A Little About You
You worked hard to get where you are today. You’ve got lots of experiences under your belt that inform who you are and why you do what you do. Your decisions reflect a wealth and depth of knowledge that make you effective and successful.
You’ve got wisdom to share with others in your shoes or with those who will one day come after you.
In short, you’ve got a story. And a good story deserves a good book.
If you’re here, you’re probably in one of two camps:
- You want to do the actual writing, but you need help getting your head around just how to put a book together—and making sure it’s readable.
- You know you have a story to tell, but you would really love it if someone else could write it (in a way that still sounds like your voice).
Where I come in
I will help you identify the story that you’re ready to tell right now. It may turn out you have two or three or more stories in you, but there’s one story that you’re ready to begin with, and that’s the one we’ll focus our energies on. There will be time enough to do a second book after you’ve written the first one.
And that’s often where people get stuck: getting it down in writing. Hey, it happens to me, too. And that’s why I know how important it is to have a partner to motivate you, encourage you, and push you to get things done.
If you want to do the writing yourself, then I come alongside you to help you plan the book, break it up into chapters, and establish some deadlines to get me parts of your draft so I can give you feedback that you’ll incorporate into the next part of the manuscript.
I’ll be that first set of eyes that can give you constructive criticism about organization, logic, and clarity—the kind of stuff your spouse may not be ideally equipped to provide, lovely as they are.
I’ll be the coach who can tell you not just what will make you feel good but what will actually help you succeed.
If you want someone more comfortable with words—or with more time to do the writing—then it’s my job to not only help you plan the book but to listen to you and spend time learning how you think and talk and view the world. I collect as many ideas and stories as I can, and then I turn them into chapters that you get to read and comment on.
You’ll tell me what doesn’t sound right or where you’d like to add to or emend an anecdote. You’ll also remember new things that you’ll want to incorporate, or you’ll rethink what a story means to you once you get a chance to read it in words.
In short, you’ll find yourself on an adventure of self-discovery that can only improve the final product.
How to write a book
How do you go from saying, “I’d like to write a book” to saying, “I’ve written a book”?
First, let’s be clear: there’s no “quick and easy” way. It’s going to be work. And it ought to be if it’s worth doing.
But the basics aren’t that complicated. We can break it down into four steps:
- Develop the concept
- Write the first draft
- Revise the draft
- Repeat step 3 until it’s publishable
(Now, I should note this only covers the writing part. There’s a separate group of steps involved in publication and promotion.)
1. Develop the concept
When you’re starting with a blank page, the idea of Writing A Book can be a little daunting. Like any big project, though, it can be broken down into smaller steps that can make it much more doable.
Simply put, a book is a series of ideas and stories.
If you’re writing a memoir, then you’ll mostly have stories. If you’re writing a business book, you’ll have more ideas. The best business books illustrate their ideas with good stories.
To get started writing your book, then, you simply need to start recording some stories and ideas and stories that illustrate those ideas. You might do that by hand, on a computer, into a recorder, or over the phone with me.
This exploratory phase could take quite a while—weeks or months, even, depending on the project. But it’s important to get down as much as you can so that the book you’re ready to write can emerge from all the books you think you want to write.
That means you’re not going to use everything you record, but it also means that when it’s time to start writing the book itself, you’re less likely to make a false start.
Position your book
Once you’ve developed the concept for your book, we’ll complete my Book Strategy Worksheet in which we look ahead to where your book fits into the marketplace.
This is an important step for three reasons:
- It forces you to imagine an audience that you can write to
- It helps you begin to develop a platform for the book
- It gives you somewhere to start if you choose to approach a publisher or agent with your manuscript
Once you’ve developed both a concept and a strategy, you’re ready to begin drafting your book.
2. Write the first draft
The time for thinking is over: It’s time to write!
Fortunately, if you did the work of developing the concept, you’re not working from scratch. Instead, you’ve already done some writing and have an outline that will provide an armature for you to clothe with words, wonderful words.
Writers’ dirty little secret
What most writers will tell you, if they’re honest, is that their first drafts are often not very good. Some seasoned writers will produce pretty good first drafts, but it’s rare to feel completely satisfied with the first version of anything as important as a book.
Now, there are different ways of not being very good. Some folks are great with words and sentences, but they are disorganized or unfocused. Others are great at writing to a point, but their sentences are confusing.
It doesn’t matter—it’s just the first draft.
The most important thing
The most important thing about completing the first draft is completing the first draft.
Yeah, I know I just said the same thing twice, but I’m serious. That’s why I told you about all writers writing bad drafts. You need to give yourself the freedom to write badly so that you can write to the end. Only once you have a whole manuscript are you ready to go back and revise each section.
The reason for this is that you can’t know how to revise the part until you can see the whole.
When you finish that first draft, it may look different than we’d planned. That’s okay, because now we have a better idea of what book you’re ready to write. And now we have some clues as to how to revise.
With modern word processing, the temptation to belabor every sentence and paragraph is great, but, trust me, it’s not how you’re going to get this book done.
The only way to get a final draft is to finish a first draft.
If I’m ghostwriting for you, then I’ll be doing most of this work while you’re busy keeping the rest of your life going. I’ll send you chunks as we go so you can give me feedback on what’s working for you and what you’d like to see changed. In effect, you’ll become my editor.
3. Revise the draft
Once we have a full first draft, we can step back and take stock of what the project looks like. Here are some things I can tell you will happen:
- It will probably not flow nicely from chapter to chapter. It will probably, in fact, be kind of a mess in terms of organization.
- It will probably be true that the most interesting stuff will be at the end of chapters or at the end of the book.
- It may be necessary to ditch some chapters and write whole new ones.
- You will probably feel discouraged, at first, when we talk about what needs to be done with it.
But these other things will also be true:
- You will have completed an entire book-length manuscript.
- Most of the hardest work is behind you.
- You will be closer to saying, “I’ve written a book” than to saying, “I’d like to write a book.” In fact, you’ll be saying, “I’m writing a book,” and you’ll be telling the honest-to-goodness truth.
After completing the manuscript, I will recommend a space of time to give it “breathing room.” This is also so that we’ll both forget a little of what’s in it and get some critical distance.
Then, we’ll read through it and look for what’s working and what’s not, what can stay, what must go, and what needs adjusting.
We won’t be too worried about punctuation and sentence structure at this point, but we’ll try to keep the big picture in view:
What does this manuscript need in order to cohere as a book?
4. Repeat step 3 until it’s publishable
All you need to do now is to keep revising until it coheres and has as few mistakes as possible.
Really, this stage includes three kinds of revision. The first is the same kind of big picture revision we do in step 3.
The second is the fine-tuning of your sentences, paragraphs, transitions, and other elements of style. Much of this will actually happen along the way as you’re doing the big picture edits.
It may require its own pass through the manuscript, however, because you’re not changing content so much as improving how you’re saying what you’re saying.
The third kind of revision is more properly called proofreading, and it’s where we try to catch typos and grammar and mechanics problems. Some of this will happen along the way, of course, but it merits its own pass.
As you’re probably figuring out, we’ll both be poring over your manuscript many times before it’s ready to publish. That’s why the best practice is to hire a copyeditor to do the final proofread. A professional copyeditor can bring fresh eyes to the project and thus catch things you or I might miss.
That’s it in a nutshell. With a project of this size, though, it’s important to set yourself up for success. That’s why each of these stages can be broken down into several smaller stages that will give you little wins on your way to authorship.
If you’re ready to start this journey toward sharing your story with the world, let’s talk.
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