Writing your book – one chunk at a time

Writing a book may seem a creative endeavour, however, to get to the writing bit you have to plan it and to get to the publishing bit you have to edit it.

The first thing to consider is how to make any ‘task’ easier.

Chunking

We naturally chunk information up, down or laterally so that we can make sense of it. Some of us by the nature of how we learn, like to have a big picture before tackling the detail, whilst others hate the big picture and wants lots of detail.

The chunks of writing your book

  • Planning
  • Writing
  • Editing

The planning chunk

Here you are looking at creating an outline. An outline by it’s very nature is a long list of stuff that makes up your book, broken into smaller pieces, which makes it easier for you to write.

The writing chunk

Using a chapter framework means that each chapter is sub divided into into sections, which guess what make it easier to write.

The editing chunk

In this chunk you create a editing plan which gives you smaller tasks to do.

Perfecting for your reader chunk (also editing)

Also in the editing phase, you are looking at how you can chunk your writing (up, down and across), so that you can connect to your reader.

When your reader is searching for meaning in your words they will chunk up, chunk down and chunk laterally.

  • Chunked up        where it becomes more vague and big picture.
  • Chunked down   where it becomes more specific and detailed.
  • Chunk laterally   Move across to find other examples (metaphor, analogy).

By chunking up you can distract the conscious mind and speak directly to the unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind has all of the answers just waiting to be unlocked. So if your book is designed to get your reader thinking and reflecting this is a good technique to employ.

Back to you…

So before you charge off to write a book and think that all you have to do is put your fingers on the keyboard and write. Stop!!! There is a bit more to it than that.

Life purpose and realising your book

I don’t really know what came before or what comes after this life. I have a strong belief, that we contracted to this life way before we set foot on Earth for this lifetime. This helps me to keep me grounded, to realise that all that happens, does for a reason. I truly believe that there is some purpose to all of this. This is life is an adventure.

What if for a moment we allowed ourselves the luxury of knowing why we are here.

Before we come to inhabit our host body, our soul gets to choose what they are going to do. Imagine you (in spirit form) sitting at a big computer in your soul office at the Soul Place, skimming the options. After you created your unique combination of life’s lessons, you pop over to the soul tube and wham you are in amniotic fluid and waiting to be birthed.

At which point your memory is wiped, you are in the body space and its time to work out the meaning of life.

“You came from nothing and you’ll go back to nothing. So what you´ve lost … Nothing.” (Life of Brian)

So with nothing to lose, let’s enjoy the ride and share our lessons

Here on Earth, you can’t remember your life purpose, there’s a limited amount of time before the body you’ve been given expires. Although you did choose that too, and the time of your death.

Life purpose is living life on purpose, doing every day what you love and making sure that before you expire, you have a ball in whatever way that you can. Sure some of it is crap, but that is behind you. Draw a line in the sand, put the rubbish stuff in a bin bag and put it out for the bin man (bin = trash). The past is for reference, not a place to dwell and when you get back to the Soul Place and you watch back your ‘this life’ movies, laugh at your antics, cringe because of how long it took to learn your lessons. I am sure all of your spirit buddies will have done some cringe worthy things too.

Imagine that you are looking back at your life and wondering what if you had published a book, what then? Would things be different? Possibly. One thing is for sure, you would have shared the unique story that is you. You could have shared your gift of wisdom for mankind. Sounds far fetched, but it isn’t. I believe that all of us have an opportunity to write a book for the galactic library.

If you believe in reincarnation, then you could one day be reading your book and very glad that you wrote it.

Realising your book

Back in the Soul Place and you are waiting to catch the tube to Earth, you need to find a way so that your soul group that you belong to, can instantly recognize you. You program in your personal brand and your inspirational message.

One last look to make sure you have your life purpose, the journey mapped out – the meaning of your life, your personal brand and inspirational message – your soul group identity so your mates can find you and its off for the adventure of a life time. Sunglasses, sun cream and a good book, you are off!

Now that you know that the book you have to write is already inside of you, what’s stopping you from writing it?

Despite the silliness of this blog, there is a serious message. We don’t really know what came before or what comes after, all we know is now. I know from the countless people that I meet, that they all have fantastic books inside of them. My hope is that you too realise that you do and that you put pen to paper.

