The world of publishing has changed forever. Newspapers are few. Most non-newsstand magazines are either extinct or online. Many books are now digital and available on download demand. While many of us are saddened by the loss of our favorite bookstores; the good news is that the technology transformation in publishing has opened outstanding opportunities for all of us who have ever considered getting published. If you have goals including writing and getting published, there is no better time than now to jumpstart your book.
After 25+ years in the magazine publishing industry, I worked with writers and editors every day, yet I never thought about writing a book. As an entrepreneur over the last ten years, I coached and helped clients create and produce e-books, printed books and launch other creative projects. And all the time I wondered, “Why don’t I write my own book?” Well, my doubter voices loved that question, as they bombarded me with all the reasons why I wasn’t capable, didn’t have time, and just wasn’t good enough. Well enough is enough, I declared one sunny, Southern California day a few years ago.
After spending too many months writing and rewriting my book outline and purpose statement, declaring my intention to my coach and coach friends, and reorganizing my research and data umpteen times, I’ve come to better understand my avoid-tactics. My personal tricks and methods of procrastinating are now fully exposed. I’ve learned what to truly avoid, how to stay inspired, and what works to support myself to actually write and finish my book.
Here are my best practices to stay on track.
Best Practice #1: Stand strong knowing you are a writer.
I haven’t always felt like a writer, and was very critical of anything I wrote. However, as an introvert, I eventually learned that I could use writing to express my feels and thoughts better than I could in conversation. Journaling really helped. Eventually I wrote newsletter and magazine articles; and expressed myself online and in social media. As a result, I became more confident in both my writing and conversations.
You are a writer. If you can have a conversation, talk on the phone, or express your passions and points of view verbally, you can write. If you can write a letter or email, have an opinion about a movie, PBS program or a comedy show, you can write. If you speak, present or provide training, you can write. And most of all, if you have a dream, mission, purpose or passion, then you can absolutely write. If you haven’t started to write yet, just give it a chance.
Best Practice #2: Clarify your purpose and objectives for writing a book.
To help keep me grounded and focused while writing my book, I created my purpose, desired outcomes and a brief plan (very similar to the 3P’s). On this same document, I also maintain a document of my book title ideas, market statement and the core outline. Overall, it’s a “book plan” that leads with my purpose. Below is an excerpt:
My book title is: Make Your Mark: The Power of Being Your Brand. 7 Keys to Authentic Personal Branding for Solo-Entrepreneurs
My book purpose is: To inspire and educate solo-entrepreneurs, so they can make their mark in the world.
My audience is: Coaches, speakers, authors/writers, trainers, facilitators, personal trainers, graphic designers and other professionals working solo.
Writing a book is a commitment, and sometimes you may get uninspired, stuck or stalled. This is the time to pull out your purpose statement and remind yourself why you are writing the book in the first place. Who will you be serving? How will you feel when it is complete? What will you have accomplished for yourself when it is in your hands? Set yourself up to win by being clear on your purpose.
Best Practice #3: Create a working book title and cover design.I am inspired by visuals. Having images or words posted close to me keep me focused and inspired. So I had a designer create initial book covers. I keep them posted in my writing areas, and keep digital versions on my phone and computer. Keep a handy list of your book title ideas, and some sort of cover mock-up. It’s a good visual to keep you inspired.
Best Practice #4: Create a writing structure with accountability.
Create a realistic writing structure. Here are my tricks:
a) Set writing quantity goals: When you have a writing session, know what works best for you: time, word count or page count. I like to set word count goals. That creates the most measurable results for me.
b) Create a writing ritual: My personal writing practice starts early Sunday mornings at a particular Starbucks here in Los Angeles. I set my word count goal and usually plan on staying 3-4 hours, including at least 45 minutes to navigate a table, get my “Venti Skinny Hot Chocolate,” put on my headphones, answer a few emails and piddle around on my computer before I get down to business. Then I begin to write. My goal is to just let my heart and fingers connect, and let the message flow. I avoid overthinking too much. (Go for quantity first. Resist going back to previous sentences to edit first time around. You will have plenty of time to rewrite and edit, after your first draft is done.)
c) Establish outside accountability: Having a writing buddy or writing coach provides great support, as well as feedback. Create goals and accountability with someone that knows your games, excuses and potential. I’ve also set up a remote writing session with friends. We declare our writing goal and schedule a follow-up call three hours later. Then do it again. Another trick I use is to declare my current writing goal to friends and family: “I’m going to write 3,000 words this weekend!”
Best Practice #5: Be kind to yourself.
For me, writing a book is probably the biggest and most challenging dream I have ever had. So it’s easy to judge and doubt myself and be extra critical every time I miss my writing commitment. So be kind to yourself without letting yourself off the hook. Honor yourself for creating this huge goal and for your progress to date. Lastly, know what works for you. I have learned over and over again, that I exhaust my creativity and focus after 2-3 hours. It is just more information to set yourself up for success.
Bonus Best Practices!
Keep it simple. When I’m in the groove, writing flows quickly, and I can easily go down a path that is different than my original goal. My coach encouraged me to save some content for my next book. We don’t have to give away everything we know in one book! So I have learned to capture my new ideas, while sticking to the point of each chapter. Know that you have more in you than you think. Once you write one book, there’s probably another one too!
Be sure to backup your writing! If you don’t have a regular and dependable back-up system, then at a minimum, email your writing documents to yourself. Ideally backup your writing multiple times to multiple places.
So are you ready to write? If not, what are you ready to commit to? Remember: there is no better time than now to write your book. In today’s publishing world, you can set up a blog and be seen worldwide within a couple of hours. Over a weekend, you can write and create a PDF e-book, using software already on your computer. Or you can even begin writing your book. What will you do?
If you want to hear about the release of my book, Make Your Mark: The Power in Being Your Brand: 7 Keys to Authentic Personal Branding, visit Mark Your Mark Book.