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Instead of Writing Beginning To End, Try This…

For a long time, I used to think I was clever due to the fact that whenever I sat down to write I referred to an outline that I already created. This would enable me to effectively puts words on paper whether I was lacking inspiration or not. This is an effective approach and I stand by it.

However, there are a few additional steps that can be taken to increase efficiency while promoting additional opportunity to input high-quality content.

For example, if you are starting a new chapter start by copy-pasting all the parts of your overall outline that fall within that particular chapter.

The next thing you want to do is look at each section of that outline and ask yourself a few guiding questions such as:

What additional instruction or details would help the information or story? 

Is this typically offered in similar books or genres? If so, how can it be differentiated? 

For non-fiction authors, is there a related, helpful anecdote or personal story that can be added? 

For fiction authors, is there a further detail that can be offered to make it more authentic? 

These guiding questions are just food for thought. Take some time as you reflect on your own writing to develop your own that trigger creativity.

As you answer these questions you should be writing your answers down within the relative section of your outline. The answers can come in the form of paragraphs or sentences to be included word for word, or short phrases that can be rearticulated at a later time. Once this stage is complete then instead of looking at a blank page tasked with the challenge of filling it, you’re now filling in a structured chapter outline.

To clarify let us break it down into nice and neat phases.

Phase 1: Copy-paste relative chapter outline from whole book outline.

Phase 2: Insert more input based on guiding questions previously mentioned and/or your own guiding questions.

Phase 3: Fill in the missing parts.

At the end of the day, you’re going to have sit down and write. There is no avoiding it. However, this is a much less daunting task when you’re adding to something as opposed starting a chapter from scratch.

If you’re still not convinced let us compare it to the construction of a house.

When contractors begin they do not start on the left and work their way to the right. Instead, they pour the foundation, construct the frame, then add the plumbing, wiring, drywall and so on.

To be fair, this is only a suggested approach. If you have a method that works for you once you get going then you may not need to use this. If, however, you are a person who struggles to make yourself sit down and write then you need to break it down into smaller, easier steps. The strategy offered here is one way to do it. If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, then do not quit, just continue to look for an alternative approach.

Leaders within this realm, that I look up to, are Joanna Penn, Steve Scott, and Tom Corson-Knowles. As a writer, you must make it your responsibility learn about different strategies used by a variety of authors.

Even when you have something that is working, if you notice your productivity is decreasing then utilizing the leaders above and any other resources you’re aware of to avoid the complacency that can come with dusty, old strategies.

To keep things practical and get back to the original point, I recommend you try each phase using Evernote. Within one “notebook” that holds all the content of your book, you can create “notes”. One note should be your overall book outline, then each other note should be a chapter.

This is a great, free way to easily navigate from book outline to a specific chapter rather than scanning through one large word document.

Evernote is certainly not the only option here, but it is recommended that you use a software that enables you to easily locate each chapter and your outline.

Okay, enough is enough. Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

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Your Interest Is More Important Than Market Demand

Generally speaking, as writers we’re responsible for choosing what to write about. Obviously if you’re a freelance writer this may not be the case but if your goal is to write a book you are immediately confronted with the question of what to write about.

There are plenty of authorpreneurs today that would recommend finding a market that is looking for information or a solution to a problem. Additionally, the next step would be to write to that market giving them what they want and/or need.

This is a logical perspective. One that I completely agree with.

Until you determine that your goal is to be a successful, self published author. In other words, to be successful author you need to be able to grow an audience. To do this you really need to understand who your targeting. So far this aligns with the values of the authroprenuers mentioned above. However, if we targeting a group of readers that have a particular interest and we’re successful then chances are we’re going to be writing quite a bit within that particular niche.

If this is the case, which I believe it to be, then it is imperative that we may make our own interests and passions the priority.

How can we write high value, helpful/entertaining content if we’re only moderately interested in the subject. Moreover, how can we write multiple books on a subject that doesn’t excite us?

In my opinion, we can’t. It will lead to inauthentic work that readers will see right through therefore any potential success will be short lived despite a high market demand.

Alternatively, I propose that we first identify topics, subjects, niches, categories, that we’re genuinely interested in and passionate about. After we compile a list of these items then we’re finally ready to take the authorpreneurs advice.

