Monthly Archives: April 2007

Getting Started and Getting Finished with Your Best Seller

No doubt about it, one of the most daunting challenges is a blank computer screen that almost defies you to pour out your beautiful prose. How do you get from blank screen to finished book?

Of course, every author does it a different way, but, most important, you must find a process that works for you.

Some well-known authors write at the same time every day, yet others write when the mood strikes. Some authors write on a computer and others in longhand. Some start at the beginning of the book, while others start in the middle.

Another way to begin developing your book is to make an audio recording of a seminar, presentation, or speaking event you are giving.

Or either have someone interview you, talk to a friend, or just speak into a tape recorder; using an outline you’ve prepared to jog your memory about the topics you want to cover. You talk much faster than you can write, and it is relatively inexpensive to have many hours of audio recordings transcribed and edited into book form. As a rough example, you can probably speak 200 words a minute, or approximately 12,000 words in an hour’s worth of recording. A few hours of recording— and you are well on your way to a completed book.

Have your work transcribed into written format because it’s much easier to edit something than to start from scratch. Use a phone-in recording service such as Audio Acrobat (www.AudioAcrobat.com) to record and save the files. You can then send the files to a transcription service right online, such as TTE Transcripts Worldwide (www.ttetranscripts.com) or Speak-Write (www.speak-write.com).

You’ve got your plan, and it’s finally time to get down to the creation process. How do you do it most effectively and make good use of your limited time?

Here are nine suggestions for getting started (and getting finished):

1. Don’t frustrate yourself with a blank page waiting for a brilliant introduction. Start with the most important point you want to make or the best part of your story. Work on any sections you want. When logic is finally visible in the work you’ve done, you’ll begin to see where each section should go.

2. Write three sentences to convey the three major messages that you want your readers to get from your book. Then pick the message you are most passionate about and write a paragraph (or even a page) developing this idea. Where appropriate, use only “I” statements, and don’t refer to any sources other than your own thoughts, knowledge, and feelings in the paragraph.

2. If you make presentations, especially in Microsoft® PowerPoint®, you may have created charts and graphics that you can now use as a starting point. Or take a proposal you’ve written about your work and develop the points from that. You will know that you’re writing about real things important to your clients.

3. Plan to spend time writing (or talking into a recording device) after you have the opportunity to present your ideas to a group. Talking with others will give you things to think and write about. The most important thing is to begin the process—to write. Don’t think too much about the final polished version or you will never start.

4. You may even want to start your writing process by taking a lined pad to lunch or to a park and writing all about your book for twenty minutes. If you can’t think of what to say in the book, just write about how you feel about it and the process—what you are excited about, what scares you, and so forth. If you get these things out of the way, the ideas will usually come next.

5. Take a friend or business partner for coffee and talk through the book. Tell her you aren’t asking for feedback (unless you want it), but rather that you’re wanting her to ask you leading questions that might be similar to what a typical reader would want to know about your subject. Consider recording the conversation.

The most important thing is to get started and make the creation of your book a priority with a timetable and a plan of action to get finished.

The Intimate Conversation Between Writer and Reader

A good book is like an intimate conversation between two people – the writer and the reader. You know as a reader when you are entirely engrossed in a book and you are startled when someone comes into the room and calls your name. That book had transported you out of the physical place you were in, into a different dimension.

So what can a writer do to tranform the reader to that new place of heightened awareness of not the physical surroundings, but the readers own thoughts and possibilities? Is it raw talent alone that allows for that amazing connection with the writer’s readers, or is it something that can be learned and developed?

Both, probably. There are few among us who will write effortlessly, but just as there are few who will play the violin like Itzak Perlman, I don’t think that is a reason to stop practicing and enjoying the place where we are transformed when we write.

This blog is about nonfiction book publishing, so for me, everything relates back to how to create something worth reading and worth publishing. How to package thoughts in a way that not only come straight from our hearts, but that also make a clear connection with the reader.

When I coach clients, my first job is get them to share their work. I may be the first person who has seen what they are creating, and they are afraid to open their hearts and minds to the slightest possibility of criticism. My job is never to say “no” to anyone’s work, but instead to help them best take what they know, think and feel and prepare it in a way that will allow for maximum communication with their audience – the people they want to reach.

As I say at the beginning of a new call with a new client, I am looking at your work from a “publishing strategist” point of view. You come to me, you want to be published. I look at your work to find the strengths that we can build on so that you can see that dream come true. If the work isn’t ready for prime time, I say so, and we talk about next steps.

Clear thinking leads to clear writing. Breakthrough thinking leads to breakthrough books.