#IAmWritingTheBook

We set out to write a book in one year. Here’s where we’ve got to so far and a few new things to consider. Whether it’s a book that’s already been started or just some scraps of possible storylines; let’s finish it together. Every month we want to get closer to that hardback novel, instruction manual or self-help e-book. Whatever it is you want to write, that someday is now.

IAWTB 01

STEP 1 – YOU NEED A TITLE

So we want to write a book. We’ve had the idea burning passionately inside us for a long time. Not anymore! We’re doing it and we have to start with making a commitment to a working title. It’s only a working title because if you are not going to self-publish there may be many conversations about titles down the line which I won’t bore you with now.

Begin with one sentence that says in what the book is about or what the book will help the reader do. For example:

The book you should read if you are thinking of leaving your job

How to choose the best pair of school shoes

Everything you need to know about relocating to a different country

The story of six men who fell in love with the same woman for different reasons

Once you’ve struggled with getting the idea for your book into one line (and it is a struggle), here’s the hard part. Sum it up in 5 words or less. This is your title. That could be related to the character in the book i.e. The Diary of Anne Frank or Fifty Shades of Grey. It could be a play on words or a well known saying i.e. The War of Art or Get Rich from Tie-Dying. Then try it out. Ask friends or your social networks what the title alone says to them. Take in their feedback and decide whether you want to amend the title or use their suggestions to beef up your summing up sentence. Then put the title and the summing up sentence (sometimes referred to as the strapline or tagline) together and admire your book taking shape.

So for example:

Rewind. Reset. Restart. – The less scary way to change your career.

Juiced! – Robin was always made to feel like a lemon; now he’s getting sour.

12 Avoidable Relocating Mistakes – How not to waste your money and return home after a year.

Here are a few more fun ideas based on film titles. It should help you get your head around how titles and straplines work together.

TIP: Whenever you receive negative feedback, ask how it can be improved. Find out why they said ‘no’ or ‘it isn’t good enough’. Ask what could make it better. It’s only an opinion after all.

STEP 2 – PLAN YOUR BOOK.

02 RoadMap The hardest part of writing a book is not starting it; it’s completing it. This is because somewhere on route, from the first to the last page, we get a little lost. What begins as an exciting burst of creative energy fizzles into a dull fraction of your incomplete work. What happened?

It works like this: If I plan to get to Manchester from London, I don’t simply start driving until I run out of steam. It’s good to have a destination and key milestones on route. I know I’ll need to go via either the M40 or the M1. Then when I get to Birmingham, I consider, do I take the M6 or the M6 Toll road?

With our 13 Point Book Plan, you stand a better chance of reaching those milestones on route to your completed book. You’ll need a pen and pad for this (or computer, however our preference is actually writing it out). Here goes:

The Beginning.

Write the numbers 1 to 13 along the left hand side of a piece of paper. These will be the numbers for thirteen sentences you’re about to create, so give yourself plenty of space.

Now write a sentence about how you want your book to start next to number 1. The characters, location, expertise or knowledge that you want the reader to know in the beginning. If you’re writing a novel about a person on a self-discovery journey, where will they start? What is their current emotional state? If it’s a business manual think about what level of knowledge you expect from your typical reader? If you’re teaching a new method, what should they already know: do they have a degree in Management, have they worked in a business or know nothing at all? Write it as a single sentence, e.g. The reader has never written a business plan or Marcel is about to have his life changed by the mysterious girl on the bus.

The End. How will the book end? What’s the last thing you want to communicate before your reader closes the last page? Imagine it as the spoiler. What is the big revelation or the nugget of wisdom and experience that you want to share in your book? Try to communicate that as one sentence. Write this next to number 13. For example: ‘And they lived together in Barbados for the rest of their lives’ or ‘So now you know everything you need to make vegan burgers’.

Meet Me Halfway. Consider the middle point between the beginning and the end. Halfway through the book, what do you want the reader to know? Write that sentence next to number 6. For example By this stage of the book… we will know the heroine’s secret or we should understand the difference between Dating and Courting or I have introduced my mediation technique. Remember it’s about being halfway through the physical pages of the book, not necessarily of your story. This would be the 50 page mark if your story book is 100 pages long. You don’t need to count pages, just have a sense of what you want to have written about when halfway through.

