A version of this article first appeared on Entrepreneur.com on May 13, 2020.
It seems that everyone is writing a business book these days. And months of lockdown have only added coal to creative fires as business people finally put in the time on “that book I’ve had in me for years.”
Alas, too many new writers start off with an enthusiastic bang, only to find their verve fizzling out a few months later. And what do they have to show after all that? Maybe six roughly written pages, and seventeen bullet points.
I know. Because leads tell me this all the time.
The grind of writing a book is nothing new to an experienced writer. It happens. There are ways around it. But it’s always a bit of a bummer to discover for new authors.
Here are some tips on how to overcome this drudgery, find joy in the book you’re penning, and maybe even get a potential best-seller out to an agent within a few months of diligent work.
1. Before writing a whole book, write a hundred blog posts instead
Writing a whole book can be pretty daunting. And nothing sucks worse than making it through 30,000 words (about half of a business book), only to then give up.
Writing a book is an endurance sport. Like any endurance sport, you have to start small and train yourself up.
Blog posts are that training.
Short, 500-word blog posts let you start and finish a job of writing quickly. You’re then free to move onto something else. This is unlike writing a book, which holds you ransom for as long as it takes you to either finish it or burn the manuscript in hydrochloric acid.
Once you’ve mastered 500 words, do 1,000. Force yourself to write a blog post every week and you’ll soon develop the discipline necessary to work on larger projects.
2. Guarantee yourself some readers
Getting rich after writing a business book is unlikely. People who make a lot of money from their business books have usually already made a lot of money in their businesses, and they have a network of a gazillion people to leverage when the book is released.
Money can be pretty motivating. When I first started writing, I wanted to get rich. (Haha. Joke’s on me!) I didn’t get rich as a writer (in case you didn’t know), but I fell in love with the fact that people were reading my work and enjoying it.
That’s a higher motivation for writing a book: Knowing someone is going to read it, enjoy it (dare we say, love it), and be all the better for reading it.
This knowledge goes a long way to keeping you motivated.
Building an audience through your blog posts (tip #1 above) is one to do it. You could also write a book that you give away as part of a service you sell. A lot of coaches and consultants do this.
3. Work with a supportive book coach
At school, I had some great rugby coaches. I also had some crappy ones.
The traits of those crappy coaches were, uniformly:
- Full of themselves.
- Big shots.
Those “coaches” did nothing to improve my life (or my rugby, for that matter). If they had any lesson they wanted to teach me, it sure went over my head.
The good coaches were always more than coaches. They were mentors. They weren’t teaching me rugby. They were teaching me about life—self-respect, honor, never giving up, integrity.
They are people who changed my life.
As a ghostwriter, I once had the unfortunate experience of being shown the recommendations of a “Book Coach” that were nothing but prescriptive rules aimed at proving just how much the coach knew, and how little the writer knew. Reading those “recommendations” was like being punched in the face.
Learning to write can be a tough show. For me, it took hundreds of thousands of words, endless late nights, and dozens of books and how-to articles before I could finally call myself a semi-respectable writer.
And I’m still learning.
Those early steps for new writers sometimes require a lot of hand-holding. I wish I had had a mentor to guide me in those early days, to let me know that, hey, sometimes writing is just tough. And that doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job!
Some people take longer to learn the craft than others. But it can be learned. And the journey of becoming a writer is as important (if not more important) than the achievement of finishing a book.
Because books come and go. But the ability to write is something that will stay with you forever.