24 Apr Four Things I Learned Writing My First Book

I started writing my book on October 20, 2006, on a flight from Denver to Maui.  I sent the manuscript to the publisher on March 30, 2011.  How the heck did it take four years and five months to complete a book that’s fewer than 200 pages?  Well, excuses were more plentiful than the pages.

Lessons One – Time Management

Did I have disciplined process for writing?  The short answer is, “No.”  I didn’t write for 18 months when I took on a new role at work.  I didn’t write for four months each year when I was teaching classes.  I didn’t write on vacations and Holidays – about a month a year.  So in 53 available months, there were 38 months where I found an excuse not to write.  That leaves 15 months I had to write, and it’s quite likely I squandered half that time procrastinating, and spending time on other things.  I guess that means I really wrote the book in about seven months, and validated that we ultimately control two things – how we spend our time and how we respond to our environment.

Lesson Two – Process

I started my writing process by creating an outline after reviewing notes and articles I had gathered over the past thirty years.  In hind site, I would have been better off creating the outline without referring to all the notes.  The old material ended up being distracting, because the hardest part was figuring out how to focus on a common thread.  As I wrote, I also kept editing and rewriting instead of just plowing through, because I kept seeing inconsistencies between the chapters.  I just didn’t feel like the chapters were connected and flowed smoothly.  I also couldn’t figure out how to summarize each chapter and segue into the next one.  The problem was I didn’t have the theme down even though I thought I did.

Lesson Three – Theme

What ultimately helped me was the advice I received from two people.  One told me to focus on my stories as opposed to creating “another” book on leadership.  That meant I didn’t need all those articles, but I did need to refer back to my old journals and blog entries.  The other piece of advice I received was from my publisher who suggested I keep things in chronological order, and focus more on my military stories rather than combing them with leadership lessons learned from business.

Lesson Four – Discipline

It’s not hard to write 500 words a day, but you have to budget the time.  If I wrote five days a week, in seven months, I should have been able to write at least 70,000 words as opposed to the 40,000 I ended up with.  The hard part is when writing is not your primary line of work; the “best” hours of the day for productive and creative work are spent elsewhere.  It’s hard to write in the evening when you’re tired, and it’s hard to get up even earlier than normal to squeeze everything in.  But, like anything that’s difficult, it’s a tremendously rewarding experience to accomplish something that’s been on my list for so many years.  Even if the book sales don’t meet my personal expectations, I got one under my belt!

If writing a book is on your list, I hope you can use what I learned to help you avoid the same mistakes and produce your book in a much shorter time frame.  It’s a worthy pursuit, and I wish you all the best!

Click here to learn more about my book.

2 Comments
  • Jeanette Dean
    Posted at 17:47h, 26 May Reply

    This is very helpful. Its on my list also, and I have plenty of excuses too. One of my mentors just recently said, “for goodness sake Jeanette your Irish you must write plus you have plenty of bloody good material.”

  • Jan Rutherford
    Posted at 23:35h, 26 May Reply

    The thing to remember about reading a book is that you know the author spent a lot of time thinking about the subject they’re writing about and figuring out how to string it together. Much more difficult than simply writing a blog/article! Thanks, Jeanette! ~Jan

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