When I emailed, “What do you want to discuss on our call?” all my client wrote was, “How to write a book.”
Dr. James Zender had just signed a book contract with a publisher and, not surprisingly, self doubt reared its ugly head. Can I really write a book?
Step 1: Address self-doubt.
Perhaps you’ve experienced similar doubts:
- “Can I write a good enough book?”
- “Will I be able to write a book within the schedule that I just agreed to?”
- “Will anyone want to read it?”
- “How can I do it right?”
Before we could move on to other steps, we needed to address the negative thoughts and feelings that naturally arise and get in the way. And we did.
I didn’t need to say much. Dr. Zender started by sharing his experiences at a conference he’d just attended, where the testimony of several of his peers underscored how under-served his target audience was. We were both a bit stunned by the silence around the subject of his book, and he felt even more determined that people needed his message. All this serves to motivate him to write the book.
I reminded Dr. Zender that he’d already written one chapter and an excellent proposal, as well as spent several years developing his platform. Much of the hardest work was done!
Not only that but he’d proven to himself and others that he could write a compelling chapter, and an equally compelling proposal. Obviously, he has the ability to write a book–and a good one.
In addition, his book proposal now serves as the blueprint for the book. By signing the publishing contract, he’s already agreed to write the chapters in the outline he presented. The path to take is clearly marked–by him!
Step 2: Break it down. Make a plan.
I asked him the number of words he’s committed to and to remind me the number of chapters he needs to write:
- 55,000 words
- 14 chapters left to write (out of 15).
We did the math. Approximately 3,667 words/chapter.
I suggested that with an early fall deadline, he aim for something like July 1 to have a first or second draft of the whole book. This gives him plenty of wiggle room for edits, changes or unforeseen circumstances.
It will be important to schedule specific times in his calendar and keep them sacred. Otherwise it’s too easy for priorities to shift and find yourself in a pickle near the end of the month.
Now, how to actually write the book? He has the blueprint already. If it works best for him, he can just put more and more detail in the outline, until he knows pretty much everything he wants to put in the book.
On the other hand, he has some fantastic stories. He may just want to choose the stories to tell in each chapter and start by writing that story in all its powerful detail. The writing of the story will naturally inform him of what points he wants to make in the chapter. In addition, the story writing will inspire, get the words flowing and make it much easier to write a book. So, it’s also fine to start writing, with a more modest chapter outline and let the writing flow from there.
There’s no right or wrong way to write a book. Experiment and see what works best for you. You can always change course.
Step 3: Consult your acquisitions editor.
I suggested that he come up with a list of all the questions he has for his editor. Rather than ask her for her vision, he should start with his vision, so that she’s more likely to be on the same page. Some of my suggestions included:
- I’m planning on a conversational tone, not particularly academic; is that what you envision as well?
- Much of my chapters are based on stories. How much quantitative information was she looking for, vs. qualitative information and anecdotes/stories?
- Is she on board with the chapter outline as is or does she have any changes? Is there anything missing?
- May I send you the first chapter or two for feedback as I write, to make sure we’re on the same page before I write the whole book?
This last question is important because I have seen what happens when an acquisitions editor suddenly has a completely different vision for a book after the author has spent months writing it! Don’t let that happen to you. Get some feedback from the get go so you know you’re on the same page as your editor.
Step 4: Get Support
This author is not the kind of person who needs a regularly scheduled coaching call. He’s quite self motivated and committed. So, he emails me when he needs editing or coaching. However, if you know you need more accountability than that, a book writing course, private coaching or a combination of the two might be the best way for you to get the hand-holding you need to write a book and complete it.
If you are interested in a book writing course or a VIP Day (where we can develop a plan for your book, platform building, book proposal or all three), I have my biggest sale of the year coming up right after Thanksgiving. You can save from 30-70% on my programs, including self-study programs, like Quick Start to Kick Start Your Book, my Award-winning Bring Your Book to Life(R) Program, which includes lots of one-on-one with me and more. You can find out more on this Thanksgiving Sale Preview Page. The sales begins November 23, but you may want to check it out and reach out to me to see which program is best for you.
Note, my steps for this author are based upon already having the book proposal done, so he’d already done much of the work of developing a vision and goals, clarifying his audience and getting clear on the book concept and structure. If those are thing you need help with, my self-study program, Quick Start to Kick Start Your book can guide you in more detail through powerful exercises that provide clarity and direction. You can wait until it goes on sale (for $67.90 vs. $97), or, if you want it right away, you can buy it now and I’ll send you a special journal for your writing as a gift.
In addition, feel free to ask your questions on how to write a book (or a book proposal) below as a comment. I always answer!