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In my Bring Your Book to Life® Program, I teach how to write a book quickly. A quality book, of course. And quickly is a relative term. We’re not doing it in a weekend!
I just love beginnings—getting in touch with the vision of a book, thinking deeply about future readers, seeing what’s possible.
So, I’m having a ball meeting with the participants in Bring Your Book to Life® as they embark on an 8-12 week journey of writing their books swiftly, many planning to complete a first draft by the end of the course.
Because we focus on writing the foundation (usually a first draft or first draft with holes) of a truly excellent book in a short period of time, it requires us to be efficient and effective in all we do. We don’t cut corners, but we work strategically.
What does this look like? Here are a few outtakes from book concept consultations that took place in the last few days:
It’s easy to try to invent something new, but if you already have a system that works, use what you have. One call was with an expert who has over a million visitors to her website. She clearly knows who her audience is and how to engage them! Plus, she’s taught much of this information before in a course.
It makes sense to use the structure from her existing course; it works! I can’t tell you how many times, though, I see people starting over with their book. Now, it’s not a bad idea to ask yourself, “Is this the most effective structure and format to get this information across?” but don’t change things just to change things.
I first suggested she use the steps of the course as her chapters. The challenge is that there are only 5 steps, making her projected chapter lengths 35 pages. This seemed way too long for her harried audience. It turns out, though that each step has around four modules, making 4 chapters in each of 5 sections–20 chapters, each around eight to nine pages. That seems like a good length for a busy audience.
I found myself repeating something you may have heard me say before: if you’re an expert, sharing a system you already know well, or if you’re writing a memoir, you can often write from what you know and write a first rough draft with relative ease.
You can leave the extensive research or interviews for last and fill them in after you have a first rough draft. This can prevent “analysis paralysis” which can keep you in research mode way too long, and it can also give you the much needed momentum to feel confident to complete the book quickly, rather than taking so long to complete one chapter that you give up.
Of course, there may be places where research or interviews are absolutely necessary. However, think first before research and decide whether you can write from what you know and research later.
In addition, if you get stuck on one chapter, consider skipping that chapter and moving on to the next part of your outline or—perhaps even better—writing the chapter you feel most excited about writing next! Generally, a solid outline will help you work effectively and efficiently without having to write in a particular order. Sometimes, writing out of order frees your writing and creativity up in other ways.
Should you write the introduction first?
If you need to spend some time getting clear about your readers’ needs, mindset and pain points, writing the introduction and addressing these can help you get closer to your readers in preparation for writing the next chapters.
And as you describe the book, its contents, its benefits and how to engage the material effectively, you’ll get more clarity that will help you write.
On the other hand, the introduction can often be an experiment that you try a few different ways until you hit the right note. In that case, it’s preventing you from getting that quick rough first draft of the book. If you begin writing the introduction and you feel as if you’re treading water, consider moving on and returning to it later, so you can write your book expeditiously. If you already have a solid outline for the book, chances are writing several iterations of the introduction is not going to get you much additional clarity on that first draft. Keep moving.
Are there exceptions to the rules? Always. That’s why I recommend listening to your gut instinct as well (or “consulting your muse,” as I think of the creative source).
One thing I’ve found myself suggesting to a few people in class is, if you’re writing a book that’s prescriptive (rather than narrative) or a combo of prescriptive/narrative, consider creating a blueprint for a typical chapter.
It can be something like this (just as an example):
So, if you are getting ready to write and want to write a book quickly, consider this first. It will help shape chapters and save you time.
I spent the past Saturday and Sunday afternoon at the Jamestown Library outlining my book. While I have a first draft written, it’s helpful for the developmental editing process to have various aspects/features/elements on color-coded Post-it notes and be able to move things around.
Note: it was a little challenging to keep the Post-it notes in place. Don’t try this on a windy day! (or if you do, make sure they are secure).
Although I plan to move some of these around, I ended up taping them down for now since they started to fall off. A particpant in class gave me the tip to buy sticky notes that are sticky all over the back and not just on one edge! I will definitely do that next time!
Are you starting a book? What’s working? What questions are coming up? Do you have any insights or tips to share for getting started, writing a book quickly, getting the voice just right or writing your best?