For the past year (plus), I’ve been in the process of co-authoring a book. This blog post is focused on what I’ve learned thus far about the actual writing part so far. More details about the book will be sent out in the next few months. I know, that’s mean but you know me 🙂
I’m going to do this reflection in a different format than previous posts. This activity has been unlike anything else I’ve ever done professionally.
- Incredible time with my co-author continues after we are done writing. I love working with people. I especially love working with people that inspire my creativity, encourage me when I’m struggling, and are a joy to interact with. When I say sometimes, our working sessions were the only bright spot in a day…it was huge for me mentally.
- I can help others with the knowledge about what it means to write a book. The process with a publisher, the contents, etc. For example, I should have printed the pages way earlier than I did for editing. I am so much better at seeing things on paper than on the screen. Or, that choosing reviewers to give feedback while energizing you is huge (giving people rough drafts for feedback made me so uncomfortable but so valuable each time that we did many many rounds of reviews). Or, that what you thought you were writing at the beginning dramatically changes – allow for that discovery (I know, welcome to Agile).
- That someone finds the book valuable. I truly hope it helps.
- This was easily the biggest activity that screwed with my insecurities on levels that I fully can’t express. On one hand, I have no stress or fear speaking to people. Ask me to write, and well, there is a reason my blog posts are super short. Should I even be writing? Was this content good? Is the writing horrific? Am I going to make this worse? Name the insecure thought, I had it. Ok, still have it. I have to fight through these thoughts on a regular basis and imagine that they are not going anywhere anytime soon.
- Writing this book made me miss having a team even more. I love what I do. But there are definitely days that I miss being a leader in an organization helping directly teams succeed. This content made me wonder how I could do both in the upcoming years.
- Not too far into this process, I declared that this would be the only book I write. Not surprisingly, I might have been wrong. As hard as this was, it has also been exciting and rewarding already. I’ve been already thinking about what would be next.
- Start with an outline that WILL change. In hindsight, this first outline gave us “what content do we want to share about”. This evolves but it helps you start from content you are energized by, to begin with.
- Start with chapters that you are most excited about. My brain very much wanted to go in order of the book and that simply resulted in a lot of waste. By the time we got to the “good stuff”, we found new ideas and threads that worked better for what we wanted to share. That altered those first chapters.
- If you are co-authoring, do a few test working sessions before deciding to go forward. This is a huge investment and you want to be with the right person. Luckily, I was and our first few test sessions easily highlighted that this would work.
- Don’t worry about grammar, flow, editing early on. Seriously, don’t. I can’t tell you how many times we moved things around with each review. Focus on content topics first.
- Preschedule blocks of time. Sure, scheduling creativity doesn’t work but time can easily fly by. The time blocks that I just couldn’t get my brain to innovate, I would focus on highlighting gaps or writing extremely rough content to be expanded later. I didn’t wordsmith, I would just note thoughts. Then the timeboxes that I had creative energy, I would really dive into the new content sections.
- Speaking of time, it seems like you have plenty of time, even though we managed to hit every deadline. It always felt like a rush at the end. I am grateful that we scheduled big blocks at times for these milestones. Especially cause you need reviews and those take time. Seriously, get lots of reviewers. Fresh eyes are very important.
- Keep why and who you are writing for front and center in your mind. I had to go back to this often to get those insecure thoughts out of my head.
- There are a ton of resources out there for specific writing tips (turn off all other distractions, write so much each day, etc). Read them. I should have done so much earlier in the process.
- I wish I had done more of this…Stop and be appreciative of what you have done thus far. I think I had it in my mind that I’ll celebrate when the book is published. Despite knowing (and even writing about) how important little celebrations are to keeping momentum.
What are your hopes, confessions, tips for writing?