For a writer, hope is the open page. But filling enough of them to write a book is a process. Over the years and three books later, many of you have reached out and asked: How do you do it, write a book?
If you want to write a novel, regrets, I can’t help. This blog is about writing a non-fiction book. And it’s my way, but there are many ways.
To be clear, writing a book is about a whole lot more than writing a book. If your purpose is to have the public read it, as opposed to just family and friends, here are other things you also need to do to support it:
- Be on social media, actively
- Build a website and keep it fresh
- Speak to organizations about your book
If you don’t want to do any of those, but are still fueled with passion, take a leap and write it anyway. Your book may make the world less lonely, and that’s enough reason to try.
Here are scaled down, simple guidelines to get you started:
1. Pick a single idea, and with all due respect, don’t let that single idea be YOU.
When I wrote my first book, New Rules of the Game, I included many of my career stories. No problem there. But the book itself was about a concept I called Gamesmanship, a way for a woman to navigate her workplace, especially places with loads of men, and to successfully advance. In my second book, Fully Human, I told more of my personal story, but the single idea was Emotional Fitness, a practice of three steps that helps us to work and live with steadiness and joy.
I have small notepads all over the house and with me when I travel, and as something occurs to me that could bring alive my idea, I scribble it down and throw it in the book file. When the time comes, these scraps of paper feed into #2:
2. Outline the book with general chapter ideas. This is the arc of your book narrative, essentially the story you want to tell. The outline and chapters can change, mine do all the time, but they give you a road map.
3. Interview/include other voices around your idea, who have the experience to validate it.
Who would you like to have in your book? People are flattered to be asked. For New Rules I had just joined C200, a women leaders’ organization, and had met many dynamic, accomplished women I wanted included, so different members were in my first two books along with several men. Record the interviews and use the ones that flow well with your idea.
4. Fill the book with stories–yours, theirs. Make it rich with stories. In my new book over half the content is stories–mine, and twelve others.
5. Be dramatic and be humorous. Entertain. As life happens—at home, in airports, in meetings, or as you read something poignant or humorous you’d like to add, jot it down.
6. Be inspiring. Look for the larger lessons you’re hoping to communicate. Suggest ways for us as a human family to move forward. Nothing can crush the human spirit. Prove that by the end of your book.
Self-publishing has gotten much easier today, and Amazon has a simple process. The New York Times Book Review section is now including self-published books, so we’ve come a long way. My publisher didn’t understand what I was up to with this new book—it wasn’t a traditional leadership book–so I published on Amazon with a very nice group, and I’d be happy to introduce you. Just send me a note. I also have an amazing editor I can connect you with.
When I left HGTV, I never thought I’d begin writing books. I spoke of this new, unexpected second career when I keynoted Kimberly Maki’s Innovation Summit a few months back. If you try you might find what I’ve found–that writing helps us to stay close to our core, and to hold tight to curiosity and wonder, which is where invention lies in each of us.
Please try. If you do, I will be your biggest cheerleader!