“Don’t die with your song still inside you.”
The late Dr Wayne Dyer said that and was a triumphant vindicator for others in living their truth and playing life full out.
We all have a unique and fascinating story to tell buried inside us. But what makes it entertaining, engaging and provides value for your reader??
For those of us that love to tell stories, here are ten things you can do to write your book.
1. Choose your Best Story Idea.
Before you begin, outline what makes your idea engaging. In other words, answer this question for the reader:
Why am I listening to you? (Speaking has the same principle)
Since you’re writing YOUR life story, it will probably sustain your interest but will it sustain the interest of others reading?
Writing is a cathartic exercise. Seeing your story in print will be a healing experience because it gives an affirming reminder that you didn’t go through your trials for nothing. You lived to tell about it. You made it. You won. You’re here, to be counted and have the courage to share with others that are dealing with the same problem, situation or tragedy.
What is the KEY MESSAGE in your book? What do you want your reader to gain?
It’s been said that many (if not most) books are never read to the final page. I’ve been guilty of this too. You begin reading, get distracted, put it down and before long you forgot that you were reading the book and the story is lost.
A great story idea generally includes:
• A sense of direction and purpose. (what are your primary characters’ goals and how do they set about reaching them?)
• Tension and conflict (conflict doesn’t have to be combative – it could be the tension of romance or the struggle of raising a child or getting married.)
• Questions that create intrigue and get your reader thinking.
• Memorable characters, settings and dialogue.
Once you have an idea, write it down in two to three lines. Print it out and place above your writing space so that you don’t wander off track when you draft.
If you’re writing YOUR story versus a novel, it’s an autobiography.
Unless your Oprah Winfrey, Lisa Nichols or done something highly notable, you must find a way to make the story interesting through relating to the reader. This is why so many presidential candidates, Olympic athletes and public figures write books … they’ve lived an interesting life, one that we want an insight to.
As such, an autobiography is all about the Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey is literally in every story from Star Wars, Gladiator, Wizard of Oz and other mainstream Hollywood movies. You were called to a grand ordeal, friends came to your aid, you abandoned your identity, accepted your calling, stepped into your essence, slayed the dragon, saved the village and are NOW bringing your life lesson back to the people. How is the hero’s journey revealed in YOUR life story?
2. Schedule Manageable Writing Time in Cool Places.
Reduce your writing time into smaller increments. You’re NOT writing a big scary book, your writing 500 or 1,000 words per day. Feel the difference? Your mind can be reptilian in it’s efforts to keep you from pain, so tricking it into keeping the experience fun is crucial.
Look at NaNoWriMo as an example:
You just write 1667 words per day (on average) and at the end of November, you’ve reached 50,000 words. That’s impossible to do in only one sitting while juggling other responsibilities, but if you break it down into smaller increments, you hit your goal. Set a realistic writing schedule and stick to it.
Finding cool and inspiring places to write that fuel your soul. I often find beach-side pubs, local coffee houses and similar places that inspire ideas and refresh me as a writer. Discovering great writing places is a great way to expand your story.
3. Get your Writing Resources in Order.
Approach writing like a business, not a dream or a goal. Businesses, need resources or they don’t prosper.
- Get your characters in order and develop them.
- Put a calendar together that outlines the dates and times events happened.
- Do you need to change the names of people to protect their privacy? Not just names of people but their circumstances need protecting. If people close to you read your story and know who you’re talking about, it’s a good idea to get (written) permission to include them.
- What are the settings the story took place? Describe the city, the house, the park or the scene so your reader can visualize themselves there.
- If your story includes something you know nothing about, keep a document researching that topic. If you overcame cancer, you’ll need to know about medical facts and treatments so the reader can follow along.
- All photography and creative talent MUST sign a release or waiver or you run huge risks of copyrighting problems later. Here is the one I use for models and photographers. Here is the one I use for Editors and Ghost Writers.
