How to Write a Book

How to Write a Book

Lisa O'Neill

Lisa O'Neill

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Spending time deciding and designing the outcome is never wasted time.


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Following from my last blog on why you should write a book, I wanted to write some tips on how to write a book.

The most important first step is to know what you are writing. What’s the point? I have seen so many people who ‘just want a book’. Yes it’s amazing to be able to say that you have written a book but if it’s not useful and does not do a good job of selling you as an expert then what is the point?

Part of knowing what you are writing is getting really clear on who you are writing for and what do you want them to know.

Some of the worst books I have seen are not written for anyone. They are a brain dump of ‘here is everything I know so far – I hope you like it!’. A book that positions you as an expert has to add value to the reader.

While knowing who you are writing for is the best first step, knowing how you write is definitely the second!

Are you a small and often writer or a long and hard kind of person? Some people like to write often – they make it part of their daily routine. Writing a book in small and regular chunks. This is a very sustainable way to write meaning that you can think, sell, and deliver each week – keeping income and delivery commitments smooth. Others like to remove themselves from life and create the space for writing as a project. Going away to fully immerse themselves in writing. Neither is wrong but it is worth thinking about your preferences and style of writing.

I think that the only mode that is compulsory for thought leaders is authoring! You can choose which individual or blended delivery methods you enjoy but authoring is everything. Authoring is about getting yourself out into the world. Books, blogs, podcasts, papers – create the things that you want the world to know. Writing books is a huge part of getting known for knowing something. Based on that, I think having a daily writing habit is essential. It might take some time. Consistency of habit will get you good, authoring consistently will get you known!

With the who and the how out of the way, the next important part is to create a structure. When I am writing a book, I like to think of it as a series of containers that I fill. I decide what the containers are that I think will give the reader the information that they need. What I need to give them to achieve the result that the book promises. Not all books come with a promise but if you consider the outcome you want the reader to have, it’s well worth going back to check you have achieved this.

Name each chapter – even if they are just working titles. Start by shuffling your pink sheets into piles that suit each chapter. I like to treat each chapter as a small book. Start at the beginning and write it to the end. You then have 6 – 10 blocks of work that will make up your book.

As with any project – making sure you have the right help and support is a good idea. There are loads of people who can help you write a book. Designers, graphic artists, and editors. There are editors who proofread and editors that work in partnership with you to structure and create the book you want to write. You can get as little or as much help as you like. Know your gaps and fill them with the right people.

You can self-publish or work with a publisher. You can have a simple book or something elaborately designed. Start with the end in mind!

Spending time deciding and designing the outcome is never wasted time.

Lisa O’Neill

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