FIVE lessons I learnt writing my book

It is a proud moment for any author to publish their first book. My book took 12 month to research, plan, write and publish however the reality was the book had its genesis 35 years ago as an inspired 13 year old, always fascinated and consumed with reading.

I have always loved books for as long as I can remember, the intrigue, the feel of them, the sense of anticipation and the way they open your mind - I can vividly recall unwrapping the Guinness Book of Record each Xmas back in the 1970’s and reading the whole collection of the adventures of those tenacious sleuths, The Hardy Boys.

Over the course of the last year writing my book - Commercial to Residential Conversions: The Essential Manual for Property Developers - I have certainly learnt a huge amount and my admiration for any author continues to be held in the highest esteem.

Like any entrepreneurial endeavour, the vision, pride and thrill is brought into sharp focus by the hard work, attention to detail, long hours and the heart and soul that is required to turn that vision into a reality.

Here are FIVE lessons I have learnt over the last year writing my book which I hope will help and inspire you to write your first book:

  1. Don’t procrastinate, just start. There will be 100 reasons why you shouldn’t write a book – focus on the one reason why you should and get writing. Make a conscious decision to make a start and define the moment. No book is perfect and no book is 100% finished in reality - there has to be a cut-off point otherwise it will be the 'great book that is never published' and there are thousands of those out there!!

  2. Plan for evolution. Accept your finished book will be draft version 10+ by the time it is published and embrace the evolution of your thoughts crystallising on paper/screen. I use Evernote and noted ideas and thoughts whenever they came to me which built a solid brain dump of ideas. I am doing this now on 2 other book ideas that are in progress.

  3. It’s all about the Contents. Abraham Lincoln is quoted "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. The contents page provides the structure of the book - it is its backbone. I spent a long time planning the contents as I started writing my book – it should have been even longer. On my next book I will be spending much more time structuring the contents by breaking down each chapter, sub-chapter and sub-sub chapters to give myself a detailed skeleton of the book - it is the transition from a brain dump to a clear structure that will then allow you to weave your thoughts, knowledge and content into the book in an orderly fashion that fits congruently with how your mind operates. This will also help you in deciding which part you want to write about today – we all have different moods and it is enjoyable to pick what you want to write about each day out of choice, rather than because you have to!

  4. Set clear deadlines. Deadlines hold you accountable. I had a reasonably clear timeline and went beyond on 3 occasions. The transformation happened when I engaged my book printer and my book cover designer. I was then committed to working on tight timescales and needed to respect their time. This increased my urgency and commitment to hitting these timescales. So get your accountability set early and announce clear target dates to others.

  5. Genius idea that backfired! (partly) - I decided to dictate the first 40,000 words to get it down on paper very quickly. I used the app ‘Rev’ which allowed me to dictate 10-15 minutes sections and then get them transcribed within 24 hours into a Word document. The health warning here though and I was to find this out later on - You don’t talk in the same way you write!! I had to go back through every word and rewrite all 40,000 initial words. In hindsight (being the perfect science) I would have started with a blank Word document and started typing!

I had a bit of a wobble half way through after the book stalled for 3-4 months if I am being totally honest! I asked a serial author who I interviewed on my Podcast for some advice about why a couple of chapters were ‘sticking’ - was it lack of confidence, fear of what people might think, anguish, or other random thoughts.

His advice was brilliant and transformed my thinking and I want to pass this on to you. He said:

“Mark, no-one is going to buy your book, no-one is going to read your book, know do you want to still write your book?”

Don’t lose sight of the very personal reasons why you want to write your book. This could be personal ambition, life-long dream, want to create a legacy of your thoughts, financial imperative, helping and serving others etc.

Do not fear of being judged, you won’t please all the people all the time, be you, serve your objective and your target customers, free the reigns, release the tension and just get writing.

I wish you every success if you choose to become an author.


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