I have few business ventures that are as rewarding as writing a book. Please don’t interpret that in financial terms; most any business author will tell you that getting rich on writing a book is a pipe dream. But the ancillary benefits are amazing:
• Credibility — People take you more seriously when you have a book.
• Marketing — Books are far more powerful than brochures, and are roughly the same cost to produce. And people just can’t throw away a book!
• Confidence — For many (including me), writing a book fulfills a long-held dream.
• Launchpad — One book can launch a series of other products (follow-up books, seminars, webinars, audiobooks, etc.).
That is why I have committed to write one book a year without fail. I’ve written five books to date, and I am currently working on both numbers six (I’m writing it now) and seven (it’s in the research phase). What I write are business books, not fiction, and my “steps” refer to the former, not the latter. The steps are also about how to write the book, not how to market or sell it (by far the more difficult part).
So, have you been wondering how to actually sit down and write your first book? Then here are those eight steps.
1. Determine a concept.
You may think you have this down already, but the key is to vet the concept with some honest and trusted advisors. Find people who will tell you the brutal truth and then listen to their counsel. Sometimes, we fall in love with our own ideas so much that we get blind to what people actually want to read.
2. ‘Avatar’ your reader.
Design the profile (avatar) of your typical reader. Who is s/he? What and how does this person like to read? How do you want this reader to be affected? When you understand your reader, you gain clarity on how to both structure and write the book. In this step, establish your “big takeaway.” What really matters to the reader? What do you want him or her to walk away with?
Related: 7.1 Steps to Writing Your Book
3. Identify major sections.
With your theme and target reader in mind, break the book up into several major sections. The purpose here is to make the book easier for you to write, and simpler for the reader to read. The sections should work like the acts in a play, providing something of a course to follow.
4. Identify chapter themes.
Start by identifying your “big idea” — the one thing you want your reader to take away from every chapter. In my current project I literally include the words “big idea” in every chapter, along with a one-sentence takeaway. In every case, I identify that major point before I begin to write. This keeps me focused on my message and helps to prevent me from going off on a tangent. Don’t worry about titling your chapters just yet. Those can be written at any time. You will likely find that the titles come more easily after you write the text.
5. Rough write.
Many business writers get bogged down because they try to craft the perfect sentence during the first writing. Big mistake. The words might sound good, but you lose impact because the bigger points get lost. I find much greater success in the “brain dump” method — just free-writing without paying much attention to word choice, punctuation, etc. The resulting content is a mess by the time you finish this step, but free-writing is so much easier to do than the eventual real writing.
6. Form write.
When I have done a rough write on the entire book, I go back and write for style, readability and word choice. I might rearrange thoughts and add or subtract, as needed, but this is where the artistic side comes into play. Start with basic structure (Step 5) and then add the flair. You’ll find this process far more enjoyable if you’ve done the dirty work first.
7. Polish write.
With my form-writing complete, I come back and polish things up. Here is what’s key at this stage: Read the text out loud. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. You will make tremendous improvements when you do this, because you’ll hear the sentences read back to you. You’ll find yourself saying, “Now wait, that doesn’t make any sense,” or, “I can make that clearer still.” Some writers read their manuscript out loud three or four times before they consider it complete. (Note: I read this blog out loud before submitting it!)
8. Get a copy or line editor.
Big mistake: editing your own work. Second big mistake: getting your spouse to do it. Line editors are a special breed of people with an attention to detail that is uncanny. And they are detached enough to be honest about your work. Their job is not to critique the arc of your narrative; their job is to make sure you don’t look stupid. I don’t know how else to say that. Skip this step, and you’ll likely end up looking foolish. You can find editors who will bid for work at elance.com.
There you have it: writing a book in eight steps. It’s not easy, but it is possible these days for virtually anyone to write one. And it might just change your world.