One useful tool for ordering character information and research is Evernote. You can use Evernote to ‘clip’ or save online articles in part or full to notebooks within the app. Create a notebook called ‘Characters’ and another called ‘Settings’. Do this for each element of your story. You’ll create a resource for every element that offers useful research and/or inspiration. Here’s an example of how to use Evernote to write by Walter Glenn from Lifehacker.
4. Get a Coach and a Writing Partner.
It’s said that we ARE the sum total of the five people we spend the most time with. If writers and Authors are not in your immediate circle, you need to find someone who understands the trade.
You’ll need your idea, a plan, motivation, focus, and someone holding you to your goal. When the inevitable writers block comes along, who is in your corner to provide the motivation from accountability?
A coach will do this for you.
A partner, on the other hand will provide insightful feedback and cheer you on. Partnering up relieves the inherent loneliness of the writing process and yields useful insights. In addition, your partner will hold you accountable to your goal and make it fun.
Both a writing partner and coach are crucial to success!
5. Fight the Need to be Perfect.
When you begin, all that matters is words on paper. Punctuation, grammar, flow and error do NOT matter and should be left for the editor.
Besides, you can go back and do a good spell check later.
Every time you stop and re-read your content, you get OUT of creativity and flow and move into logic, which is judgement based. That is a bad space for a writer.
If you still can’t manage to leave your work alone, here are a few tricks.
• Make the text color in your word processing program white so you can’t see what you’ve just written until you choose to reveal it
• Approach your drafting as free-writing: Don’t allow yourself to go back to change anything, even a typo or grammatical muddle. Decide to leave it for revision.
6. Identify your Writing Goals at the Start of Every Writing Session.
Sitting down and freestyle writing doesn’t work for most people. We need a strategy and in the writing world, that’s called an outline.
Outlining your aims for every writing session at the beginning will keep you focused and give you the fuel needed to feel like you’re making progress. Write down what you want to achieve in a chapter or scene. I like to lay out my chapters then bounce around and add bullet points to each chapter based upon how I want the story structured. Works great and keeps my stories well developed.
7. Plan Breaks and Have Fun!
Creativity must be fostered.
As a result, it’s crucial to give yourself breaks and time to process story ideas. As part of your writing schedule, include breaks and fun activities to reward yourself for persisting.
In Steven Pressfield’s evocative book titled, The War of Art, he says:
What keeps so many of us from doing what we long to do? Why is there a naysayer within? How can we avoid the roadblocks of any creative endeavor—be it starting up a dream business venture, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece? The War of Art identifies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success.
8. Find Creative Solutions for Days you Can’t Write.
Hello digital recorder!! Every phone has the ability to record your voice and the iPhone will even dictate for you.
If you’re on an iPhone or iPad, download the app, Dragon Dictate where it turns your voice into written words! Oh, and it’s free!
If you’re on an Apple Mac: Download the “Extended Dictation” option at System Settings => Keyboard =>Dictation and presto, you can now talk to your Mac and it types your words for you. (see link for setup)
If you have a busy day at work or can’t sit down to write for another reason, find another creative solution and share in a comment below.
9. Actively Increase your Productivity.
To truly make strides, write your story in stolen moments.
Personally, I do all my writing in Google Docs (include link) because it syncs across all devices. This allows me to write on a plane, waiting in line or on hold during a phone call. Ideas come in a moment and usually when we’re LIVING life, not sitting at our dedicated writing desk.
Evernote is also a fabulous way to grab inspirations allowing you to draw, record and include pictures all in one convenient note.
Be ready for those inspired moments to come on in a flash and, disappear just as quickly.
Whether you’re writing your first book, participating in NaNoWriMo or just want to see you autobiography in print, using these steps above will bring you rapid success and develop you as a quality writer.
For resources from Motivating The Masses on how to become an expert Author and Speaker, book a free strategy session here. Lisa and her team have partnered with thousands of successful Authors, Speakers and Coaches to develop their voice and serve a tribe.
We need your voice. We need your leadership. You can do this!