Half the Halves. Do the same for the points midway between the beginning and the middle (i.e. number 4) and halfway between the middle and the end (i.e. number 10). Again write a ‘By this stage of the book…’ sentence about what you want to be saying a quarter and three-quarters into your masterpiece.

Repeat and Repeat. You will have two empty numbers between each of the major milestones of your book. Think of these as two steps to get from one stage to the other. Write in here two important moments or bits of information which will follow each other to get from the beginning to the quarter mark, then quarter to the halfway mark… and so on. You will find that this is where a lot of your thinking, rethinking, changing, rewriting etc. happens. That’s fine. All your thoughts here are helping you really define your story. When you come to write the book itself, you will find that you’ve already had those random thoughts and are less likely to go off track.

Write The Book. Yes, that’s your 13 Point Book Plan complete. If you’ve put all your energies into getting this part right, you will find the rest of the writing process of writing feels smoother than previous attempts. It also means if at any point you get bored of writing about a particular part of your story, you can easily switch to another point without losing your thread.

The difference now is that you have a destination, a route and a map. When you get lost, you simply look back at your map and get yourself back on track. I hope this has helped you make progress.

TIP: It’s worth spending time honing your map. It might even take a few attempts to feel comfortable with it. Go with it. Even if you have already started writing, stop and work out where you’re going with it. It will be worthwhile in the long run.

STEP 3 – MAKE TIME FOR WRITING

03 time-on-handsSet time aside time to write. Daily is better than weekly. Weekly is better than monthly. Use your 15 minute train ride to type bullet points into your phone or dictate your thoughts from the shower while you get dressed. You will find it so much better if you are trying to catch up with yourself at a later stage. Many people try to do it at the weekend.

I would recommend giving yourself something to work with when you finally sit down to gather your thoughts. The biggest lesson here is doing something is better than doing nothing. One of our #IAmWritingTheBook authors sees his children every other weekend. When they’re not with him, he copies all his mobile phone notes into a document on the Saturday morning. Then on Sunday evening, he gets down to crafting his story so far.

The more routine you can make your writing, the more likely you’ll succeed in completing it. It’s a lot like making time to go to the gym. There’s no point in hoping just one session will give you the perfect, toned body you want. I have time set aside in my diary. My two sessions of one hour each are on Monday and Thursday night. I made myself four playlists of instrumentals: Jazz (currently playing Dorothy Ashby’s ‘Come Live With Me’), Classical Piano, 70s Funky Soundtracks and Weird Ambient Trip Hop. I find it helps me shut out the world and focus on what I’m writing. I did have a Slow Jams playlist too but my mind began to wonder so I deleted it :).

Try not to make writing feel like a chore. Treat is as a reward. A friend who also writes gave me a great tip. Every fortnight, as part of her regular shopping, she buys a bottle of that ‘bubbly’ she likes. Then when her son has gone to bed and she’s got some time to herself, she pours herself a glass and let’s her creative juices flow into the iPad. When the glass is empty, she stops. I’m not recommending writing while drunk but do whatever works for you. The principle is whatever helps you to continue writing is better than not writing at all.

TIP: Put a regular writing appointment in your diary away from where you are most comfortable. Skip the rush hour by writing in a coffee shop before you head home. If you have to get home, don’t write in bed or bedroom unless you have a desk. Make both a time and space where you’re not distract-able.

STEP 4 – THINK ABOUT PICTURES

04 PicturesWhether or not you’re writing a book with has pictures in it, it’s good to start thinking of the imagery that will go with your finished masterpiece. If your book will have illustrations as part of the story, think about the style of pictures you would like. A Google Search for ‘illustrators’ or ‘photographers’ is a great place to start. Pick a few you like and create a folder of them – preferably one you can take around with you. 

Visual references are a great way to stay stimulated as you’ll literally be able to picture what the final book could look like. It’s also helpful to pick a couple of illustration styles which you really don’t like. Just for reference. Once you understand what it is about those pictures you’re not a fan off, it will help shape your story.

If you’re not writing a children’s book or something with a lot of pictures, you might still find it useful to spend a couple of your writing sessions searching for images and fonts that would look good on your book cover. Perhaps a picture of your lead character or a photo the house where some of the story is centred. It could be a particular location (beach, mountain range, dirt road, etc). It could even be a colour scheme – anything that makes the story feel more real for you.

