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So, You're Thinking of Writing a Book?
The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!
5 tips for writing your great bestseller
It’s been said that there’s a book inside everyone. In other words, everyone has some story to tell, or some knowledge to share that could be put in book form and sold to entertain or enlighten the world.
Of course, many people are born gifted to be writers. Others learn along the way. Some never actually write, but tell their stories to others who then do the actual writing. However you arrive at that place, writing a book is a great exercise for a few reasons.
As a strategic business move, writing a book is a great way to create an additional stream of income, and developing a validating credential (i.e., Mary Smith, author of....), which can go a long way to boosting your sales, security and prosperity.
Book income can be passive and residual. In other words, you write a book once, and it can sell for years in the future. (The first book I wrote in 1992 still sells today having had only one revision in all that time!)
Of course, writing is itself a passion which not everyone shares. You may have a sculptor’s eye, or a singer’s voice or a teacher’s passion living inside you. However, with the right attitude, a few smart tips, and perhaps a little help, anyone can at least get started down the road to writing and create a new world of possibilities for themselves and their families.
1. Write about your passion.
This one may seem obvious, but it will be infinitely more successful for you to write about something for which you have a passion. Health, child rearing, flowers, dogs, politics, your hobbies, your pet peeves, you name it. As long as it’s something you feel strongly about, you’ll have a much better chance of sustaining the energy and commitment needed to see the project through to completion. (see Turn Your Passion Into Profit to learn how to discover your passion.)
2. Start anywhere.
I’ve found that the greatest misconception people have who are faced with the prospect of writing a book is the idea that a book is written from the beginning to the end. In other words, people believe that a book is written the same way it is read: beginning with page 1, then page 2, then page 3, and so on.
In last week’s column, we identified the "fear of not having the answer" as the greatest hindrance to public speaking. I believe “the myth of sequential creation" is a similar obstacle to successful authorship. So pay attention.
When you get that initial inspiration or idea to write your book, simply start writing something, anything, and start getting the words out from your head, heart or higher self and onto the written page or screen. You’re opening up a channel from the source of your inspiration, and there’s no guarantee that the words will come in any predetermined order. Sometimes when an idea for a book hits me, I find myself writing the final line of the book first. Sometimes it starts with the title. As the weeks progress, I may get ideas for sections of chapters anywhere from the first page to the last.
The beauty of the technology you have at your disposal is that once you have all the ideas and thoughts to be included in your book out into your word processing file, you can then rearrange, cut, copy, paste, edit and organize those ideas, sections, paragraphs, chapters and pages into the best order to tell your story or make your point.
It may help to think about what many writers and creative people come to realize during their careers: that the act of creation occurs on a higher conscious level, and that, as writers, they are simply channels for the story that is being told or the information being transmitted from that higher source. Many writers (especially writers of fiction) will tell you that the characters they write about take on a life of their own, and actually write the book themselves! Your job is to listen carefully, take good notes, and get out of the way! Don’t worry about editing, grammar, or sequence in the beginning as you open up yourself to being a channel and become familiar with the process.
3. Stop...please stop!
Interestingly enough, the second greatest challenge to writing your book (perhaps even more important that knowing where to start) is knowing where to stop!
Non-fiction writers suffer from wanting to put too much information. Fiction writers always feel there’s more of the story to tell, or better ways to tell it. Both types of writers want their book to be "perfect" before they approve its release.
I’ve worked with artists and writers who suffer from this “malady of perfection” who’ve ended up working on their music or books for months and months, missing deadlines, losing momentum and eventually missing the golden opportunity because they were too fixated on getting everything just right. Don’t let that happen to you.
My wish for you is that as you make your way through the creative process and learn to listen to your muse, that his or her little voice will whisper to you at the appropriate time, "It’s ready."
If that doesn’t happen, then remember this: the key to making money with any product is in its completion, not its perfection. Now, I’m not saying that you should offer a shoddy product to the world. I’m saying that reprints, 2nd editions, edits and updates can address any omissions, deletions and typographical errors that you need to make and fix. Those little errors—or the fear that they exist somewhere overlooked—shouldn’t stop you from getting your product out, making sales and getting feedback for your creation. This will be especially feasible since—if you take my advice—you’ll be using "print-on-demand" book manufacturers so you won’t have to print up thousands of copies initially with those potential errors.
