5 Tips to Help You Write a Book, Too

Many people dream about writing books. I did for the first 34 years of my life. Seven years later, I just sent the draft of my fifth book to my editors last week. Thanks to independent publishing, writing a book is something anyone can do.

The trick is to demystify the aura of writing a book (featured books image by Moyann Brenn), and just do it. Publishing a book is similar to any other significant undertaking — such as learning a new language or hobby, training for a marathon, or surviving your first year in business.

Let me explain. The first time you finish writing a book, it’s a huge deal. You can’t believe that you actually did it, and you go and paint the town red.

After the fifth book, it’s less of a moment. I shut down my computer, and let myself read a little more of Plague Year, an awesome post-apocalyptic nanotech thriller. Then I went to bed a little earlier than normal. Woohoo!

Why the lack of emotion about completing the War to Persevere, a book I like better than my last two, Exodus and Marketing in the Round? A book drains you like any other major effort. So while this may be my last book (I doubt it, but you never know), one thing is certain: Rest is a great reward for me (A trip to Hawaii wouldn’t suck, either).

Now I see writing and publishing a book as an achievement, but one like other major undertakings in my life. With that mindset, here are five tips to get you started:

1) See Your Book

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One mark of successful novel today is a movie adaptation. When I consider a plot, I like to consider it as a movie.

A screenplay’s wordcount represents a fraction of a contemporary novel. And that’s much better than it used to be. Today’s novel is not yesterday’s, meaning that modern novels are shorter, more direct, less esoteric and more entertaining than your classic piece of literature.

Still it helps to think about how the plot would work on the big screen. While a hypothetical movie adaptation shouldn’t dictate character development, it does help me to eliminate unnecessary content that I really don’t need.

If you are writing a business book, a classic overarching theme/thesis and supporting chapters works well in this case. Theming a book with an overaching arc makes a huge difference froma readbility standpoint.

Hobiton image by Alison Thomas.

2) Peer Support

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Most people view writing as a solitary activity, but it doesn’t have to be. To help me get into the writing groove last autumn, I participated in NaNoWriMo and the Google+ Writer’s Group to help me work through kinks and barriers. It helped to discuss the mechanics of writing with peers at times. Though I didn’t complete the book for another eight months, peer support helped me realize my situation was far from unique.

One caveat here: Be careful sharing plot details and book concepts. I have been burned in the past by other authors.

3) Discipline

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If you commit to doing something, then it can happen. Every day activity makes a project like a book (or getting a training certification or…) become a reality. I maintain momentum by staying in motion. Discipline yourself and write each day or at least most days. One rest day per week is OK, but anymore than that causes my writing process to lose momentum, and forces me to write as opposed to it being a natural process.

With War, I stopped writing at the end of January because of my grandmother’s death and SxSW. I didn’t get back on the writing wagon until June. Life happens and I don’t regret that, but I must acknowledge that decision to focus on other activities caused the book to fall to the wayside.

4) Creative Mojo

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Part of writing is maintaining creativity. Do whatever is necessary to feel free, and keep the words flowing. Here are 15 methods I use frequently. Or if I am still blocked, I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I find her exercises to be extremely useful.

5) Put the Book to Bed

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These days I draft a book, then proof it, and move on. I put it to bed. I will never be 100% satisfied with a book, and there will Always be opportunities for improvements. Believe me, I know. I just read ExodusI, and want to rewrite it. Again. And I rewrote that damn thing several times over 20 years.

If you want to publish, then you have to let go. You are too close to the book. Finishing is important!

I personally use developmental editors to coach me. Get objective readers to help you shape your novel or business book, take their advice, make the changes, then press go. Lessons learned can be applied to the next book.

Those are my five tips for aspiring writers. What would you add?

Social Scoring and Peer Influence

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In today’s online world social scoring systems like the new Klout matter, unfortunately. For example, some jobs are tied to scores now.

Scoring systems encourage people to build wide networks to foster reach and create the perception of influence.

The highest scoring “influencers” like to think they deliver widespread impact with their followings. Every single book I’ve read by a blogger on influence claims this.

In actuality, that influence lies closer to home.

When real researchers parse influence we get a different story than the blogger myth propagated by social scoring. Instead, we see that true influence comes from those who are closest to us in our on and offline social networks, our peers.

As the old adage goes, “You are who you hang out with.”

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Elmo Delivers 4 Peer-to-Peer Lessons

My daughter Soleil loves Elmo madly. As much as the little red monster can annoy, I wanted to support my little girl in her crush. So I intentionally identified in with the online Sesame Street videos. While there is a golden nugget in every episode for kids, I saw a pattern of lessons about adult peer-to-peer relationships.

Please excuse my goofy cheesy Da-Da post (as Soleil calls me), but here are four things I learned from Elmo:
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Why You Want the Link Love

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Image by Aunt Owwee

Recent news from Google has increased the value of good, old fashioned blog links. The dominant search engine has declared war on content farms, effectively wiping out an estimated 11.8% of front page results, primarily those that use black hat SEO tactics such as copying others content. Now more than ever, inbound links are the lifeblood of your content marketing effort.

Links are the currency of the social web, driving word of mouth, third party credibility and earned search engine optimization. The hallmark of the social media revolution — and now the online networked economy — is the referral to someone else’s content. When someone gives your site a positive link, it’s an endorsement of the content. Peer-to-peer recommendations are the foundation of word of mouth credibility. We tend to trust people like us.

While peer trust has declined recently as more people have grown accustomed to social’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s still a critical component of developing earned media impressions and trust. Fostering referrals from other bloggers and content producers through strong editorial strategies and outbound links is the heart of word of mouth development.

Beyond word of mouth value, an editorial recommendation via a link helps increase page rank, a critical component of search algorithms, forming the t backbone of search. You need this for search engine optimization. Without inbound links, Google and other search engines will consider your site irrelevant.

Search engines treat blog links like gold currency because of their frequently updated content. The better ranked the blog, the higher the link quality. Quantity and quality of links drives SEO and blog rankings in a variety of metrics, including indexes like the AdAge Power150, which measures Yahoo! page rank.

And yes, you will receive traffic from inbound links. No, not as much as a real media outlet delivers. This is the long tail of media, but additional traffic is certainly welcome. Who would be foolish enough to complain about more traffic? Consider it gravy on top of the word of mouth and SEO benefits (The Nonprofit Marketing Blog was yesterday’s sixth leading referrer to this blog. Thank you, Katya!) .

So go out, and participate in the generous social web. It’s the best way to earn what you want: Link love.

Do you believe in link love?