See you back at the Soul Place, the party’s at mine, bring your stories and hold onto your bellies, I think we may we laughing a lot!

Halloween, fairy dust and your book

Halloween is a time say goodbye to summer, prepare for winter and to remember dead, saints and other martyrs. It (possibly) has Pagan roots and has connections with Samhain, one of the most celebrated Pagan festivals. According to some, Samhain and Halloween are the same, simply dressed up (sic) in different ways. Samhain is a great time to think of kicking out the old and bringing in the new.

On the eve of the New Year (for witches), consider what spells you could cast, that would help you to focus your energies on creating the book of your life. Or at the very least the essential skills and inspirational message that you want to impart to your followers.

Ask the fairies to bring some mischief into your life, stir your intentions and help you to connect to the deepest parts of you. When you go to sleep on All Hallows Eve, sprinkle some fairy dust, ask for help and in the morning be ready with your pen.

New Year new habits

Knowing that it’s a great time for you to start a different kind of New Years resolution, what might you do to kick start your book project?

This is a wonderful time to look to the future and consider how, what you know could be used to help others to kick-start their lives. By sharing your knowledge or life story, it lives on – which is part of what All Hallows day is all about – remembering the dead. That’s not to say that your work is dead, simply to say that unless you get it out of your head and share it, it might as well be. And if you do get it out, it can be remembered and used long after you have popped back to the soul place. Your piece of immortality.

Create writing rituals

Now that you have decided, New Year, new book, it’s time to think how will you get it written. For me, I like rituals. Processes that make my writing life easier. Rituals from getting my environment right, how I write, how I edit, how I might publish and all of the things in between that are designed to make my writing life simpler and stress free.

Take and use this opportunity

Personally I never make New Year (Jan 1st) resolutions, it feels commercialised and a waste of time. Because I know that ‘everyone’ is setting goals, I want to rebel and say sod it. What better way then, to use this opportunity to celebrate the cycle of death (the old you who can’t be bothered) and rebirth (the new you that feels motivated). This is a wonderful time to connect with you and honour what you have to offer the world through your words.

What will you write?

When I ended my marriage earlier this year, I made a promise to myself that I would, once my writers retreat was completed write my first novel. This marks a time for me to wrap up the old and prepare for the new in my life. I have in actual fact been sorting stuff out for the past few months, but now I feel a sense of excitement, knowing that I can have fun, write and pave a new way forward.

Who is with me? I start writing on Nov 9th.

Looking for inspiration? Go dancing naked in the rain

Writers rambles – getting outside to inspire your words

When you are feeling out of words and in need of some writing inspiration, get off your butt and get outside. There is nothing quite like it.

So many people stay stuffed up in air conditioned offices or homes, where you are forcing your body to breath in stale air. Just imagine that stale air cascading around your system creating stale thoughts. No wonder your writing feels stuck and stuffy.

Fresh air, the stuff that is outside and away from the roads, clears your mind and increases your energy levels. After you have been out and sucked in a huge lungful of natures juice, your concentration will zoom and you will come back to your writing raring to go.

Another great benefit of fresh are is that it alters the serotonin levels in your brain, helping you to feel happier. With all that serotonin rushing around you just might feel tempted to dance naked in the rain, to lighten your mood even more. Imagine feeling refreshed, relaxed and happy when you get back to putting pen to paper.

Caution: If you do decide to follow my advice and dance naked, please choose your dancing destination wisely.

 

 

Never judge a book by it’s cover

It never ceases to amaze me how we make snap decisions about other people based on their clothes, looks and accents, among other things. But we do. Based on stereotyping, our experiences and how we have coded these into our non-conscious minds, we leap to an opinion in less time than it takes to snap our fingers.

I can remember years ago, wearing my favourite leopard print dress (from Paradise Garage a punk clothes shop in Cardiff) on a special night out. Feeling rather lovely and unusually wearing high heels, I was approached by a scruffy man, who looked me up and down and said ‘nice dress, shame about the face’.

