Discover how to write your book with confidence.

What You Must Know as You Write Your Book

Unexpected Beauty


On a recent walk, a rock caught my eye, and I dug it out of the red earth and brought it home with me.

At first, the rock reminded me of my friend Nancy, who celebrates the “beauty of the small” in a series of photographs.

But then this little gem made me think of you, the author-in-the-making. It made me wonder whether or not you see the beauty in your own story.

How to Write with Confidence

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing time-travel science fiction, an indulgent dessert cookbook, your memoir, or a bodice-ripping romance novel. Staying alert for the beauty in your story, your experience, or your knowledge will help you write with more confidence.

This can be harder than it sounds.

We’re so trained to believe that the expert, the person with something of value to share, is someone other than us. After all, you haven’t been invited to sit across from Oprah yet, and your friend has similar knowledge, and everyone knows how to do what you can do, right? Not really.

It’s just that your story can be so familiar to you that you take it for granted. Your body of knowledge may seem commonplace, simply because it’s so much a part of who you are.

If you can’t see the beauty in your book yet, keep writing anyway.

Give yourself to the material. Imagine your reader opening your book. What will she discover? How will he be changed? What will they connect with, remember, and want to share?

You may reach the end of your first draft and be well into revisions before you find the beauty of your book. It’s not necessary that you ever find it–though I hope you do. Just knowing that it’s there, somewhere in the words on the page, will help you commit to the work.

The beauty is there. Write your way to it.

Go write something!

The only way to change the world is to share your gifts. (1)

Are You Cheating Your (Future) Readers?

The baristas chatted in the background and the milk steamer hissed its promise of a latte or cappuccino, lending some warmth to the cold rainy day. My accountability partner sat across the table from me and read her latest blog post aloud. She’d written about the value of asking for help, and she knew what she was talking about.

As always, she’d put a lot of her own experience into the post, and the conclusion she’d reached from looking back at her own mistakes was spot on.

“That’s a great topic for a book,” I told her. “In fact, it could be a series of books.” I spent a few minutes explaining what I meant and encouraging her to explore the idea.

I’m not sure if she heard, but she does want to become an author. While she may already have a subject for her first book, there’s nothing stopping her from writing as many books as she wants.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she’ll eventually decide to run with this topic though. She’s absolutely an expert in this area, and it would serve her coaching business well to have a book that makes plain that she’s the authority.

Are You Cheating Your Future Readers?

If she never gets around to writing her book, whatever the topic may be, my friend will miss out on all the opportunities becoming an author could open up for her. But just as importantly, the people waiting for a book that helps them get beyond pride, fear, embarrassment, or isolation, or simply lets them know they’re not alone in their struggle, will be robbed of her expertise.

If you’re old enough to read, then you have knowledge you can and should share.

If you’ve thought about writing a book, then consider that desire a gift and a calling.

You’ve done or experienced things that other people can learn from, and you owe it to them to share it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. If you never finish your book, you’re cheating the people whose lives would be changed by reading it.

Yes, books do change lives.

Does Anyone Really Care about Your Book?

The short answer is no. No one cares about your book.

The real answer is no. No one cares about your book yet.

And it will be a shame if no one gets the chance to care.

It will be a shame if no one ever gets the benefit of your story.

It will be a shame if no one ever gets to learn from your experience.

It will be a shame if that reader who needs exactly what you have to offer never gets the chance to meet you on the pages of your book.

Commit to Writing Your Book

Start today.

Draft your outline. Write a page or two. Or open your calendar and schedule your writing sessions for this month.

Don’t let fear, procrastination, embarrassment, worries about whether or not anyone will buy your book, or any other obstacle stand in your way.

Commit to finishing your book.

And ask for help if you need it.

Go write something!




If Writing Your Story Makes Somebody Look Bad

ShhhMuch to my mother’s disappointment, I’m not an attorney, and nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice. 

What do you do when you feel called to tell your life’s story by writing a book, but there’s a good chance you’ll hurt or offend people who were involved in your life in some way?

Easy answer: Write your truth first. You don’t have to show it to anyone, so no self-censoring. Just finish the book, and then you can decide how to proceed. At that point, you have a few options:

1) Go ahead and tell your truth. If you’re naming names or writing in a way that people are easily identifiable (how many mothers do you have?), I highly recommend getting their sign-off, and whether you do or not, you need to get the advice of a qualified attorney.

2) Changes names, places, and other identifying characteristics, so no one could possibly identify who you’re talking about. For example,  the behavior of a sister might be attributed to a made-up school friend. A simple disclaimer that tells readers you’ve made those changes will keep you safe from claims that you made it all up. (Remember James Frey?)

3) Ask people you care about to sign off on whatever part of the book involves them. Understand that some people will say no, and that’s their right. But others will surprise you by saying yes.

4) Fictionalize the story. Write it as it happened, and then go back and change the names of people and places and alter elements of the story, so it reads as a novel. You could also decide from the start that you’ll do it as fiction, and write accordingly.

NOTE: Obviously, you want to avoid any hint of libel. You knowingly put lies or half-truths about real people in writing, you’re asking to get sued, and you deserve what you get. Always have an attorney review your completed manuscript if there’s any chance you could be stumbling into lawsuit territory. Here’s an article that addresses the legal consequences in reference to fiction, much of which applies to nonfiction.