TIP: Put together a collection of pictures rather than just one. Putting faces to the characters (even Hollywood actors).

STEP 5 – GET TOGETHER WITH OTHERS

Now you have a clear idea of what your book is  about – how the story or structure pans out and what kind of imagery you want people to associate with it, you are ready to tell others about it. This works three ways in your favour:

You being excited and talking about your book will make you feel good about actually doing it. It raises an encouraging expectation about getting it done.

Talking to others (out loud rather than in your head) will help you sharpen what goes in the book. They will ask you about characters and possible outcomes which you may not have considered. They will recommend similar authors who write on your subject, too. All great news for you. You’ve got allies. People knowing about the book will help you feel like you’re not doing it alone.

05 The WomenOn Facebook there are many groups for writers; professional and novice. Join a few just to see what they are talking about. Ask questions and hear what they say about your ideas.  One of the things I hear often is ‘What if they steal my idea?’  Good question. Well, yes they could. However they would also need to complete their book before yours and prove that they had the idea before you. But wait?!! You’ve been writing your thoughts down for months. You’ve got the different voice notes on your mobile which prove you’ve been working on it for a while. That’s why getting your title, strapline, story map, etc. is important. You’ve already got the paper trail to protect you. PLUS you have a group full of witnesses that you’ve been talking to about YOUR book before they did. Surely an idea that no-one has heard of is easier to steal then one that everyone is aware of.

As well as writing groups, online and physical ones, have someone who is a confidant or is accountable for you personally that you can talk to. A supportive spouse or lover is good, however you can still find allies if you’re single. A good friend, a member of your family or someone you have a good rapport with. They are essential to get you to the finish line.

TIP: You may prefer to chose someone who doesn’t know you personally. A colleague from work or a mentor from a writing group may be more objective about some of the things you want to write about.

STEP 6 – PLAN BIG EFFORTS

06 Jenn writes by lakeWith the best will in the world, our daily or weekly routines can get us regularly building on our story. However in order to complete it, we do need a big chunk of set-aside time. Some writers suggest even doing this for each chapter.

Plan a weekend free of distraction to get it done. Note: that’s free from distractions rather than free time. This is not free time. It’s dedicated, on-purpose time. Imagine your book is going to make you millions of £££ in sales and other spin-off revenues. This time you are setting aside is an investment in getting those millions. It might be best for you to take yourself off to a bed & breakfast somewhere for a few days with your pen, pad, laptop, typewriter… whatever you need to get the book finished. If money is that much of a barrier, ask a friend or member of your family to stay with them so you’re away from your day to day interruptions. I often visit my sister in Manchester and switch my phone off for the weekend just to get things completed.

This step is about getting it finished. Many books are begun, fewer are completed. The more you give yourself the time and space to do so, the more likely you are to actually getting published.

TIP: Give yourself a realistic deadline. Then book something (hotel, B&B, etc.) and don’t change it. Reward yourself for achieving it too. Tag on a pedicure or lovely meal once you’ve done it.

STEP 7 – SELF-PUBLISH OR GET AN AGENT

You spend months creating your masterpiece and now it’s time to share it with the world. Publishing in the simplest terms means getting your book out of your hands and into other people’s – whether or not they pay for it. Think of it in the same way as a musician releases a CD of their music. It’s the same for writers. You can decide to do it yourself or sign with a record company. With books, you can self-publish or go with a publisher who already puts out other people’s books.

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/Wired There are pros and cons for both, so it’s worth spending time finding out what will work for you. Again, here it is worth investing a little time and money to educate yourself as the implications can be huge – especially if you have and extremely successful book. However this is also essential if your small shipment of books ends up not breaking even because you’re tied up with costs and deductions you weren’t expecting.

A published book can be anything from a downloadable PDF from your website to a limited edition hardback, exclusively available in a leading high street store. Not forgetting the growing popularity of Kindle and other e-books.

As the purpose of this is getting you to write (publishing is your choice), we won’t spend too much tim going into the benefits or limitations of one or other route. Nor will we recommend one over another. You don’t have decide which you want to do yet.

