Monday, January 23, 2017

So you want to write a book? - Part 4

A deep dive into why you are writing this book

As I alluded to in the last article, often our first draft is just that, a first draft.  Hate to tell you, but likely one of many. The good news is that with each version you are getting closer to the final, finished product.

 But let’s get back to the beginning for a moment.  Early on I asked you why you were writing your book?  Who was your potential reader? And what were your key messages?

Has that changed?  Because sometimes it does as you go deeper into your topic and learn more.  Sometimes the writing process digs up more than you expected in your personal life. Stuff you’d kept under wraps.  Your decision is whether to include these insights or stories in the book, and only you can decide what gets included and what gets left out.  But just a heads up that writing can stir up issues you thought were long gone.

The clearer you can be on what you want to achieve through your book, the better it will be.  By clarity, I mean the key messages, the outcome for the reader, and yes, what you want to get out of it too.  If it is making a fortune through your book, I hate to disappoint you, but unless you are Stephen King, making lots of money as an author is a pipe dream.

What a book does is it gives you is credibility.  We live in a society that admires and respects people who have written a book.  If you are in business, your book can become a platform from which to establish yourself as an expert.  In fact it is often through public speaking that you sell the most books.

There will be times when you feel like giving up.  It is then when you want to remember your why.  Why you are doing this in the first place.  It is that why that will give you the tenacity to carry on.

Taking a break is OK too.  Sometimes coming back a few months later gives you a fresh perspective and a renewed enthusiasm for the project.

Personally I find it hard to write when I am not in the “flow.”   I am far better off to “step away from the computer” take a walk, do something else rather than force myself to write when I am tired and not feeling that creative.

Having said all this, there is something very rewarding when a reader contacts you to say that your words have been helpful, resonated and made a difference.  That’s when you know you are on the right path.

This post is part four of a series on writing books by Anne Day, President of Full Circle Publishing and author/editor of five books on Women and Entrepreneurship.  Her next book, co-authored with Amy Vodarek will be coming out in Spring, 2017

Monday, January 16, 2017

So you want to write a book - part 3

One chapter at a time


Michael Hyatt recommends a template approach to writing your chapters, and when we were writing Good Enough? we found this concept helped shape our book.  It goes something like this:

Opening quote to set the stage for topic to be covered.
Brief introduction to the topic – why included.
Stories to illustrate message
Learnings to be gleaned
Next steps for the reader

Now obviously it depends on what you are writing about, but as a self-help book on getting over self-doubt, we found this formula worked well.

Chapter length

In her book Got your Attention, Sam Horn talks about the length of your chapters. Basically she advocates that less is more.  We live in a time when people are easily distracted and to keep their attention, you have to keep the chapters short and sweet. 

Ten pages is the maximum she recommends.  This may mean leaving out some information that you feel is important, but you can re-organize your chapters, or as she shares, leave it out.   Better to keep the reader reading and wanting more, than to lose them early on.

Chapter titles

Think about what you look at before you buy a book.  Usually it is the back cover blurb, and then a flick through the content and chapter titles.  If the titles resonate with you – sold, you buy the book.   It is therefore really important to come up with catchy titles, ones that will convey what the chapter is about and will have meaning to your potential reader.  This is not the time to be too cute however.  You want your potential buyer to grasp easily what the book is all about.

Your reader

Just a quick word about your reader.  In working with authors at the beginning stages of writing their books, I sometimes find that the reader is overlooked. That first draft becomes more about the author and less about the reader.  At some point, it will be important to give more thought as to what your reader needs to know, how the reader is feeling and what is helpful to the person reading your book.  Consider your first draft then as cathartic – it is all out there and then you can pick and choose the most relevant sections to include in draft 2.

This post is part three of a series on writing books by Anne Day, President of Full Circle Publishing and author/editor of five books on Women and Entrepreneurship.  Her next book, co-authored with Amy Vodarek will be coming out in Spring, 2017

Monday, January 9, 2017

So you want to write a book... Part 2

Making a plan

It is way easier to write when you have planned out your key messages and thought through the stories you want to share to illustrate your points.  Try not to have too many key messages, otherwise you will overwhelm not only yourself but the reader too.

If you come up with three key messages, for example, list under each message how you will share the information, will it be through stories (both your own and others you may have interviewed), factual data,  other written documents/books on the topic. 

When you start to work out what will be covered, it is much easier to start writing and you have a plan.

In writing Good Enough? we used a template to plan out what each chapter will cover.  We wrote each theme on a post it note and as the book moved along, it changed but it helped us keep track of what needed to be included and where.   

Now the order of the chapters may change, in fact, quite likely it will as your book takes shape, but the key at the beginning is to just write and stay focused on the content.

You may want to start with the chapter that is the easiest to write, as that way you have a taste of success from the get-go.  It eases you into the writing flow.

Do you have a special deadline in mind?  Perhaps you are talking at a conference or making an important presentation and would like to have the book available.  You then need to work backwards from that date and build in certain milestones, so that you stay on track and meet that deadline.

When you are doing this, remember that everything takes longer than you think, so don’t box yourself in – build in time for Murphy’s law – what can go wrong, will go wrong.  Much depends too on the steps you want to take – do you want to have your text copy edited (something I recommend because if nothing else it is a fresh pair of eyes looking at your work. ) then you need to allow time for that to happen. 

The actual production takes time too.  Check with who you want to print your book on the typical amount of time that this will take.

This post is part two of a series on writing books by Anne Day, President of Full Circle Publishing and author/editor of five books on Women and Entrepreneurship.  Her next book, co-authored with Amy Vodarek will be coming out in Spring, 2017

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

So you want to write a book? - Part 1

Getting started.

Over 80 percent of North Americans feel they have a book in them, a book they need to write.  Yet how many see the light of day?  Not many.

What holds people back from sending their words out into the world?   Much of it is tied into their lack of knowledge and confidence that they can do it.  They question their ability to write, never mind write well and time becomes a real challenging factor.  

How can they fit it into an already jam-packed schedule?  Take all this and it is easy to see how overwhelming this can all be and so they don’t even start.

This is an instance when you just have to start, taking it one step at a time. Maybe it requires you to step away from your usual routine and spend some quiet time thinking about your book.  What will it be about?  Who will want to read it? What are your key messages?  Why do you want to write it?

When you have come up with your answers to these questions, you have a foundation upon which to build and start your book.  One of your first steps needs to be to start writing. Regularly.  You need to strengthen your writing muscle and so writing every day helps hone your writing skills.

It doesn’t have to be lengthy epistles but if you can move towards 500 words a day, you will be surprised at how much easier it becomes to put words on paper.  Think about when you are most creative – are you a morning person or a night owl?  Is there a spot in your home or office that stirs up your creative juices. 

For example I am an early bird and I enjoy the quiet of my home office at the farm.  But for others, the hustle and bustle of a Starbucks is just what they need to get writing.

Wherever you chose, schedule your time to write on a daily basis. Writing a book is all about discipline, you need to block off your time to write. Now a word about those words.  Don’t edit as you go along, that comes later. What you want to do is to just go with the flow and get writing. 

And reading.  It helps to read work done by other writers.  Find people you want to follow and start observing how they write.  How do they describe situations?  Can you picture in your mind what is happening or how the person is feeling?  Make note of what works for you as the reader.

This post is part one of a series on writing books by Anne Day, President of Full Circle Publishing and author/editor of five books on Women and Entrepreneurship.  Her next book, co-authored with Amy Vodarek will be coming out in Spring, 2017