I have a trick that I use which helps me set a deadline—a real deadline—for my books’ completion. How? I start selling copies of my book before it’s even done! That’s right! Once I get an idea, I design the cover, advertise it online, and start taking real money from real people who I don’t know (in other words, not friends and family) with the promise that the book will be finished by a certain date. Knowing that there are real people all over the world who are expecting a finished book (and who could potentially get pretty nasty if that promise is broken) keeps me working toward what I consider a real deadline. (Warning: This technique is not for the fainthearted or the habitual procrastinator!)
4. Tell me, ‘Why?’
This is a writing technique I’ve used for every one my non-fiction books that helps me stay on target, focused and also lets me know when the book is ready to be unveiled. Once I have a vague idea of what the topic of the book is going to be, I force myself to write a section titled "Why I Wrote this Book."
“I wrote this book because I know some secrets to raising kids that others don’t know. I’ve raised 500 children who’ve all gone on to become Nobel Peace Prize winners, and I’m going to show you step-by-step everything I’ve done, and reveal all my secrets so you can do the same."
You may have several reasons for writing your book. With your goals in mind as you write, you’ll be able to know if you’re straying from your intention and purpose, and keep the book delivering what you promise.
Starting with your “Why” is a great way to begin a book.
5. Create a mock-up of your book.
Finally, this tip is especially powerful for first-time authors. Remember, at some point in the future, you’re going to say to someone, "This is my book." And you’re going to hand it to them, proudly. This future book will be a real object in our physical universe.
All designers, architects, sculptors will typically create a scale model of their intended creation. You should do the same by creating a physical prototype of your book.
Decide what physical size and shape you want your book to be. Is it going to be 5.5" x 8.5", 6" x 9"? How thick will it be? Take a trip to your bookshelf, or the local bookstore or library and simply start browsing. Find a book that’s the same size and thickness you envision or wish your book to be. Buy it or borrow it. Then, by hand or using a computer graphics program, create a mock-up front and back cover and spine of your book.(Your artwork doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should at least have the title and your name on it) Then, tape that mock-up cover over and around the bought or borrowed book.
You now have a physical representation—a prototype—of your book that you can walk around with, hold in your hands, put on your shelf, keep on your desk as you write and live and experience the reality of its eventual completion. It’s a powerful exercise in visualization that will bring your book more quickly into reality. And it works for just about any product, invention, or goal you have in life!
A few more tips:
In the process of coaching someone through the book-writing process, there are hundreds of tips and strategies which will be unique to each person.
- Start with a working title. You can always change it later as the book develops.
- Do a little bit each day. You’ll be surprised how quickly the words add up.
- Invest in a voice recorder. Your lifestyle or day-to-day activities may make it hard to write on a computer every day. If possible, get a handheld/pocket digital voice recorder and record your thoughts and transcribe them (or have someone do it for you) later. Who knows, this might also be the beginning of the audio version of your book!
However you actually accomplish it, it’s my belief that just about anyone can and should write a book. It doesn’t even have to be published, but the experience of getting your thoughts down can be therapeutic and cathartic in and of itself. They key is to base it on something you feel strongly about and committed to, find the reason why your story or expertise needs to be shared with the world, get started without initial regard to the perfection of the content, do something every day to make the book real, and focus on completion! You can do it! See you on Oprah!
Note: Fans and followers of the book, Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin: Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan may now find copies at Bookseller Bookstore in the Joe-Ten Plaza in Susupe or on Amazon.com. Hurry, there’s a limited supply!
Note: Ever wanted to direct your friends and family to a set of websites that said good things about Saipan? Do what I do: send them to www.bestofsaipan.com!
Note: For more tips on overcoming your fears, acting on your ideas, changing the game, and creating a passion-centered lifestyle, visit www.passionprofit.com!
Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!
Walt F.J. Goodridge is author of 15 books including Turn Your Passion Into Profit. Walt offers coaching and workshops to help people pursue and profit from their passions. Originally from the island of Jamaica, Walt has grown several successful businesses in the US, and now makes his home here in Saipan. To learn more about the Saipanpreneur Project and Walt’s philosophy and formula visit www.saipanpreneur.com and www.passionprofit.com.
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