This was devastating for my young 20 something ears. The dress had cost me £20 (I still have the receipt, no I don’t know why!) which was expensive (for me) back then. Because that evening was important, I made an investment in looking the best that I could for my night out.

Had he bothered to get to know me and what I was like on the inside, maybe he wouldn’t have been so rude. Who knows, perhaps he was simply a rude git who gets off on saying nasty things to make himself look good.

When it comes to book covers, we also make snap decisions about whether to buy the book or not. I know I do. When I see a cover that looks home made and you can usually tell that they are. My instinct is to not want to read the book. This could mean, of course, that I miss reading what could potentially be a great book.

The reason publishers spend so much time and thought on the cover is because it is a highly competitive business and they want their book to sell.

That’s what fantastic covers do – they help sell books.

With the increase in self-publishing, more and more people are writing and publishing books. Knowing that they have put their heart and soul into their creations, on one hand pleases me immensely, because writing a book is not easy. Then on the other hand I feel disappointed when they haven’t put much thought into the outside.

For the self-published author a cover need not cost much. I for example use a wonderful artist on Fiverr. My experience of Fiverr hasn’t always been great, but now I have found her and I love her style, I am staying. At approx $55 per cover it wont break the bank and it gives me a consistent look and feel.

Despite having graphics packages and being capable of a passable design, I know that I am not a designer, I am a writer. It is my belief that things like cover design, like proof reading must be carried out by a professional.

What about you? Think for a moment why and how you buy books. I typically buy something that :-

  • Has been recommended
  • Is by a favourite author
  • Catches my eye, because the cover is well designed

How to get a great cover design, that wont break your bank account

  1. Gather together book covers that you like and analyse them. Also look at covers you don’t like and consider what you do not like. Remember that the covers that you like, have very probably been professionally designed. So guess what – you are already tapping into amazing creativity.

  2. Make a list of what you like and ask what do these elements convey. Also consider what the whole cover conveys. You might not have any idea what you want your cover to look like right now, but you may with the help of these covers be able to articulate what you want yours to convey.

  3. Do the 30 to 8 exercise. Put 30 words about your book onto post it notes, then whittle them down to 8 which portray the essence of your book.

  4. Using your 8 words write up 2-3 sentences to describe your book.

Write up your cover specification and include things like:-

  • What is your book about
  • Who is your ideal reader
  • What do you want your reader to feel as they it
  • The blurb – that’s the stuff on the back
  • Include the images you like and state why you like them
  • What about colours – what colours would you like to use
  • Be bold and tell your designer what it must include and that it must, must stand out
  • Include book covers you want them to model if possible

Then:-

  • Ask for recommendations
  • Find out who designed your favourite cover and get a quote,
  • Head over to Fiverr or Elance and look until you find someones work you admire
  • Try 99designs and get a whole bunch of designers to take part in a design competition

Above all do not (unless you are a designer) design your own cover.

Zen and the journey to becoming a published author

“The road winds on and on—we stop for rests and lunch, exchange small talk, and settle down to the long ride. The beginning fatigue of afternoon balances the excitement of the first day and we move steadily, not fast, not slow.” Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

Writing a book can be a long ride. Gurus may tell you that you can write a book in a weekend, 30 or even 90 days. Yes you can, if that is all you do. However…

‘We stop for rests’

Better books in my (very humble, of course) opinion are those where the writer rests and reflects. Where they review and consider on what they have written. In reflection and being a witness to your work comes clarity.

‘The beginning fatigue of afternoon balances the excitement of the first day and we move steadily, not fast, not slow’

At the beginning of the journey with your book, it is exciting and you will experience fatigue, and if you are anything like me ‘dead head’. Writing a book is a science, an art and a process and it needs to be balanced. When I work with my clients it is at a steady pace and in a way that suits their learning style. Even those that want to put their foot on the pedal and get their knee down, I find a way to make it happen, so that all of our tanks do not run dry. This gets great results. Not fast and not slow. Just right.

How can you embrace Zen?

“Zen” is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character “chan,” which is in turn the Chinese translation from the Indian Sanskrit term “dhyana,” which means meditation.

Zen means meditation. Meditation where one just sits with no goals or expectations. It is about tuning into you and facing who you are and allowing what you know and are to ‘just be’. For some meditation does not come naturally, so how else can you reflect?