Winsome Duncan is an author who has recently self-published and is running a workshop called ‘How To Self Publish A Book’. It is based on real experience of doing what you may want to do and is a great opportunity to get some of your questions answered. It would also be a chance to connect with other writers in the same place as you – wanting to write and looking to network with others. Remember, meeting other writers is always a good way to keep the spark going.

At the end of the day, we want you to achieve what you have your heart set on. If that’s writing a book, let’s go for it. The choices are yours. The effort is yours. You can do everything above with all your heart or do nothing. Just imagine how you would feel when you hold the first copy of your completed book in your hand. That’s how we want you to feel too.

The Caveat of Maybe

Maybe IG

Somewhere between a definite Yes or No is the caveat of Maybe. Before we debate why or whether it is an unsatisfactory place holder, let’s insert Maybe in a number of everyday responses.

“Shall we have a picnic today?”

Maybe.

“Is buying this iPhone a good idea?”

Maybe.

“Do they own half my business if I sign this contract?”

Maybe

“Will you marry me?”

Maybe can mean ‘it’s possible’ or ‘it depends’. The word itself isn’t the problem. It gives us time and space to explore the other options, implications or actions. So Maybe is handy when we need more time.

However, use it wisely. It can also come across as indecisive or not committed; or more dangerous… fobbing off. You could be saying ‘I’m actually not interested at all. I just want to look like I am’.

Maybe itself is not a bad place to be if you know why you’re there. Do you need additional information? Are you unprepared? Would other things you haven’t taken into account now become urgent? Are there other options you still want to explore?

There is an old reggae song which goes “Let your yeah be yeah…”. Maybes hold you back from doing that. It can make us look shifty as the lyrics go on to explain “Because, I’m on my guard and I’m watching you from head to toe”.

To maybe or not to maybe… that is the question.

DEALING WITH MAYBES

1. Let your No be no. If your Maybe is only holding off inevitable bad news (i.e. you already know it’s a No but you are trying to be ‘nice’)… Don’t. We may not want to rock the boat, but our indecision affects how other people get on. It’s the Abilene Paradox (which you can look up in your own time). As soon as we can, turn that Maybe into a No by saying so. Deal with it and move on. We are only wasting time and energy. And the longer that limbo lasts, the more bitter it feels. Let it go, let it gooooo 🙂

2. Be optimistic about Yes. Think of Yes and No as a ladder – with Yes at the top and No at the bottom. Now you’ve got rid of the definite No, work your way up step-by-step towards a Yes. This may involve a lot of soul searching and challenging some deeply held perceptions. It might mean addressing other situations, contracts or conversations which could impact this one (or vice versa). Working towards Yes could still mean we get stuck at a No. However we’ll have a greater understanding of why this No is a definite no.

3. Share the Maybes. Whether our decision is about ourselves or involves someone else, sharing the possible outcomes can really help give clarity. We tend to be surrounded with people like ourselves so be thorough when exploring your Maybe. Speak to others who aren’t in the same boat. Chat with a freelancer about being self employed rather than your office mates. Network with successful investors rather than others managing multiple overdrafts. Seek advice from people other than your girlfriends – they already share your point of view.

What makes us appear confident is being direct and decisive. More yes and no; fewer maybes.

Life Happens!

I won’t be beaten by life and neither will you… Together, we will face difficult situations with courage and always find a solution.

A belated Happy and Hopeful New Year.

The last time I wrote here, the plan was to share a summary of the journey to date for all who were interested in writing a book in a year #IWillWriteTheBook. Excited and optimistic, I looked forward to that Thursday evening slot in my diary dedicated to blogging and writing. It never came. Life showed up instead.

Just a day before my sacred Thursday, I received a phone call from my mother saying not to worry but my father had been taken to hospital. And with that, any sort of plan went out of the window. CRASH! Life had taken over. Eight weeks later he’s still here (I’m actually writing this sitting in the hospital cafe).

IG Empty Bed

This is what Life does all the time. We make plans. We hope to get them done. Then Life gives us something else to focus on and it’s “bye-bye plans”.

But this IS life. It’s unpredictable. It’s uncertain and just when you manage to get everything in balance – along it comes and tips it over. We pick up the pieces, regroup and set about getting back to ‘normal’.  I won’t be beaten by life and neither will you.

