How to Write a Book

Yesterday I finished the final corrections on my most recent ghost-written book, which, I have to say, turned out to be a wonderful project, working with great people who communicated clearly and paid quickly.  Best of all, they have more books they want me to write!

While writing a bio for the Loft today I started counting up how many books I’ve written and realized it is close to a dozen.  Three of them I can name: Beautiful America’s Oregon Coast, Beautiful America’s Wyoming, and a forthcoming book on writing successful fundraising letters from Atlantic Publishing.  The rest of them are ghostwritten projects on subjects such as global warming, Voodoo, your digestive system,  public speaking, marketing ebooks , dementia, and more that I can’t think of at this moment.

I wrote several of the books in very short periods of time, and I’m not kidding when I say that.  Three of them were 50 pages, single spaced (the web standard, unlike the traditional double spacing on manuscripts), and I wrote each of them in five days.  Yes, five days.  Let me also add that I started cold–with no knowledge of the topic beforehand.

So I’ve learned a little bit about writing a book along the way. 

These days, everyone needs a book.  If you want to speak to promote your business, you’ll find that everyone will ask you if you have a book.  If not, they won’t be interested.  A book is a sign of credibility.
So, if you have a non-fiction book you want to write (fiction is a whole different story), here are some tips:

1.  Gather your information.  If it is your information, say, from your business, go find all those scraps of paper and throw them in a box.  If you are working on an assignment, go look around the web or wherever you’re getting your info and get your sources lined up. 

2.  Organize it.  I know, duh.  But you’d be surprised how many people launch in before completing this vital step.  I’m a big fan of keeping organization as simple as possible.  If you simply made piles of papers that were all on the same topic and paper-clipped it together, I’d consider you organized.  Don’t get bogged down in this step. 

3.  Write an outline.  Come out from under your desk where you are cringing in horror at the thought.  Its not that bad.  Again, it can be a very loose outline.  It actually should be a very loose outline, because it will probably change along the way.  Take a legal pad and write the numbers one through ten (as a rough starting point), leaving room in between, and then beneath each number, the letters A through E.  Now take your piles of paper and assign each one a number, in order if you like but it doesn’t have to be.    Now you have 10 topics.  Go through your stacks of paper and organize the info into five sub-topics, which you write in the A through E slots.  Now you have your chapters fleshed out.

4.  Assign research.  Go through your research and make notes as to where it fits on your outline.

5. Write a rough draft.  And when I say rough, I mean rough.  Write fast, and don’t worry about writing pretty.  Get the information down on paper.  When you get to the end, stop and then go fix yourself a martini.  Because guess what?  You have a book.  All  that is left to do is….

6. Rewrite it!

Woo-hoo!  You’re done.  Wasn’t that easy? 

A couple notes:

Please, please, please make careful notes for your research and be sure to cite your resources.  Plagiarism is not cool.  You also need to rephrase and rewrite things.  Don’t take anything verbatim unless you have permission.  I know you know all this, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of it.

If you are having issues getting your book written, even with this stellar run-down, I can help you.  I’m in the process of setting up my coaching website, and one of my packages is going to be a Book Writing Boot Camp.   Email me at the address listed on this blog, or leave a comment.

By the way, stay tuned, because tomorrow I announce the results of my survey and the lucky winner of a free coaching session.

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9 Comments on "How to Write a Book"

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PMullaly
Guest
04/20/2008 09:42

thanks for good info. I am working on a non-fiction book right now… will take some time to get a handle on all the bits and pieces, but your comments encourage me to keep going.

Charlotte
Guest
04/20/2008 10:03

Well, just don’t let gathering up those bits and pieces get you bogged down. A lot of times you discover what you don’t know and what you need to know in the actual process of writing, so I’m a big fan of getting to it as soon as possible.

Good luck with your book

Marvin
Guest
04/20/2008 11:05
Wonderful Article Charlotte and great advice for those who might be slightly intimidated by the prospect of writing a book. I did a tremendous amount of business writing over roughly 15 years. Most of this was promotional materials used in raising funds for other peoples projects. Every project was unique and no two proposals or the promotional materials required were the same. Like you I also had to start from scratch, get up to speed and create something that was readable, factually accurate and engaging enough to attract the attention of financiers and investors. It doesn’t sound much like creative… Read more »
Marvin
Guest
04/20/2008 11:06
Wonderful Article Charlotte and great advice for those who might be slightly intimidated by the prospect of writing a book. I did a tremendous amount of business writing over roughly 15 years. Most of this was promotional materials used in raising funds for other peoples projects. Every project was unique and no two proposals or the promotional materials required were the same. Like you I also had to start from scratch, get up to speed and create something that was readable, factually accurate and engaging enough to attract the attention of financiers and investors. It doesn’t sound much like creative… Read more »
Charlotte
Guest
04/20/2008 11:12
Hi Marvin, I know, I agree with you that copywriting and business writing can be very creative. It takes a certain kind of creativity to master a subject and write about it. I also think I’ve learned so much about the writing process from writing books on different subjects, and copywriting. There is often a tight deadline and you simply don’t have time to worry about the finer points of organization and so forth. The funny thing is, that these books have turned out to be very well organized and pretty readable, too! This is why I advocate getting some… Read more »
Derek
Guest
04/21/2008 03:51

Inspiring post, all it takes for me now is organisation and commitment – which to me is very important because I find with writing, that enthusiasm for my idea rises and falls, but with commitment, I don’t have to take any notice of how my ego uses my feelings.. I am committed to do so, because I said I would do it. Paradoxically then, the word gets done whatever and my enthusiasm, whilst it may disappear from time to time, is there with me far often than not.

Charlotte
Guest
04/21/2008 13:20

I guess the trick is to put commitment at the top of your list, then. And I do know that if you say you’ll do something, you mean it, Derek!

shirley
Guest
04/26/2008 16:45

great post – makes it sound so easy you almost had me thinking about what the heck I could write a book about

Martha Alderson
Guest
05/06/2008 20:53

Thanks for sharing both a bit about your writing life and some helpful tips you’ve picked up along the way.

You’ve done it all!!

Congratulations.

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