Writing your expert book takes preparation
Most of the people I work with are brilliant at what they do but disorganized when it comes to writing an expert book. Most first-time authors focus on the daunting business of capturing your ideas and making them into something someone else will want to read. But as an author coach for entrepreneurs who are looking at writing their expert book, I can tell you that the preparatory steps you take to organize yourself and to get comfortable with writing are essential to your success.
And some of us resist preparation. Me, for instance. When I get the impulse (key word) to do something, I jump in and start doing it. No ground cloth for me. No putting on an apron or making sure the beans I started 5 minutes before are not boiling over. Nope. I dive in, get ink and glue all over everything and burn the beans.
No harm done, right?
Okay, no. I’m going to get stern here. If you’re serious about writing that book, do not impulsively dive in without a roadmap, an apron, and a guide. (Oh, the mixed metaphors!) Take some time to read the following 5-step process. It’s a little long. Your attention might wander. Fix yourself a drink and come back. Print it out. Read the thing. Wrap your head around actually doing these 5 steps. ( Step 2, Get Comfortable Writing, has 7 sub-steps. Can you deal with that? I know you can.)
It’s my pleasure to help you set yourself up for success. Let’s get started!
Step One: Make a commitment
Writing a book is like having a baby. It’s not an idle concept. It’s real, and it requires preparation and commitment. You will have to rearrange parts of your daily life, your living space, your schedule and your brain in order to get it done. You will have to allocate resources and say no to other things.
For entrepreneurs, this is no different than any other project you do for your business. You do market research. You listen to clients. You brainstorm ideas. You see what other people in your space are doing. You learn from experts. You make a plan. You get coaching. You seek support. You connect with others who have mutual goals.
Once you’ve understood this, you’ll know pretty quickly whether now is the time or not. If you determine that now isn’t the time, there is still plenty you can learn about the process before actually writing your book. I suggest you read on, because much of what follows applies to you even if you’re in the thinking stages and not ready to commit. It will certainly give you more information so that you can make an informed decision.
If now is the time for you to undertake your book project, definitely read on, download the additional materials, and start getting organized.
Step Two: Get comfortable with writing
No matter where you are with the subject you are planning to write about, you need to get comfortable expressing yourself. Learning to write a book while learning to write is like learning to ride a bike while learning to build a bike. Learn to ride first, on someone else’s, then build your own.
Most first time authors are in this predicament. They aren’t comfortable writing, or they have poor confidence because they’ve just never done a writing project like this.
Take heart! I have guided hundreds of people to a place of comfort and ease with expressing themselves vulnerably and powerfully in writing. What follows is the easiest, most reliable way I know to get your writing chops together.
Establish a daily writing practice.
Daily is key. Spending an hour or more isn’t essential. In as little as 15-20 minutes a day, you can make huge progress with your writing.
Pick a time of day.
The best way to establish a new habit is to piggy-back on an already established habit, something you already do every day without thinking about it, like brushing your teeth or exercising. As an O.T. I’m no stranger to time and daily routine inventories.
I’ve created a handy graphic just for you.
Set up a space just for writing.
Once you’ve determined when to write, the next thing is to set up a space. This is important because you are going to be prioritizing this project for 6 months to a year of your life. Think of your child’s first year. How much space did that take up in your life? The good news is, a book is only one thing, doesn’t move from place to place, and doesn’t need to take a bath or eat supper. Perspective is everything.
Set up a space where you can write without being disturbed, and where you can hang a whiteboard or poster board on the wall nearby. Ideally, this will be a separate room with a door. But it may have to be part of the dining room table, used at a time when no one’s around, or when the rest of the house is in bed. (I love mornings for this.)
Use a timer.
Timers are magical. If you use your phone as a timer, put it in airplane mode. Set it for 15 minutes to begin with, and close the door to your space. This is enough to get your feet wet and start learning about yourself as a writer. Now, what to write?
Use writing prompts.