So here’s my notice to Life.

Dear Life.

Thank you for the many interesting ways you try to influence our plans. This coming year, a few of us are getting together to work on how to stay balanced. With our blogs and events, we’ll be looking at ways to keep family, friends, faith and finances all working out the way we want them. We’re not going to ignore you. No, in fact, we’re going to use what you’ve already shown us about who you are to become better at handling what you throw at us. 2015 is going be a year where we learn to balance.

Together, we will face difficult situations with courage and always find a solution.

Thank you and good night.

PS. Watch this space. The #IWillWriteTheBook summary is coming soon.

It’s not a light bulb that appears… it’s a chandelier!

Chandelier MARLO

I love watching battle rap videos to see creativity at work. Watching how they respond to things being chucked at them live. I have a blog planned on ‘What Battle Rap taught me’ coming in 2015. Until then, here’s a cute quote that made me want to change the tagline for Ideas Genius. Video on our Facebook page.

“When we have ideas, it’s not a light bulb that appears… it’s a chandelier”

#Classic

FREE LUNCH #4 | The Art of Networking

Thanks to @RachelYvonne podcast, here’s The Art of Networking again.

Ideas Genius

Networking Image

Networking is important. Here’s why and how to do it to help your business or brand become more successful. Firstly though, why network at all?

  1. Grows your clients, customers, consumers or congregation. We become more successful by selling or sharing what we do with more people. Networking gives you a bigger pond from which to fish.
  2. Grows your suppliers, supporters, sponsors or specialists. We maintain success by making the best use of our resources. Others have access, expertise or finances that will make that task easier.

So how do I network? Networking isn’t a beauty pageant. You’re not simply showing off how pretty your company or idea is. Neither is it about collecting as many business cards as you can. It’s about the contacts on those cards and how they can help you grow.  Here’s what to do.

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Would You Jump? Would You Heck!

photo courtesy of peakbagger.com

photo courtesy of peakbagger.com

Belief is everything.

If you didn’t believe you could make it safely across an eight foot ravine, would you jump? Sure you could practice… but HOW would you practice? You could perfect the run-up. Heck, you could become the best running-upper in the land. You could analysis the ravine with forensic detail. You would know so much them you could write books on ravines. You’d even be able to hypothesise about perfect, flawless landings. BUT would we ACTUALLY jump? Would we heck!

It’s something we all come up against… FEAR. The complete opposite of faith. Faith is when you believe something is possible. Which must make fear the belief that something isn’t possible. Yes, fear is a belief. It’s not just a thought about what might go wrong. It’s a significant difference. Fear is something you actually invest in.

Belief is everything. If you believe you can make a difference, you will try. In the past month, I’ve seen a number of problems… no, let’s call them opportunities to do something different. There were a couple of surveys on diversity and identity doing the rounds, multiple campaigns regarding Ebola relief efforts, Children in Need’s television marathon and shocking examples of police injustice. Watching my own response to each campaign has been an eye opener. Where I felt (believed) I could make a difference, I engaged fully. I sent that text, filled out a forms, visited the websites, sent money. Whatever the required action was, I got involved – but only if a) I believed in the cause and b) I believed I could make a difference. And then there were causes I felt were a good idea BUT that was as far as it went. No further action. Oh dear. How sad. Never mind.

See, believing is everything. When your belief is stronger than your fear… or your apathy… or your indecision, you do something. And DOING is what makes things happen.

Our new baby… unedited:

Like all births (because you’ve had lots of kids MISTER Ideas Genius), it’s taken a while but we’ve made it. We’re proud to officially introduce unedited: –  our very own production company for video, audio and interactive content. So we make films and TV, radio programmes and podcasts, and help improve the way you can use your stuff on the internet.

Unedited-A4-Brochure-Cover

We’re very excited that Ideas Genius had made this possible as it has been a dream for a while. Now it’s airborne, we can all go back to work – like writing blog posts which might be (ahem) a little overdue. Really? Another baby pun? 🙂

Join us in welcoming unedited: by following on VimeoTwitter and Facebook. Congratulate us at team@weareunedited.com

When time is tight and money is tighter…

The two biggest hurdles to getting anything started are not having enough time or enough money. Wait, let me correct myself – enough time or money to get it finished. We can start quite cheaply. Picking up a pen to note your idea costs nothing. So if time or money doesn’t stop you starting something, how do we get over the fear of not being able to finish it?

