Carl sent me the following email: “I’m a consultant. I want to write a book to improve my reputation and up my fees. I know what I want to write about. But, from reading your blog, I know there’s a lot I don’t know. What would you say are the three things most new authors don’t understand?”
Most people who want to write a book don’t ask those kinds of questions. I wish they would. We’d have more good books. I’d have better clients. So, Carl, and anybody else who wants to write a book, here are the three things most new authors don’t understand.
I work with business book authors, so that’s who I’m answering this for. I don’t know Carl personally, but if he’s like most of my clients, he’s in the middle of his life and career. He’s successful, and he sees a book as a way to become even more successful.
If he’s like most of my clients, he’s written other things. Many of them write articles or blog posts. Some have written training manuals or other instructional materials.
Most New Authors Don’t Understand That Writing A Book Is Different
Writing a book is different from other kinds of writing. Obviously, a book is longer than an article. Even a short read, much like what used to be a business booklet, comes in at 15,000 words. A full-sized business book can be up to 70,000 words.
One result is that you’ve got a lot more to keep track of. To make that more interesting, a book is a complex system. If you change one part of the book, you must look around to see if you need to change something else. It might be something big, like whether you’ve used the same story three or four times. But it can also be something small.
The result of a book’s size means that it takes a long time to write. Your challenge is to maintain energy, interest, and concentration for a year or more as you work on the book.
Most New Authors Don’t Understand That Finding Time to Write Is Hard
Writing a book takes large blocks of time, an hour or more, spaced over a year or more. If you’re like most of my clients, you don’t have a lot of “spare” time.
Most of my clients have a demanding job or professional practice. Most have a family and social obligations. There aren’t many clear spaces on the calendar where you can say, “Oh, sure, that’s when I’ll do the book.”
You must take the time from something you’re already doing. Many advisors recommend taking the time from sleep. “Just get up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later,” they say.
That’s bad advice. If you do that, you’re cutting down on your sleep. If you’re writing a book, you need more sleep, not less.
There’s a temptation to take time away from important relationships. That seems to work for a while. The people who love you know that your book is important. And they know that you love them. So, they forgive you for missing important events or for cutting down the time you spend with them.
But they won’t forgive you forever. If you’re going to spend a year writing a book, you’ll run out of forgiveness before you finish the manuscript.
Relationships are vital. They’re especially important when you’re working hard on something like a book. You might get some writing time from time you’re spending on relationships, but don’t count on getting it all there.
So, where do you get the time? Most of the people that I work with wind up taking it out of the time they spend earning income. They cut down on extra hours and cut down on their work with clients. Yes, that reduces income. That makes it hard. A little belt tightening beats cutting back on your sleep or shredding your relationships.
Most New Authors Don’t Understand That Writing A Book Is Not A One Draft Process
I’ve worked with business book authors long enough to know that they rarely say, “I expect to get this done in one draft.” They just think it. They know that’s not normal. They think they’re going to be the exception. So far, I haven’t worked with any exceptions.
If you’re going to write a book, the first big step is to get everything out of your head and into a pile or into a file. Use that as the basis for your drafts. There will probably be at least three. If you have a round of beta readers to give you good feedback on your book, make that, at least four drafts.
What surprises a lot of the people I work with is how much it takes to get the writing just right. Writing advisors have told people for years, “Great writing is rewriting.” It is. Lots of rewriting. And you will probably not be the exception.
Okay, Carl, and anybody else who’s thinking about writing a business book, there you have it. Most new authors don’t understand that writing a book is different from other kinds of writing. They don’t realize how hard it is to find the time to write a book over the time it takes to finish the manuscript. And, almost everyone I work with starts by thinking they’ll be an exception to the need for several drafts.