Many would-be writers start their books impulsively and haphazardly, which seldom works. When they get good ideas and inspirations, they rush to get them down. Frequently, they don’t think about how they should proceed and just feel that the strength of their ideas, inspiration, and passion will carry them through-and sometimes, they’re right. However, in most cases, they’re charting a course for failure. Great writing takes detailed preparation.

Many aspiring writers also go through what authors call “brain dumps,” in which they unload whatever ideas or information are on their minds. While brain dumps can be good starting points and can help in identifying valuable material, they can also create real messes because torrents of ideas, information, and emotions are released without sequence, order, or design. Brain dumps can produce floods of loosely connected concepts that are not thoroughly thought through or researched. So when writers subsequently read their ramblings, they become discouraged and toss everything out-the good as well as the bad. Often times, we suggest working with a collaborator or writer to help navigate this otherwise insurmountable information. Sometimes, another set of eyes can truly be the difference between a good book and a great one.

Writing a book may start with a flash of inspiration, but then it takes planning, organization, and work, work, work. It’s a long, involved progression-like running a marathon, producing a movie, or conducting a complex campaign. It takes discipline, dedication, and effort. It won’t happen overnight, but if you stay the course, it can eventually come to life. If you try to do it all at once, it can overwhelm you. So it must be planned. And when it is, when you create a structure, writing a book can become fun and fulfilling and can do wonders for your ego and your career.

Never think of a book as a one-time venture; always consider it as part of a larger plan. Whether you want to build a career as a writer, or write to build your business or another aspect of your life, focus on creating a supportive following. As Seth Godin, bestselling author of Purple Cow (Portfolio, 2003), says, “Nonfiction is almost never about the writing. It’s about your following, the permission asset you have with readers, the boost you can get in starting conversations. A publisher will not make you succeed. Those days are long, long gone.” Plan for the long run, beyond any single book.