If you’re not ready to write about your subject yet, you can use these writing prompts in a general way, just writing down whatever comes to mind. These are all-purpose, nonspecific, evocative writing prompts that are simply meant to start you with an incomplete thought. They can be applied to any topic–say, the one your book is about, or whatever’s on your mind that day. They’re designed to open the floodgates and let your wisdom out.
The way you use them is, you pick one and write it down and just keep going. Don’t stop until the timer goes off. (But you knew that.)
Brain Dump, Don’t Edit.
It’s important to understand that this daily writing is to get used to writing and to get your ideas down where you can see them and interact with them. It’s not finished product, polished writing. That’s a different process. Your gold is your ideas. Let’s get them down. You can polish them later.
What you don’t know yet, because you haven’t gotten to the place of ease with your writing, and because you’re still wondering if you have the skills to write a book, is that when you let yourself do this brain dump, non-edited writing, very often this is the good writing. When you’re plugged into your passion, skills and experience, and are writing from there, the good writing flows. Everything else is mechanics and can be dealt with later.
Write for yourself.
In the beginning, just write for yourself. Write what you want to say, what you think and believe. Later, you will create an avatar of your ideal reader to write for.
Step Three: Put up a whiteboard or poster board on a wall near where you write.
Get a set of colored dry erase markers and a whiteboard, or a collection of colored sticky notes and a poster or presentation board (foamcore). You will use this board to map out your book. Having it in the same space where you write means that as important ideas occur to you, you can jump up and put them on the board. I like to use sticky notes because using them is a tactile activity, which is a nice balance to the mental/emotional/intuitive act of writing.
Sticky notes are also easy to move around. I find that seeing the ideas in relation to one another helps me see how I want to organize the book and points to missing pieces that I can then research and add.
If you don’t have a handy wall, try using the inside of a closet door.
Step Four: Find another chunk of time to review, mull and ponder
This doesn’t have to be daily, but regularly, say, once or twice a week. Here the task is to look at what you’ve written for the week, look at your concept organization board, and add anything that needs to be added. This would include other concepts to cover, missing pieces that have revealed themselves, quotations, stories and other resources that you want to include. Basically, anything.
For this review time, you are wearing a different hat than when you’re writing. This is the executive overseeing hat, where you assess where things are going, how they’re going, what needs attention, and what additional tasks need to be added to your ever-growing (but inspiring!) to-do list.
And speaking of which…
Step Five: Keep a pad or separate document nearby
Dedicate an entire notebook, legal pad, or whatever floats your boat to the book project. (Don’t use it for anything else, and don’t write down your book ideas in some other, lesser notebook or document.) Have it nearby when you are writing, reviewing, playing with your whiteboard, in the car, in a waiting room. Use it to jot down ideas or tasks as they come to you. During your review time, go through the pad and cull the tasks that need to be scheduled in, the ideas that need to go on the board, or use what you jotted down as a writing prompt to get that material out in writing.
This is where you make your seemingly infinite to-do list, and where you get to cross off so. many. things.
So that’s it
To summarize the 5-step process for getting yourself and your life organized for writing your expert book:
1. Make a commitment to the book by being willing to make significant changes in your daily routine for the duration of the project.
2. Get comfortable with writing by incorporating daily writing. Create a time and place to do this, use a timer and writing prompts.
3. Set up a whiteboard or poster board to track the big ideas and begin to organize your book.
4. Set up a once-weekly review and overseeing session to track your progress and to keep track of the shape of the project, as well as to track tasks.
5. Keep a pad or document (or voice recorder) handy to capture ideas at other times when you’re not “writing.” Also, keep this handy during your once-weekly review time to capture tasks and to-do.
Don’t forget to download the Find Your Best Time to Write infographic and visit My Favorite Neutral Writing Prompts page. (When you opt-in to my mailing list, you’ll also receive my Nonfiction Book Planner, for free!)
Next time we’ll talk about how to capture your passions, skills, and expertise to get started on your first nonfiction expert book!