Don’t let fear stop you from writing the book only you can write. There’s always a way.

Go write something!


How Long Should It Take You to Write Your Book?

Last week I met with a  busy entrepreneur who’s been talking about writing her book for some time. The meeting started off well (especially since she offered to treat me to lunch).

After a little time spent lifting fork to mouth and talking about our pending business ventures, I asked her when she planned to finally write her book. She explained that she didn’t really have time to “figure it all out.”

“We could have another lunch date, and you’d have your book outlined and planned by the end of our meal,” I told her.

“Well,” she said, “it looks like I’ll be buying you lunch again.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. Like most people, I’m happy to enjoy a free meal. But I was sort of surprised by how excited she was by the prospect of having help as she writes her book. She’s a brilliant, business-savvy woman. Does she not already know that she’s perfectly capable of writing anything she wants?

Most of the people who come to me for help writing a book are super-smart and accomplished in their fields. But I sometimes forget that even the brightest folks can feel overwhelmed by the idea of writing page after page to finish a book. It’s easy for me to forget that writing a book only starts to look doable after you know how to do it.

By the end of lunch, the lovely entrepreneur and I agreed that I’d coach her through the writing process. She has a lot to offer, and not everyone can afford her professional services. Her book will reach people who can’t or aren’t yet ready to invest in her high-end products and services.

But how long will it take her–or you–to get a book written?

The truth is that it’s up to you. But if you’re writing a personal story or a how-to book based largely on your own experience and expertise, you can have a finished first draft in about 90 days. A more leisurely, but still committed pace will have you done in 6 months.

What does it take to finish your book in 90 days?

  • a commitment to write regularly (preferably daily)
  • a specific plan for your book (otherwise known as an outline)
  • some knowledge of basic writing skills (Can you write a coherent sentence?)

That’s all, folks.

If you don’t make time to write regularly, you’ll probably never finish your book.

If you don’t have an outline, you’ll wander from topic to topic, take months to finish, and likely end up with a muddled mess of a manuscript. A writing coach or developmental editor can help you lay out the structure of your book.

If you can write coherent sentences with some sensible connection between them, a good editor or writing coach can help you with the rest of the mechanics. (And no, you don’t need to be great at spelling. Thank goodness for “spell check” and proofreaders.)

I’m looking forward to helping that entrepreneur get her book written and in the hands of readers. Even more, I’m looking forward to seeing her relief when she realizes how manageable the whole process is after we’ve broken it down into baby steps. Her second book will come even more easily.

Go write something!





5 Easy Ways to (Re)write Better

You type the final words of your manuscript, click save, and sit back with a sense of pride and relief. You’ve finished writing. Woo hoo!

But don’t get too comfortable, kid. After a few days (or weeks) away from the work, it’s time to rewrite. (I love this phase—love, love, love.) The choices you make here separate the amateurs from the professionals.

What to do? What to do? What to do?

 Put these tips into practice when you rewrite.

1) Minimize use of adverbs. Adverbs have their place, but you can cut most of them by choosing stronger verbs. Saying the character “stomped across the room” creates a more vivid image than saying she “walked angrily across the room.” Don’t wuss out here. Do the work and elevate your writing above what you did in middle school English class.

2) Replace forms of “to be” with active verbs. Of course, you’ll sometimes use is, are, and were, but replace them with active verbs when you can.

Our chocolate cake is loved by customers.
Customers love our chocolate cake.

He is a marathon runner.
He runs marathons.

Lame examples? Maybe, but you get the point. Rather than simply describing things, the active options tell a story.

3) Use “said” in place of fancier attributions. Sometimes writers use words and phrases like “replied grumblingly” or “whined” in an effort to illustrate the speaker’s emotions. It’s a shortcut that fails to pay off. Instead, stick with “said” most of the time and show the speaker’s emotions and tone through his actions and dialogue.

4) Watch out for verbal tics. When I edit a manuscript, I typically spot these overused words or phrases in the first few pages. Adverbs such as literally, simply, just, quite, actually, really, and very are among the most overused words, but some writers have more unique phrases they can’t seem to get enough of in their prose. The best way to find out what yours are? Ask someone you trust to read a passage and mark the words or phrases that you’ve repeated with obnoxious frequency.  Keep your writing fresh by eliminating those verbal tics.

5) Take ownership of your ideas. Please don’t rely on phrases such as “I think,” “I believe,” or “I know.” You’re the author, dude. The reader realizes the thoughts or ideas belong to you. (Unless you think your reader is stupid, which presents a different problem.) The extra wording not only acts as a verbal speed bump, it sows a seed of doubt about your knowledge. Which sounds more authoritative to you?

I believe prices will rise in 2014.
Prices will rise in 2014.

 I think she handles the office of president with more grace and competence than her predecessors.
She handles the office of president with more grace and competence than her predecessors.

 Perhaps the rare genius exists who doesn’t have to rewrite her work. Brava for her! For the rest of us mortals, the sharpening and polishing we do in the rewriting process raises the work to the ranks of the professionals. It’s worth the time and effort.

Go write something!

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