Jar of Coins cropWith lots of money, you can pay for things to be done quickly. The opposite is also true – when money is tight, you can spread the task over years if you have to. A friend of mine, realising they couldn’t get a loan to do up their entire house in one summer decided to make it an on-going project. Five years later, the transformation is remarkable. They got it done – it just took a little longer.

So when you have neither to play with, consider 3 things:

Is it worth doing now?

Take a long, hard look at what you want to do and why. Is it something that could wait? At least, could you delay the most expensive bits of it until later. You may give yourself a better chance of success by taking more time to get your affairs in order. After all, very few businesses make a profit within its first 18 months. Putting it off and planning how you can make the most of your money and time later might be your best bet.

Are you worth it?

Take a long, hard look at yourself. Could someone else invest in you? Do you have what it takes (except money and time) to make this happen? Do you have a good reputation in this area? It could buy you a lot of favours and discounts. A colleague of mine is struggling with a project because they’ve upset one too many people in the past and have a bad name. That works against you when you’re in a tight spot and need a break. With money or time against you, ask advice from people with whom you have a good reputation. They may be able to help you out. Otherwise work on being of ‘good repute’. It might mean repairing bridges and eating humble pie. That may take more time, by the way.

Is anyone else doing it?

Take a long, hard look around you. Starting up on your own isn’t always the best answer. Is there someone else doing something similar? Could you get together and get it done? Not only could it help with your money or time, you’ll also get the benefit of their experience. There’s nothing like avoiding those rookie mistakes to keep a project on time and on budget.

Not having enough money or time isn’t a reason not to start something. Do as much as you can with what you have – then stop if you have to. It’s always easier to pick up where you left off than beginning from scratch.

Foreword: Understanding Leadership

I was recently asked to write a few words as an introduction to a book. I thought I would share it:

Like any discipline, Leadership is a journey. It is a process of time and experience, belief and will, trial after failure. The leader you’re going to be is entirely based on your unique set of physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual settings. Often it can be in spite of those same traits.

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A great teacher once said that project management is like juggling eggs. In that same context, Leadership is ensuring those eggs don’t fall. Part of your roles as a leader is directive; giving each egg enough energy and direction to go up in the air. There is also a role to delegate; to let go of the eggs with the secure knowledge that because you have understood the properties and abilities of your eggs, you can allow them to travel through the air unaided. You trust that they will come down where you expect them to. That is also the final part of your role. You are there to catch and support them when they come down.

If you have little experience of being a leader, that description may seem odd to you. After all, aren’t you the one who is in charge? Aren’t you the boss? The head honcho? The if-I-say-jump-you-say-how-high guy? Those are only effects of good leadership. You become the respected and listened-to one because you are a good leader. It’s not the other way round. Those come because you are recognised by your team as someone who can keep everyone on the winning side. Acting important without mastering good leadership is like trying to cough enough times so you can catch a cold. It’s not going to happen. You will meet those kinds of people on your journey. No one wants to work with them.

This book lays down the rudimentary foundations of the aspect of leading spiritually. So here’s the first secret… all leadership is spiritual. Managers can get away with moving tasks and targets around with money or manpower to get the job done. A leader relies on trust, hope and faith in their team and their desired outcomes. Understanding the areas highlighted in each chapter will bring you closer to mastering the full set of spiritual tools needed to be a winner. Think of these as the top line headings and use them as a template to explore deeper your own style of leadership – no matter what your beliefs are.

There’s one final thing to say about your journey into leadership. If you have to tell people you’re a good leader, you’re not a good leader. They should know what you are by the way they interact with you and feel when they are in your team. Think of it another way, do you ever wonder about the DJ in the club who is constantly telling you to get up, get on the dance floor, put your hands up, make some noise? Well, if they were a good DJ would you not be doing those things already? If they have to remind you to get on the floor and enjoy yourself, surely there is something missing.

I wish you the best for your leadership journey and pray that your ability to believe, unique personality and leadership style are so naturally fused that everyone you work with never wants to leave your dance floor.’