To clarify, any methods that I offer to help you identify whether or not there appears to be market deman for your book(s) are being offered with the assumption that only your true passions and interests are assessed.

If you agree then the next step is to identify your interests.

To do this think about your hobbies and day to day routines.

Are you a neat freak to the point where you love delcuttering?

Do you love cooking? Exercising? Learning languages? Reviewing products? Movies?

Give yourself time to think of questions such as the above. Reflect on what you enjoy doing and how you enjoy living. These are the topics you should be considering.

To reiterate, if the goal is to be a successful author which I assume it is, then you don’t neccessarily need to be an expert. Instead, you need the insight to ask the right questions and find the answers (if possible). This insight is most likely to be attained within a your genuine interests and passions, not within a random high demand niche that you aren’t particularly excited about or knowledgeable within.

Some might disagree, but I stand firm in this position.

Knowing where you stand, whether you agree or disagree will help you through the idea derivation process.

If you’re unsure, take some time to ponder this before you begin coming up with and pursuing your ideas.

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Audit Your Writing Process

For the over a year now I’ve been following the same scheduling process for my writing.

Put simply when I’m writing a book or writing an article each Sunday night I reference my monthly goals (i.e. Complete 20K words towards book, complete 6 blog posts, etc.) and I create weekly goals.

My weekly goals, will include 3000 to 6000 words depending on my schedule and an article or two. This has always worked well for me and more importantly I’ve been able to stick to it.

Which by the way should not be underestimated. If you can stick to 1000 words per week compared to an inconsistent 2000 words per week you’re better off focusing on the thousand.

The problem is that I love creating content despite my lack of time. I’ve always felt the need to write more, create more.

I’ve convinced myself to stay patient and just continue to chip away. Though I’ll continue to take that approach it doesn’t hurt to also focus on taking some time to audit your process.

A few weeks ago I decided to change things up so I could begin creating more courses to help aspiring writers. This means that I have to write a post per week, write towards my current book, and create content.

This is a ridiculous amount of work if done inefficiently.

To address I took some time to strategize. To audit my writing process.

Here is what I came up with.

From this point on I’m going to continue to use my goal setting process but I’m going to develop a system where I can create one form of content then outsource the remaining forms based on my creating.

More specifically, I’m going to create presentations (Keynote) that includes important bullet points. Then I’m going to record the audio of myself talking about the concepts covered in those slides.

With that content I’m going to do two things:

1.) Send the slides and the audio to a video editor to put it all together into one video.

2.) Send the slides and the audio to one of my editors who will then transcribe my words, edit them into a blog post and a section of a book.

After a month I should have course, tons of content of the site, and a book that all go hand in hand.

I’m creating one thing and utilizing others to repurpose this content. You might be thinking that it sounds expensive.

It is more affordable then you think.

I found a guy from Romania via upwork.com who will complete my simple edits at $6 per video (roughly 7 to 8 slides over 8 minutes of audio). Nothing fancy but valuable, helpful content.

I have a great editor who I have worked with multiple times and because of the regular work I provide I essentially will be able to get all of this done for $.01 per word of the longest form of content. In other words, if the blog post is longer than the relative section of the book then we will use the blog post.

The key is to acknowledge that I have no idea if this will work out. In fact, it most likely won’t.

But I’m going to try it, keep an open mind, and make adjustments as needed.

When was the last time you audited your writing process?

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Picking Your Niche and Your First Book Topic (that won’t bore you in two months)

If you’ve been paying attention to the Amazon Kindle world then you may have noticed that self-publishing is becoming a more viable option for authors. You also may have noticed that there are some independent authors (authors without a publishing company) that are making a very decent income off an eBook based business model.

What you may not have realized is that many successful self-published authors don’t initially earn a significant amount off their royalties. If you’re a newcomer with an email list of zero then you before you can begin earning a real income you need to grow your following.

To do this you need to start with the right niche and create topics that solve problems within that niche.

In other words each and every book you write should be a lead generation tool that brings readers to a lead magnet that captures their email on your subscriber list. If you can’t focus on one niche (which I’ve learned the hard way) you’ll have a hard time doing this.

The following ten steps are going to help you figure out what you should be writing about and will help you narrow down your first book idea and begin by creating a writing schedule.

