When I wrote my first book in 2012, I thought I knew what I was in for: hard work, mental anguish, self-doubt,... and hopefully a finished draft. I was a book editor and coach at the time and thought I understood the book-writing process. I planned to follow the steps I coached my clients through: clarify my idea and audience, outline my book, write the first draft, and engage in the editing process.
But actually writing a book turned out to be totally different than editing a book or coaching an author. By the time my book was published, I had a new perspective about the book-writing process.
Today, having worked for well over a decade in the publishing industry with more than 100 books, six truths continue to resonate with me.
Lesson #1: Writing a book will transform you.
This is perhaps the most meaningful lesson, and one I hope will stick with you when you’re at 20,000 words and feeling too spent to continue. If you fully commit to writing the best book possible, you will change. The transformation may be subtle or profound, but I have yet to meet an author who would argue this point. The hours spent grappling with exactly how to express an idea or share a story—that self-dialogue leads to clarity and growth. It’s powerful.
Lesson #2: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”
This quote by Robert Frost is one of my favourites. And it’s true. Writing—great writing—forces you to access parts of yourself you might typically push aside. I’ve experienced love, joy, pain, loss, and heartbreak on the page. Writing in the truest way means embracing emotion, and not just when writing memoir or fiction. A meaningful business or leadership book requires an emotional connection too.
Lesson #3: Never write a book without a plan.
New authors sometimes believe the writing process involves nothing more than a great idea, a blank page, and lots of coffee. But that’s not how writing works for most of us. Instead, a plan is your greatest tool for writing success: a solid book concept (a clear articulation of your idea, core book message, audience, and key takeaways) and a clear outline (a chapter-by-chapter overview of what you plan to write).
Lesson #4: Productive writers don’t wait for inspiration.
The more I learn about brain science, the more I’m convinced that routine and energy management are the biggest predictors of writing productivity. Running a national magazine and meeting ultra-fast deadlines taught me that I could be predictably productive every day.
Now, I write at the same time daily, managing my energy well by stopping when my creative focus is used up. And I get more done in an hour than I used to get done in several days. And when I need a creative boost, I head to the cliffs near my home in the Algarve for nature’s inspiration!
Lesson #5: Writing a book is no different than any other goal.
I used to deify authorship. The idea of becoming an author was a far-off thing I’d maybe do... someday. If someone gave me a book deal. But even then, I wasn’t certain I could deliver. Now I understand that as with any big goal, getting expert help, breaking the big project into smaller pieces, and calendaring out the writing process help ensure success.
Lesson #6: The sacrifice is absolutely worth it.
I deeply believe in the power of sharing one’s story, ideas, or expertise. I’ve seen clients grow their influence, impact, and income. I’ve also seen them grow internally with greater confidence around their ideas, deeper clarity around their thought leadership, and an immense sense of accomplishment over completing a lifelong goal.
I hope these lessons support your book-writing journey. And when you’ve hit a milestone—whether writing a chapter or publishing your book—drop me a note. I’d love to celebrate with you!
Stacy Ennis is an author, speaker, and the founder of Nonfiction Book School ( www.nonfictionbookschool.com). Her latest book is Growing Influence: A Story of How to Lead with Character, Expertise, and Impact (Greenleaf, 2018), which she coauthored with Ron Price. Get a free book ideation guide at www.stacyennis.com/bookidea.