  1. Walk – the fresh air will invigorate you, whilst enabling clarity of thought to come. I walk every day and these are amongst some of my deepest thoughtful moments
  2. Take a sumptuous bath, light some candles, dim the lights and just lay there staring into the flickering flame
  3. Sit and look at your favourite landscape. Look at the sea or the trees and just notice what you notice
  4. Put your writing away for at least seven days and just let it be. When you come back you can read it with new eyes. Read  somewhere you feel comfortable and there is no pressure to do anything other than read (in my case no dogs licking my keyboard…. thank you Marley, I will feed you in just a tick)
  5. Sleep on your work. Literally put it under your pillow and sleep on it

In the connectedness of mind, body and spirit, your journey to becoming  a published author will be zentastic and most zenjoyable.

References http://www.taoism.net/articles/what_zen.htm

First draft rules

I would advise any beginning writer to write the first drafts as if no one else will ever read them – without a thought about publication – and only in the last draft to consider how the work will look from the outside.  Anne Tyler

 What are the rules for first drafts?

“Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilisation is decadent and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.” (Orwell 1946)

George very kindly goes on to tell us that there are six rules to adhere to:-

  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

I would rather start a project or help a client start a project than work through my editing schedule.  I love beginnings and successful conclusions.  Like Cinderella, I want the glass slipper to fit and marry the prince without having to go through life first with the ugly sisters.  Despite wanting the happy ending, I need, like you, a sprinkling of magic discipline fairy dust. Rules for getting from first draft to publication is a game you have to play with yourself.  A game which makes it easier to get to ‘the end’.

How to get to first draft

Forget introductions, one of the reasons we get stuck writing is that we are trying to work out what our introduction should say.  After you have planned your outline, get on with writing the content.

In planning your book, you will have, I hope, created an outline plan, which gives you a base line to work to and a structure to write to.  Get it out and jog your memory.  If you get to a section that you can’t write, put some keywords in another colour in, so that you can see where your gaps are and come back to them later.  Keep a log of things that you have to come back to.

Chapter outline plan reminder:-

  1. What are the questions your reader wants you to answer?
  2. What are your key messages? What can I tell my reader that will help to answer their questions?’
  3. What is your call to action? What do you want your reader to do as a result of reading this chapter?

Getting to first draft rules

  • Find the right environment to write.
  • Commit to getting your first draft done by a certain date.
  • Find someone to hold you accountable.
  • Get your resources and support systems in place before you start.
  • Adapt your thinking and adopt a writer’s mind-set.
  • Turn off the critical voices, what do they know about first drafts anyway?
  • Shoot your inner perfectionist in the head, constant worrying about your first draft will get you nowhere.
  • Your first draft is just that, a foundation, giving you the chance in later drafts to really turn it into something great.
  • Think big picture; forget getting bogged down in too much detail. For all you detail people come back to the question you are answering, ask yourself do I have ‘scope creep? For you big picture people remember at some point you will have to add detail.
  • Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or punctuation at all at this stage, just get your ideas out.
  • Formatting doesn’t matter, unless you need a visual structure to ‘see’ where you are going, in which case use a simple layout.  Interior design comes later.
  • Flow doesn’t always come, so write when you can or move onto an area that does flow.  Writing doesn’t have to be linear.
  • If you are stuck, change your focus and write a blog that could be used in your book.
  • Keep a journal to record your ideas and reflections.
  • Writing is hard work, when the going gets tough, remember your commitment and just get on with it.
  • First drafts suck, who cares!

When we get to the end of our first draft, elation is usually followed by embarrassment as you read through what you have written.  Get over it and congratulate yourself on coming this far.

How do I build rapport with my reader?

Rapport is the unconscious “connection” you establish with another person, which we also describe as being “on the same wavelength”.  When  writing a book, we don’t have the luxury of using our body language to communicate, so we have to create that connection through our words.  Editing gives us the opportunity to turn words into our voice (personality).

Definition of rapport

Noun – a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.

Origin

mid 17th century: French, from rapporter ‘bring back’.

Evaluating your style

Think carefully about your readers before you begin.