I want to preface these steps by warning you to not allow a lack of expertise to stop you from choosing a focus. You’ll see criteria below, but be advised that expertised can be developed if you have a passion or a genuine interest in the topic. Your skill can be obtaining valuable information and presenting in a clear and concise manner. Over time, if you do this enough, you’ll naturally become an expert.

Regardless, follow the ten steps below to help narrow down your brand focus. Yes you are creating a brand. The idea is to grow an audience that associates your author name with a particular focus. For example, my focus has become self-publishing/writing. I have other strengths and these strengths caused me to become distracted which made it difficult to grow a following.

I currently have three books available on Amazon that have a lot of common ideas but don’t necessarily appear to be focused. Check out my author page to see what I mean.

As with all step by step guides, be prepared to adjust these steps to meet your specific needs.

I am not going to be one of those mysterious Internet personalities that claim to know the perfect sequence of actions that will yield success for everybody.

View these steps as a guide and plan accordingly to address the variables in your life.

Step 1:
Brainstorm everything you’re interested in – do this for at least 15 minutes and write everything down that pops in your head even if it doesn’t make sense.

For this action you can use a piece of paper (the bigger the better), a white board, a word document, or a journal if it makes sense.

Set a timer to 15 minutes and just start writing and try as hard as you can to avoid not writing (this will get very difficult after a couple of minutes).
Step 2:
With your list pull out at least 3 viable ideas. A viable idea meets at least two of the following criteria:
-You’re interested/passionate in this topic
-You’re knowledgeable about this topic
-There appears to be brand potential.

In other words you can easily think of multiple related problems/pain points that require a solution. For example one of your potential topics is that you’re considering is Fitness for Men 40 and over then one pain point may be finding time to exercise. You could write a book that focuses on strategies to stay in shape in a small amount of time. Additionally, you  may also know that muscle soreness becomes a serious concern after 40 and therefore you write a book that aims to help readers minimize their muscle soreness when exercising. Lastly, motivation to exercise might be a common issue. You can write a book that helps solve that problem.

The key is to choose a topicthat you won’t get bored with or lose interest so you can write about it consistently over a long period of time with enough varied ideas to keep your readers coming back for more.

Step 3:
Assess whether or not people are interested in this topic by doing a keyword research, via Google Keyword Planner. Don’t worry too much about competition just focus on the potential audience size. Anything with 5000 or more searches per month per keyword is adequate (though this is subjective).
Step 4:
Based on the results pick your topic. Find a balance between which one interests you the most and/or you’re most knowledgeable combine with a high amount of potential interest by searching comparable book’s best seller ranking on Amazon.
Step 5:
Now that you have your general topic utilize the Keyword Planner to pick your next book idea. You may have to play around with this tool to get a sense of what people are looking for. Once you have the idea you’re ready to build the parts of your book.

Step 7:
Brain dump all potential topics within the book. Same drill as step one only this time you’re focused on one book idea.

Step 8:
Highlight all the ideas that you want to include then order these ideas in a sequence that appears to be beneficial (as you write your book you may find that it makes sense to change it so don’t stress too much over this process).

Step 9:
Based on sequence identify chapters and chapter topics.

Step 10:
Create your weekly word goal. In other words, how many words do you want to type for this book each week.

For example, as a father of two an entrepreneur with many projects time is slightly limited. Therefore I allow myself up to 3 days to not write. I understand this isn’t typical and goes against the common advice of writing everyday, but it works for me and my schedule and I’ve been able to stay consistent.

This leaves me with four days that I allot one hour per day to writing. Generally speaking I average about 1,000 words per hour which means my weekly word goal is 4,000 words.

I recommend you begin writing for an hour and track how many words you typically cover. Then based on that number you can begin to create a consistent schedule for yourself.

Once you have your schedule you’re ready to go.

The next video will be focused on Developing your description, picking the right keywords, and selecting the right categories for your book, but none of this really matters if you can’t follow through with writing your book so be sure to get a consistent schedule implemented as soon as possible. Bare in mind that you’ll most likely have to make many adjustments as you get to know yourself as a writer if you’re new to this. Don’t let this discourage you. Just identify a realistic amount of words for you per week then make sure you get that amount every week. Even if it means you write for 10 minutes a day. It doesn’t matter. The key is to take consistent action. After awhile you’ll be amazed at how your progress adds up.

