Writing a Book: Some Hard Truths about Writing Your Book

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My friend and client, Terry Moore, says that writing his book, Building Legacy Wealth, was one of the hardest things he’s ever done. That’s a powerful testimony from someone summited who Mt. Kilimanjaro at 59. He’s also a triathlete. Terry knows what hard is.

If you want to write a great book, or even a good one, you must work hard. It won’t be as easy as “just sitting down and writing the darn thing.” Here are five reasons why.

Great Writing Is Iterative

When you write a book, you’ll write sentences, chapters, and full drafts over and over again until you get it right. Most of my clients do at least three full drafts of their book. They may do more if they use beta readers. Terry revised some of his chapters more than 20 times. The great Ernest Hemingway tried out 47 alternative endings for A Farewell to Arms.

You’ve heard this before. Great writing is rewriting. Lots of it.

Your Brain and Your Book Are Different

Your brain is a marvelous organ. It consists of billions of interconnected neurons. When an idea is in your head, it’s connected to millions of other ideas and contexts. One of the hard parts about writing a book is turning those billions of connections into a straight-line narrative that makes sense to someone else. The only people who think that’s easy haven’t tried it.

You can make things easier by avoiding those outlines your English teacher taught you. Instead, organize by coming up with the big ideas or stories that you want to convey. If you use outlines at all, save outlines for right before you’re ready to write.

Simple Writing Is Hard Work

Business books aren’t academic papers. You should write a business book the same way that you would tell the same material to a friend. As one of my clients put it, “The way I remember it is that I write like I’m talking to a friend with a beer in my hand.”

Simple writing means simple sentences. It means simple vocabulary. Simple writing uses graphics to make concepts clear. So, why doesn’t everybody do it?

It’s those English teachers! What your English teacher taught you was a particular style and format of writing. It’s the perfect style and format for what you were writing then. To compound that effect, there are lots of people who belileve that if your writing is hard to understand, you must be really, really smart. Actually, the opposite is true.

For most people, conversational writing is hard work. It’s hard to create writing that’s easy to read.

The Curse of Knowledge

If you’re an expert, you may have a hard time explaining what you know to someone who doesn’t. That’s because of the curse of knowledge.

The curse of knowledge is that you can’t remember what it was like not to know something. The way to beat the curse of knowledge is to explain your ideas to someone who doesn’t know them. My pick for the best person to do this is an intelligent 15-year-old.

Intelligent 15-year-olds know enough to understand pretty much anything you’d have to say. They’re not likely to be experts in your field. Plus, they’re fearless and they’re sure you’re one of those old people who really doesn’t know anything.

Writing A Crappy Book Is Easy

Writing a good book is hard work, but you may not want or need to write a good book. If you “just want a book” or you want to tick writing a book off your bucket list, that may be the case. If quality doesn’t matter, you can crank out a crappy book.

Remember two things. People will judge you by your book. And, as Terry says often, “Everything worthwhile you’ve ever done was hard.”

Takeaways

Great writing is rewriting. Lots of it.

One challenge of writing a book is turning the massive ideas connected in your head into a straight line that makes sense.

It’s hard to create writing that’s easy to read.

If you’re an expert, you may have a hard time explaining what you know.

Writing a crappy book is easy.

People will judge you by your book.

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