  • Who are you writing for?
  • Are you writing for people in a particular field, such as psychology, health, engineering, sales and marketing?
  • You cannot assume the reader has knowledge of the terminology and concepts you will use.
  • Do you need to provide background material and additional references?  What will these be?
  • What expectations does your reader have?
  • What kind of thinking / learning style might they have.  E.g., an accountant will think differently to an artist (typically).  You may be highly visual, but what about your reader?
  • They may be experts, but what is their reading level – think about the words you use or how you might explain something.
  • How fussy will they be over precise punctuation and grammar?
  • Are your case study characters believable?
  • Do you have an ‘argumentative’ readership, will they agree or disagree with your point of view?  What proof can you offer?
  • What about the tone you are setting?

How to work out if you have rapport

Write a short piece about something which you know really well

  • Create a list of criteria against which you will use to evaluate your writing (think style, voice, tone, type of words, intended reader, etc.)
  • Give your work to a trusted friend and ask them how engaged they felt
  • Trust that their feedback will help you to write a better book
  • What are the things you must watch out for in your writing?
  • How can you be more flexible?

Things to consider

  1. Start each chapter in a way that really sets out to make a first impression. Think of those 7 seconds someone takes to form an image of you
  2. Write to just one reader – the one reader that you must engage with
  3. Make sure your writing reflects your values and the way in which you want your brand and book to be perceived
  4. It’s all about them, not you. What do you think they want to read about that will help them (insert whatever your book is intended to do)
  5. Become a storyteller, people connect emotionally to stories

There is a lot more to explore in rapport, this is just a taster to get you thinking about how you will make sure you engage with your reader. Look out for more on rapport.

Chapter titles – sensible or silly?

There are two schools of thought about chapter titles, one they can be whatever you want and as whacky as you like or they convey what the chapter is about using relevant keywords. With the advent of digital books, keywords are important for your readers to navigate their way to content.

Developing chapter titles starts your creative juices flowing and engages your brain to start making connections between chapters and considering how they flow into each other.  They can be serious or funny, and where possible contain action words like changing, controlling, improving, motivating, achieving.  The key is on your initial attempt, to just write the first thing that comes into your head, once you have done some more planning and writing, come back and re craft them.

Imagine that we are writing a book on the dieting industry. Your working title might be:

Six weeks to a new you. – What the dieting industry doesn’t tell you. (sub title)

Chapter one of your book on dieting could be a review of the dieting industry and might be called:-

The dieting industry, a review.

Or it could be called:-

My affair with the diet, learn how my mistakes could save your life.

The second title has much more impact and promise of what’s to come.  The key thing is get something written and remember perfection kills creativity.

Please share your views on chapter titles – sensible or silly?

3 types of chapter outlines to make writing easier

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” A. A. Milne

Good books don’t just happen, they are designed or should I say outlined?  Outlining chapters give us a clear structure, a pathway from one chapter to the next, gives us direction, helps us to connect each chapter to the overall theme and helps us to answer questions that our reader may have and most importantly makes your book easier and faster to write.

Chapter Outlines

To determine how you will create an outline my first question is what kind of content are you delivering?  Are you taking a step by step approach, is it a list of something, interviews, Q&A’s, or a life story?

Step by step

The step by step or process outline method is commonly used in how-to and self-help books. E.g.

  • Six weeks to a new you.
  • 10 steps to reach your full potential.
  • Five unknown secrets to weight loss success.
  • Five steps from understanding yourself to getting your book self published.

Each chapter then is one of the steps and within each chapter, there will be a logical flow.

Lists

The list approach usually looks something like this, e.g.

  • 101 ways to cook a chicken.
  • 99 hot marketing tips for therapists.
  • You would simply list out your tips or ways in a sequence that appears logical to you, or you might group similar tips together.
  • Question and answers / interviews

If your book was based on a series of question and answers or interviews then consider presenting these logically as case studies.  In combination with your case studies you may have theories, action plans videos and exercises.

Life stories

When the book is based on part of your life, the key is to consider what each of your chapters is trying to convey.  It may be a sequential set of events, or each chapter might be about a different persons perspective or events in different places or times.  The options are endless.