As the saying goes, “everyone’s got a book in them”. These days, you’ll find it harder and harder to meet someone who hasn’t thrown that book right up.
LinkedIn in particular is awash with ‘Author’ headlines, not to mention boasts about Amazon bestsellers (this is easier than it sounds – simply pick an obscure category, then get as many people as possible to buy your book on the first day of its release…and hey presto, you’re an Amazon bestseller!)
Meanwhile, a quick Google search will lead you to a plethora of tips and courses that promise you your very own hand-scribbled masterpiece by the end of any given week. Even one that includes two Bank Holidays.
When the ability to write well seems so superfluous to requirements, you might be forgiven for thinking that there’s nobody left who hasn’t joined the authoring party.
Then I spoke with a potential client, who offered a different point of view.
“People who write books always seem to boast about it,” she said, “and I don’t want people to think I’m arrogant.”
This lady is as far from arrogant as it’s possible to be. She’s in charge of a company that actively helps others, offering her services for free whenever she can. She’s also got a fascinating back story that would almost certainly benefit a huge number of people.
So if you’ve been put off from writing your own book by some of the people who already have (yet you secretly want to write it anyway), why not start by asking yourself some honest questions
- Have I got something interesting to say?
- Has my book got the potential to help people?
- Am I committed to making this book a worthwhile read?
Don’t be modest, just realistic (ask someone else if you don’t trust yourself, but do make sure you trust them). If you or they can answer “yes” to at least two of those questions, why not give it a go?
Here’s what will separate your book from the growing pile of useless and unreadable ones out there:
Plan your content
A useful book is one that’s well thought-out. What’s your core message? What value or insights are readers most likely to come away with?
Sketch out each of your sections or chapters, with a summary of the information you intend to include. Make sure it follows a clear pattern that’s easy to understand.
Commit to a writing schedule
You knew this one was coming, didn’t you? But committing time isn’t going to be as daunting as it sounds, because you’re going to decide exactly when you do it.
The only rules are that you need to be specific, and you need to be regular. As an example, if you decide you’re going to commit to half an hour a day, try to make sure it’s at the same time each day, and when you know you’ll usually be free.
It’s also important to be honest with yourself: leave out weekends if you think you won’t stick to them. Do your best during the week, instead.
(Half an hour a day may not sound like very much, but if you actually stick to it, you’ll be amazed at how much you manage to get done).
Use your time well
Before you begin your half hour, know what you want to have done by the end of it. Sitting down with a blank screen and no plan is the surest way to give up in despair before you’ve even started.
This doesn’t mean you have to create a complicated schedule. Your first session, for example, could simply be scribbling down absolutely everything you know about your book idea, no holds barred. Your second session could be shaping that content into chapters. Your third might be coming up with a catchy title. And so on.
(Hint: don’t worry if everything you write at first is just a bit…well, rubbish. That’s what second and third drafts are for).
Work towards a deadline
Setting a final deadline (a rough draft of your book in three months’ time, for example) will give you a clear target to work towards, as well as focusing your efforts.
To keep track and show how far you’ve come, try creating a simple tally chart to mark every time you complete a writing session.
By the time you reach your deadline, you should have a finished piece of work and a bursting tally chart to show for the time and effort you’ve put into creating your book.
(At this point, you’re allowed to give yourself a non-arrogant pat on the back!)
Ask for feedback
But don’t just randomly send out your completed book with a bland “what do you think?” Choose a handful of people – Stephen King says five is a good number – who, a) would be likely to buy your book anyway, and b) can be relied upon to be honest.
When you’ve chosen your lucky handful, send them some direct questions to answer, so they understand exactly what kind of feedback you’re looking for.
Edit the hell out of your work
The fabulous author DBC Pierre advises the following: “Write in a frenzy. Edit in a cardigan”.
Armed with your feedback and a fresh eye, it’s time to polish your words so that they make perfect sense.
Then you can move on to the final stage: publishing!
The excellent non-fiction proofreader Ally Sparham has published a fantastic post about whether you should go it alone or try the traditional method – the long and short of it is, you’ve got a lot of options. Pick the one that feels right for you.
The final result is that you should end up with a book you can truly be proud of. Whether you want to boast about it or not is up to you – but trust me, it’ll feel genuinely amazing.
I can help you whip your ideas into readable shape – so if you’re struggling, why not get in touch? I’ve written two books myself (not that I’m boasting about it, mind), and I can help you with the scheduling, motivation and publishing contacts needed to finish yours.
(Or if you want the glory without the work, I can write your book for you. Whichever you prefer, really…)
I'm a friendly and professional writer, reviewer and editor who works with warmth, humour and flexibility.
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