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In this series on New Years resolutions and how to complete them we address one many people talk about – writing a book.
It’s not uncommon to see a dating profile that states that the person is “going to write a book about her dating experiences.” In fact I was told to do that very thing many times.
Everyone wants to write the “great american novel” and almost everyone seems to have a book in mind they want to write.
If you are one of the people that resolved to write a book, here’s how to make that a reality.
Write one, not many
When I was writing my second fiction, I was also writing two other books. I languished and struggled. Switching back and forth was interesting, but also taxing. I had to jump between different kinds of voices, and remember where i was in the story. i jumped from fiction to non-fiction and back again. When I put myself through my own coaching system, the answer was write one book, just one, and finish it. I was not allowed to write anything (other than jot a note) about anything else I wanted to write until i felt the book was done. this one decision, as simple and obvious as it may be now, is what allowed me to finish my first paperback.
Pick a voice
It’s extremely important to have a consistent voice throughout your book. This voice is really who you are, and if used consistently your readers will be able to tell your writing from other author’s writings. Your voice should be similar to your spoken voice in that your personality is bundled along with it. What it shouldn’t contain are all the off track attributes of a personality – the distractions, the idiosyncrasies – anything that can detract from the message you are trying to convey.
Pick a tone
This may not be something you “pick.” It may be something that just is. The tone is what tells the audience how to feel during the reading. Horror stories are intense, love stories are engaging and serious, non-fiction is direct and informative. Sure, you can mix styles a bit and have a comedy sci-fi, but this must be done with finesse, lest you confuse the audience. And if they become confused they will most likely stop reading.
It’s not a joke, unless that’s all it is
A common mistake for first time authors is to try to make a joke out of everything. I see this so often that their books might as well have “First Time Author” printed on their books on a big giant warning label. Humor is an art, and a science. Like a spice or a drug, using a tiny amount here and there to spice things up or accentuate something can be useful in driving a point home and making something stand out. But, too much and it will ruin everything. There are so many books out there with a promising premise, but then are ruined by this self-aware humor. Tread very very lightly, or not at all. Humility is not the same as humor.
Discussing the concept of humor and how to be hilarious is beyond the scope of this article and podcast.
Do you have a story that needs to be told?
Sure, you may want to write it, but do you need to write it? Everyone has experiences – good and bad. Everyone has at least one surprising interaction, or event that makes a good story, but does it make a good book? As I mentioned above a lot of people say they are “going to write a book about all their crazy dating experiences.” I just smile when I hear that because they never will, and what’s worse is that their experiences really aren’t all that crazy. I tell you this as someone who plunged himself into dating, has a top ten list of most unusual dates, built a dating site from scratch and published two books about how relationships work. And I still don’t think a book on my dating experiences would be all that interesting – or very long.
The point is that if you are writing about true life experiences, consider who would benefit from it? Are you just complaining in long form, or will your experiences – and your triumphs – help someone. I would help a lot more people writing a book about the struggles of being a single male raising two kids full time than talking about some crazy dates I went on.
Fiction – no Mary Sues please
When people first start writing fiction (especially fan fiction) they write a Mary Sue. This means they essentially create a character that is all powerful, has no flaws, everyone loves, and all the attractive people are attracted to. They typically kill them off at the end because they don’t know what to do with them. Again, a deep discussion about the merits of properly written fiction, the hero’s journey, etc. is beyond the scope of this article and podcast.
In summary, if you really want to write a book this year then do the following:
- Pick one and only one book to write and commit to it
- Make sure what you are writing is something you need to write – you’ll quickly know the difference between need and want
- Write every day
- Stop thinking about font, style, layout, etc (unless it is a graphic novel or children’s book)
- Stop thinking about profits
And finally, you may not actually want to write a book. That’s one of the amazing things about the Alchemy For Life life management system I created – if you work with me, you may find the real desire behind writing a book. It would very well be that you just need more creativity in your life, or are trying to compete with someone else, and your passion lies in something completely different. So, all the advice about writing you could possible absorb may not help you because the book is the wrong path, and your real path is just waiting for you!
(see you in part 2?)
Mark Bradford developed a system to achieve goals, manage your energy and understand and strengthen your path – it’s Alchemy for Life.
He writes, coaches and speaks on the subject. For more information, tips and tricks, like Mark Bradford on Facebook, follow Mark Bradford on Twitter.
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Articles are posted regularly on AlchemyFor.Life, and LinkedIn.