Writing a Book: The Inner Game of Writing a Great Nonfiction Book

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At least a gazillion people want to write a book “someday.” Most of them don’t even start. A few start but never finish. And some finish a book that could have been much better.

When I talk to people who are thinking about writing a book, I find that most of them are worried about the wrong things. They’re worried about the actual writing. No problem. We can get editors to clean that up. They don’t worry about the things that have been problems for many other would-be authors.

There are many things that go into writing a great book. Most of them are part of what I call, “The Inner Game of Writing.” It starts with a commitment.

Commit to your commitment

Everybody starts out sure that they’ll do all the hard work necessary. They say that before they know what the hard work is. And, always, they don’t know what they don’t know about what they’re getting into.

It takes most people a year or more to write a great book. That’s a long time to sustain a commitment. When times get tough, you need to know why you’re doing the hard work.

Take time to plan the project

If you devote time at the beginning of the book project to thorough and realistic planning, you’re more likely to know what you’re getting into. You’re also more likely to write a book that will be both great and successful.

What will your book do for the reader? Your book should just tell a compelling story, teach important lessons, answer important questions, or help the reader solve a problem. Answering this question will help you write a successful book.

What will your book do for you? Will becoming an author let you take something off your bucket list? Will your book help you increase your reputation? Many of my clients write books to support their developing business. Answering this question will help you define a “why” that can sustain you in tough times.

Do you have everything you need? Plan your book in enough detail that you know it if you have all the research, stories, and expert support you need to convey your message.

Here’s a really big question. How will you get the writing done?

Writing a book is different

Writing a book is different from any other kind of writing you’ve done. To begin with, there’s a lot of writing. You won’t get it all done in one session or even a month of sessions.

Keeping track of things is important. You must make sure that each chapter is fresh and doesn’t repeat material from earlier chapters. You must identify the important “red threads” that will run through your book.

Just to keep things interesting, a book is a system. If you change things in one part of the system, you almost always have to change things in other parts.

Writing a book is a team effort

The popular image of an author is of a person who goes it alone. That’s not how successful books get done, though.

You must bring the basic ideas and explanations, but you can get help with almost everything else. Good editors can clean up your prose. You might have a friend as an accountability partner, or you can hire one. A writing coach can be your spirit guide to the writing process.

Friends and loved ones can support you, but you must do your part. Even though you’re engaged in a demanding project, you still need to be a good spouse, friend, or parent.

Fit the writing into your life without going crazy

The biggest challenge for most of my clients has been finding a way to fit their writing into an already full life. It’s hard. You want to do good work, but you also want to maintain relationships with important people. You want to do good work on your book, and you also want to do whatever other work you need to do. Here’s some advice based on my fifty years as a writer and on my experience with clients over 20 years.

Establish a writing rhythm so that every session follows a similar pattern. If you’re working full-time at something else, touch your project every day, even when you’re not writing.

Take what life gives you. Don’t try to be superhuman. Instead, go with the flow and adapt to the challenges life will throw at you.

Learn how you work best. Unless you’ve done a lot of writing, you’ll probably change your work pattern as you work on your book. Take it as a learning opportunity.

Get enough sleep. You won’t do good work unless you get enough sleep. Sure, sometimes you can power your way through. But that’s not good for you or your book.

Takeaways

Thorough, realistic planning will help you produce a great book.

Writing a book is a different kind of writing.

Writing a book is a team effort.

Consider hiring a book coach.

Consider working with an accountability partner.

Take what life gives you. Relationships are important.

Get enough sleep.

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