Last year, I wrote my first book with one goal in mind: This will help me market my business to a broader audience. Ever think like that? You should, as the very nature of writing and publishing a book provides a boatload of credibility, especially with professionals who don’t already know who you are or your background.
My book is about the startup journey and focuses on the months leading up to that decision to leap. We have all been to a conference where an author stands up to talk about his or her vision. How many times do you think, “Wow, that person is pretty smart, and here they are talking about their book.” Build the Fortis my new calling card.
Writing a book is a huge undertaking, but I managed to do it and continue to work my day job (seed stage venture capitalist) and a side business (recruiting events and job board for tech companies).
You have two choices when you consider writing your book: You can look at it as an impossible task with 100 tiny hurdles standing in your way, or you can slay each one of those hurdles one at a time.
Here’s some advice that will enable you to get started:
Identify your expertise. Write what you know about. Every one of us has a set of experiences that are stronger in us than in anyone else. Write about those. Somewhere, there is someone wondering what your experiences and expertise are about.
Tell friends and family you are going to write a book. There is nothing like a little peer pressure to push us through those lazy days. Publicly sharing your goal creates a situation where your friends will ask you about it. Those questions can spur you to action.
Create a rich and deep outline. My writing journey has to be subservient to my day job, and thus I had to fit my writing in and around those priorities. In order to be able to sit down and write about something without the pressure of a completely blank sheet of paper, I wrote a very detailed outline. I am talking six or seven pages and about 90 to 100 line items. Though the line items changed occasionally as I was writing, the outline provided a base from which I could sit down and write about that line item. These line items became the chapters, words, and phrases of my book.
Establish a writing place. I firmly believe that your environment influences outcomes. I took a walk-in closet and converted it into a simple room where I could write. This was a signal to me to write when I entered that room. It was also a signal to my family that I was writing, which was equally important.
Establish a writing schedule. This singular piece of advice was something I had to evolve into. At first, I would grab time when I found it, and though small progress was being made, the pace was not good enough–especially when a few tough days in a row created too much space between sit downs. So I adapted, and the key was carving out one to one and a half hours three or four times per week on my calendar. For me, it was first thing in the morning (my most creative time). That rhythm was perfect for me and enabled me to make steady progress.
Don’t edit when you write. For those talented and good writers, you know this already. For the rest of us writing hacks, this is a major revelation. Resist the urge to go back and reread what you wrote yesterday. Task one is to get words on a page. Follow your outline. Put words on a page. Writers write. You can go edit later.
Don’t show it to anybody until you have finished your first draft. This was a tough one for me, as I am a share-everything-with-everyone person. It’s how I get validation and feedback. In fact, this approach is a major component of my book. But once I sat down to write, I was not going to show it to anyone until it was finished. You are a writer–write!
Assume a six-month-plus journey. There are certain tasks you can set up and knock down. And there are certain tasks that are more like a marathon. Writing a book is a marathon, and to that end, it is important that you pace yourself and set realistic expectations. Don’t get too critical of yourself in the middle, when a few vacations or business trips get in the way. Get back on the horse and finish the ride. I had a two-month period where I wrote about three times. I then recommitted to the book, and that is when I set up the calendar mentioned previously.
My book-writing journey started over a year ago and the result was published in September. I am so glad I committed to it and am just starting to reap the benefits of being a published author. Develop your plan and get writing.