Remember this is one approach. This certainly isn’t the “right” approach and it most definitely isn’t the only approach. As you develop your own approach, if you have any questions in the mean time just send me a tweet @maranimichael or email me at mike@maketimeforwriting.com.

See you soon.

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Punch The Blank Page In The Face With These 3 Strategies

Whether you refer to your list of book ideas, act on a sudden shot of inspiration, or finally decide to begin writing the book idea you’ve been sitting on for the last five years you, it doesn’t matter. You still might find yourself staring in front of a blank page without the slightest idea of how and/or where to start. Then as soon as you begin typing each letter you match it with an equal amount of deletes. At this point you are completely frustrated and annoyed.

I get it. I’ve been there. Don’t panic my fellow writer. Many have been there which means many have successfully escaped.

Check out the three strategies below to help you get yourself started. This is a pre-outline stage. Literally, you have nothing and you need something, anything. Breath calmly, rest easy, and enjoy the solutions below.

Strategy #1: Open Up The Flood Gates 

Grab a huge piece of paper or a the whiteboard of equal or greater size. Just start writing everything you think of when you think of your book. Do this for at least fifteen to twenty minutes. Do not put any restrictions on anything. Seriously, if it pops in your head during this time then write it down. It may or may not have anything to do with what you want your book to say, but for now that does not matter. Write down words, phrases, sentences, draw charts, pictures. The keys are to avoid withholding thought or ideas and to write for at least fifteen minutes, if not longer.

To be clear, if you write something down and feel as though it didn’t come out the right way, for the sake of this exercise just try writing it down again somewhere else on the sheet or board. Do not cross out or try to correct. If you find yourself requiring more than fifteen minutes then continue until you are completely empty, but force yourself to push through to the fifteen minute mark.

Once you have finished this process and you are completely and utterly unable to continue writing down ideas be sure to save this sheet or board somehow. I recommend you take a picture and/or if you have an iPhone you can use the GeniusScan app to scan and save it to your phone (see example below).

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 10.45.21 PM
This is only an example, don’t worry if yours looks completely different.

Strategy #2: Start Talking

Find a method to record your voice. I recommend the iPhone voice recorder app, but there are a variety of options out there so pick what makes most sense for you. All you’re going to do is start talking about your book. If this is difficult, pretend you’re answering the question “What is your book about?”. Force yourself to verbally respond in as much detail as you can.

Do not worry about repeating yourself, speaking incorrectly, confronting long pauses. None of these are going to hurt you later on. The key is you’re just going to start talking about what your book could be about. If you have specific ideas about possible chapter titles then include it.

Once you’ve done this save the recording and get ready to move on.

Strategy #3: Generate Keywords

If you have any friends in the internet marketing world then chances are you’ve heard the acronym SEO. Moreover, I’m sure you have heard of Search Engine Optimization. I bring this up because I want to make clear that generating keywords in this instance has absolutely nothing to do with SEO. For the purposes of trying to get yourself to a clear starting point with an organized road map guiding you along the way to happy finished book land. Use Google’s Keyword Planner  (free) or Long Tail Pro (paid software) to generate possible keywords within the subject of your book idea. Start identifying words and terms that you feel as though you could elaborate on and begin creating a list of at least 20 words or terms. Once finished with the list you have two options.

Either record yourself as you elaborate on each keyword and term verbally or write down a few sentences for each item on your list.

After you have completed one of the strategies above you now need to organize this information into a neater visual. Review the results of your chosen strategy then try to come with a list of at least ten potential chapter titles. For each chapter, you want to list each possible chapter subtitle that would fit. If you have more than ten chapter subtitles, you may want to consider breaking it into two separate chapters.

As you write each chapter title and subtitle, do not worry about sequential order just yet. Focus more on what you’re going to discuss within each chapter. When you complete this, you are officially ready and able to begin writing each chapter.

Pick one chapter that you’re very excited about and/or you feel confident about beginning. That will building the momentum and you can slowly chip away, chapter by chapter.

I recommend writing your chapters within Evernote because you can create a Notebook and title it what ever your book potentially may be titled. Within each Notebook, you can create a Note for each chapter.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 10.40.01 PM
An Evernote notebook containing multiple notes for one of my previous books

Regardless of your writing tool, you now have officially eliminated the blank page that has had continued to taunt you.

Happy writing!