10 years ago if you asked me what I wanted to do with my life. Being a published author would have been the last thing on my mind. I studied science and engineering at school. I hated writing and only ever wrote reports, business plans and investment documents. My preferred form of writing was bullet points in PowerPoint.
However here I am now 10 years later with a book published by Pearson the largest publisher in the world. My book is in the charts as well as on Amazon and hit the business book chart at no. 5 in WHSmith Heathrow. I now enjoy writing and have even blogged for the Huffington Post.
So as you can see I’m not a born writer. I’m a more of an intuitive writer. When I get inspired and have something to say I write. When I’m not inspired I don’t write. You also don’t have to be perfect. I have about 50 half-finished blogs and articles on my computer waiting for me to come back to and quite a few ideas and projects brewing on paper. What can I say? I’m a creative.
Getting out there
There are two steps to getting your book out there. 1. Write the book. 2. Get it out there. You’ll need to start with number 2 in mind i.e. how will you publish it as this will influence your time scale.
To get your book out there you’ll need to get published. The traditional way to get published is to write the proposal first then send it to the publisher to see if they like it and want to publish it. Think of a book proposal as a business plan for a book. The proposal should give the publisher some idea of their return on investment.
These days you can self-publish which means you can get away with writing the book first. When you do a book proposal you will have to do market research on your audience. This helps you refine your thinking. Even if you self-publish you still want to do your market research as this will help you be more successful at marketing it.
The publishing process takes 12-18 months so bear this in mind when you are managing your writing. You ideally want to get the book deal before completing the majority of your book.
I went about publishing the ‘wrong’ way. I wrote the book first then approached a publisher. I was lucky enough to get my first book published with Pearson and it was the only publisher I approached and I pretty much got interest straight away. It took about 2 years to sign off a deal and get the book out there. However a lot of people get many rejections before they get a deal.
Now on to the actual writing…
When writing there are 4 modes you’ll find yourself in.
1. Writing mode:
This is when you are in flow. You are writing like a trooper. You know what you want to say and writing at a good enough pace. In this mode you can write about 1,000 words in a coherent passage in 60 minutes. It doesn’t need to make perfect sense, you will edit later. As long as the key ideas are down that’s fine.
2. Download mode:
This is the sweet spot where everything just flows. You’re not really writing the book it is just coming out. This is the zone where I would say the greats such as Einstein, Newton and Socrates had all their ideas. Some people would call this divine inspiration, getting in touch with the muse. I’m not going to label it, but when it comes it is amazing. You could write for days
I wrote most of my first book in this mode. It took me 2 weeks over the Christmas period. I was consumed. I didn’t want to socialize I just wanted to write. Funnily enough I had no intention of writing a book. I started off writing a 30 page e-book but things just kept flowing and I ended up with 30,000 words after 2 weeks. This is 60% of the way to a full book. The finalizing and the completion to second draft took me 6 months off and on.
This mode can be unpredictable but when it comes you need to be ready to capture it. Walk around with a capture device ideally a netbook or a tablet with a keyboard (you need the keyboard so you can input quickly). Also useful if not more so is to dictate your ideas into your phone or a Dictaphone. Try and free as much time as possible. There are ways to get into this mode more easily which I’ll save for a later blog.
3. Editing mode:
This is where you take an objective look at what you’ve written. A great mode to be in when you are not feeling creative as it is much easier to operate in this mode. You don’t need to create, just to take a critical view of what you have written. Never try to be in writing mode and editing mode. You’ll kill your creativity. A great tool for editing mode is to use dictation software to read back your book to you. You’ll spot a lot more errors. I use Natural Reader which is a great free product. The paid service integrates into Word which is useful.
4. Block mode:
There are the times when you are just not inspired to write. This is the classical writers block. If you find you are taking an hour to write 300 words which you are not happy with, you are probably here. Tim Ferris advocates writing 2 crappy pages a day. Useful if you have a deadline. When I’m in this mode, I won’t write unless I have a deadline or it’s been awhile since I’ve written. If I do need to write, I find the best way to get out of this mode is to do some journaling first using pen and paper.
Journaling is writing whatever comes to mind until you feel a shift and things start to flow. Usually I’ll just write about what I’m feeling at the moment, any key concerns or questions that I have and any random thoughts that come to my mind. Usually this shifts something
Managing your writing
Writing is a project and needs some good project management. In my book the Energy Equation, one of the key things I advocate is having a structure for each project or goal. This is very important to get anything done. Essentially structure consists of four key elements that need to be in place to increase your chances of success.
A suitable environment, a suitable time, a deadline and someone to hold you accountable. Ask yourself; where is the best place for me to write? When am I going to write? When is my deadline, who can I get involved or have hold me to account.
Where to write
When you are in deadline, being in the best place to write is key for productivity. Get away to write. Go somewhere that makes you feel comfortable. When I wrote over Christmas I wrote at home as it was comfortable and cosy. However there were times where I just couldn’t work from home. I’ve written in coffee shops, restaurants, parks, trains, hotel lounges, I’ve even booked a hotel in London. My favourite places to write are Hotel Lounges, Restaurants, Hotel rooms. On holiday! Where can you go to get away to write.
Getting out of writers block when have an urgent deadline.
If you just don’t feel like writing, you’ll need to get the reptilian and monkey parts of your brain quiet and relaxed. Bribe them. Get them somewhere calming, fun and comforting.
Take yourself somewhere nice and treat yourself. Go to a nice restaurant or a quiet hotel bar. Go somewhere that inspires you or where you feel cosy. Bring your laptop get yourself a nice glass of wine (not too much that you can’t concentrate) or some comforting beverage. Order something indulgent to eat. Get yourself feeling really good and then write. Don’t worry about the time. Once you’re in the zone time will seem to fly by.
Ideally take yourself somewhere where you can focus and take time out to have fun. A quiet country pub where you can write and then go out for a walk; A retreat where you can spend a weekend; A happening part of the city where you can write by day and party by night. Whatever will keep the monkey brain happy. I’ve done all of these things depending on my mood.