!

  • Thank you! Thank you! You have no idea how much this article has inspired me and resonated with my intentions.

  • Stacey

    “…when I checked perfectionism at the door actually opened the creative channel wider and allowed what came through to be even better…”

    I’ve felt “stuck” lately with my humble start to online entrepreneurship. I was listening to a Podcast last night in the car while driving to teach a couple dance lessons. The guest was talking about how focusing too much on our desired outcome can hinder us from being present/mindful in the now.

    What you wrote (quoted at the start) was complete confirmation of what I was sorting through last night!

    I’m going to set a schedule, show up, sit down and let it flow.

    How you show up and speak (and write) gives so much freedom to me to be me.

    Congratulations on whipping out your second book Kate!

    • Kate Northrup

      I’m so very glad those words (and the podcast) resonated with you. Sounds like it’s just the message you needed since it showed up twice within 24 hours!

  • your post arrives at the best moment, this year I have decided to write a book, in fact, I already have some records of respectful upbringing and I am looking for a publisher to help me in the publication, but of course I will improve what I have and your Tips are wonderful. Thanks for sharing, I am happy to read you!

  • I’ve got half of step five in my rear view. ‘Sphincter’ energy is ABSOLUTELY right. I’m learning to relax and just say it like I talk, like it comes to mind. Let it be whatever it is. I’m a recovering perfectionist, so things are actually starting to get done (imagine that ;).

    But it was actually step six that made my belly flutter: deep. pinging. recognition. What is it about the Truth validating us instead of something more contrived and less legitimate that has the power to make us quake? I guess it just delivers us to our own sovereign power.

    Thanks for this. You’re a beautiful soul. xo

    • Kate Northrup

      Oh I’m SO glad that step 6 rang true for you! For me it’s the most important one. And the one I forget the most often. Godspeed on your writing!

  • Hi Kate, I’ve journaled my entire life, and have many ideas in my head for a book, yet, picking a direction has been challenging. This step-by-step process you outline is helpful, thank you!

    I’ve heard it said many times before that if you feel a book is in you, it is. Yet it’s something that always goes on the back burner.

    It’s crazy to me that you wrote Money, A love story, in a month!! You’re definitely inspiring me to continue on!

  • Mary-Jane

    I think I should join Origin and start watching your videos as well as following the blog. I need some of your power! Seven years it took me to complete my PhD, not all of that was writing, but by the writing stage I resigned myself to 16-hr days, for over a year! I really need to learn how to do things differently coz I just thought that’s the effort all such things would take.
    I take my hat off to you!

  • This was a great article Kate. Thank you! Really resonate with your ritual statement and finding peace that my work is to show up for the book to be written through me. Love it and helps lessen the voice of perfection and self critique! xo Juliana

  • Great blog Kate. I love the tip about not trying to be good – I know all about the shitty first draft, but it’s the trying to write something good that is wont to hamstring my writing, I think. I’ve written two books before, but this is the first one that is coming from my heart and it’s an entirely different process. I just need to get out of my own way

  • The deadline. This has recently become a sticky wicket for me, as my writing varies from week to week, based on what/how many shows I’m reviewing. I’ve begun toying with new ways of meeting said deadlines, and am also changing what types of posts I publish, so there’s enough time to get them done.

    Thank you for all your inspiration!!!

  • Yes, yes yes
    Amen, amen, amen
    Our mothers worked together in Boston and our work is CHANGING “our worlds”.

    Bravo, sista!

    Always, only my best,

  • Terri Maracle

    In the words of the great Ellen Burstyn…..”show up, pay attention, tell the truth and let go of the outcome.”
    Your tips are practical and direct, thank you. I have struggled for years to get my book together….I have MULTIPLE pages and folders full of writings, but need to put it together. I really like the idea of having a ritual prior to actually writing for the day, I am going to do that starting immediately.

  • Leigh

    ‘Get your butt in the chair’ yes! I just finished writing a book on eating, donuts, eating donuts 😊 and being at peace with myself around that. For months I just ‘sat the hell down and wrote’ ….even when I wasn’t feeling ‘inspired.’ Thank you for the tips, all good stuff.

  • Having a plan is what resonates for me! I’m very much into the idea of being ‘written through’ and thought that meant I couldn’t have a plan and I just had to show up and surrender. But I think lack of a plan has left me feeling unmotivated and unstructured and daunted. So I’m going to sit down and surrender and have a plan written through me also! Thanks Kate x

  • These are wonderful tips! So simple and yet so easy to let slide if you don’t have a solid routine. Thank you for sharing :)

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