Last week, we talked about the why and how of getting your book published. (Pick up the free guide on publishing your book here). Some of you reading may have been thinking to yourself, “This is all well and good, but I haven’t even written my book, much less thought about publishing it!” If that’s where you are, don’t worry because this post is for you. So, without further ado, here is a short addendum to last week’s post, focused not on publishing, but writing your own book.
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that you know what you want to write about. You either have a story that needs to be told, or some knowledge that needs to be shared, and you know that there are people out there who would want to read it once it was available. Assuming that’s the case, let’s move on to the number one reason that stops most people from ever publishing a book: not writing it in the first place! I know it may come as a shock, but you do indeed need to actually write a book to get it published. Many of us have succeeded in the “first creation” of conceiving what we want to write, but we are stopped when it came to the “second creation” of actually bringing it about in reality. This is because the former is quick and clean, while the latter is slow and messy.
So, with that in mind, here is a short list of the most important tips and tricks I learned during the experience of writing my own book. Like my previous post, this is not an exhaustive instructional manual on writing nor does it replace writer’s workshops and groups and so on. If you want to know how to become the next Stephen King, all I can say is, “Don’t we all?!” Unfortunately, I can’t ensure you will write an award-winning novel or make it to the bestseller list, but I can help make the process of the “second creation” go that much more smoothly than it would otherwise.
· Get clear on your message – I touched on this in last week’s post, but it is key to have a clear goal when you sit down to write. What do you want your readers to learn? What do you want them to experience? What do you want your writing to persuade them to do? What results do you want them to produce as a consequence of reading your book?
· Get clear on the big why! – Even more important than being clear about what you are writing is being clear about why you are writing. I remember writing a message to myself on a post-it note—that is still on my board today—to remind myself I was writing my book to be a blessing to someone and an answer to someone’s prayers. Dwelling on your ultimate intentions always helps get you out of your head, stay focused on the reason you need to stay on track, and remind you that whatever obstacles you encounter are just speed bumps and not roadblocks.
· Let everybody know you are writing a book – This encourages them to ask you about your progress regularly and doesn’t allow you to sweep your commitment under the rug. You may come to regret this request later, but that’s how you know it is working to keep you on track.
· Have an accountability partner – Ideally, you want your partner to be someone who has different strengths than you. If you are not a detailed person, you want a detail-oriented partner. If you are a procrastinator, you want a partner that is always taking initiative. Get someone to work with you who will bring what you are missing to the table, as this will ensure that you don’t overlook things that you might not notice otherwise. You might also think of this person as your agent, focusing on dealing with things that you wouldn’t otherwise.
· Create an outline – This can be as rough or detailed as you like, but one easy way to start is by dividing your book into 10 chapters or topics. Aim to have at least 10 pages per chapter and then expand from there. This will help you structure your ideas and give you a place to organize your notes as you come up with new things to write.
· Don’t try to squeeze everything you know into one book – You may have tons of notes lying around, but don’t meticulously try to include everything on them in the book, especially if it is your first. The best practice is to write mainly from memory for the first draft, then add details later in revisions. If you need to add research or specific figures, leave placeholders and add the exact information in revisions. Related to the previous point, keep in mind that you are trying to assemble skeleton that you can pack things on to later. Like with a house, you build a foundation and framework first, then everything else.
· Plan your work, work your plan – Have a deadline for when your book will be finished, and a schedule for making it happen. This can be daily, weekly, monthly or anything that fits your goal. The point is to put your endpoint on the calendar, and to have regular time dedicated to the actual work of writing. Unless you are some kind of prodigy that can type out a coherent manuscript in a week or two in your spare time, this is an absolute necessity. For example, I had been mulling over writing my own book for many years, but because I never put a structure in place for doing it, nothing ever came out of it until my daughter made me kick it into gear. With a deadline and schedule in place, it only took me 4 or 5 months to crank my book out. Remember that someday is either today or never, and if you plan on writing your book “someday,” then that’s when you can plan on it coming out.
· Don’t wait for inspiration to hit – Follow your schedule religiously. Sit down and write whether you feel like it or not! Inspiration is notoriously fickle and unreliable and, unless you are an artist, generally not required to write a book. If you write without waiting to "feel" it, the worst case is that you develop discipline and practice and have to go back and revise a segment next time. If you constantly wait for inspiration to write, however, the worst case is that you end up waiting forever! Remember writer’s block isn’t a function of not feeling like writing, it is a function of simply not writing!
· Don’t get bogged down with editing – As mentioned in my previous post, editing is the job of your editor. Your task is to write the manuscript in its entirety, in rough format. Your goal is not to produce a pristine manuscript the first time through. Save time and effort by not stopping and constantly revising work that someone else will do later anyway.
· Use your own voice – Don’t try to sound more sophisticated, funny, serious, and so on, than you actually are. You are the one writing this book so it should be recognizable as your work. Your authentic voice will create congruency between your content and delivery. And if you aren’t going to write in your own voice, then why not just hire someone else to write it and save you the time?
· Don’t aim for perfection – Your book will always be more perfect in your mind than on paper. This is not a reason to be stopped. This is simply the nature of the “first creation” relative to the “second creation,” and of existence itself. You may recoil as soon as you realize that what you are putting down on the page doesn’t match the expectation you had in your mind, but it is good to remember that, while the first creation is always more perfect, it is only the second creation that actually exists in reality. “Done is better than perfect,” to paraphrase a certain saying, and that applies as much to writing as it does to anything else. Except when it comes to writing, there is always the option to go back and revise and improve…but only if you have something written to begin with. Remember that perfection doesn’t exist, and as long as you insist on your book being perfect, then neither will it.
So, these are some of the lessons I learned while writing my book, and I hope they are helpful for you on your journey to becoming a published author. In case you missed it last week, here is a link to my previous post on lessons I learned about the publishing process, and the free guide on publishing your own book.
If you have any questions or would like some specific guidance on writing or publishing your own book, or anything else I have covered on my blog posts, please feel free to reach out to me by emailing, connecting on LinkedIn, or leaving a comment on this post and I will get back to you with any helpful perspective I can offer.
I wish you the very best as you share your message!
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As always, have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary! I would love to hear about your victories and/or challenges - Leave your comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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