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Like many content creators the task of creating ebooks, books and large bodies of work used to be a real challenge for me. I would start many potential projects but I could never finish them. Over the last year I developed a creative process that unlocked the ability to write books, ebooks, manifestos, and other things that are generally viewed by content creators as daunting endeavors. The process is somewhat counterintuitive.
1. Market Needs Vs What You Want to Write
If it’s not a joy to make, don’t make it – Danielle Laporte
For a long time I used to worry about whether people would actually buy the thing I wanted to write. When you write something purely to satisfy a market need, it’s likely to become watered down. It goes from art to marketing material. That’s when the soul goes out of it. What’s worse is that people can feel it in your words. It will also make the creation process seem like a chore. Obviously you don’t want to write a book about rainbows and unicorns if your audience is a bunch of people who ride Harley Davidsons. But if you enjoy the creation process it will not only show in your work, but you’re much more likely to finish it.
2. The Outline
The outline is a double edged sword. For some people it’s a way to organize their thoughts before they start. If an outline would help, create one. For other people the outline is actually a hindrance. Conventional wisdom would tell you to write an outline. After all it’s how you’ve probably written every term paper in your life. But, there’s a difference between creating art and writing term papers. The goal is to finish what you’ve started. If you’ve attempted to outline something and never been able to start, I want to encourage you to abandon the outline and just start writing 1000 words a day.
3. The Non-Linear Process
If there is one thing that will unlock your ability to create larger bodies of work it’s this. Creation is a non-linear process. Just because you have an outline it doesn’t mean you have to write your book in that order. All you really have to do is keep the main ideas in mind and you can organize them at the end. The structure of a book tends to reveal itself to you as your write it.
4. Commitment and Consistency
This might sound trite, but they key to finishing things is to work on them until they’re finished – Chris Brogan
You might have an idea for a book and spend 4 hours writing one day and look at it again a week later. This is a really difficult approach to finishing bigger projects. If you spend 20 minutes a day on a consistent basis you’ll make far more progress. It has to be a habit as ingrained as brushing your teeth. Spend the next 21 days consistently working on a larger body of work. When you make a commitment to write consistently you hit momentum.
You get into a creative rhythm.
Some days you’ll write for a few hours.
Other days you’ll write for 30 mins.
But what matters above all things is that you are consistent.
5. Getting Feedback
One of the biggest mistakes in this process is to create in a vacuum. There’s nothing more defeating than working on a massive book only to find out every one of your readers absolutely hates it. Here are some simple ways to get feedback:
- Use Excerpts as Blog Posts: By using excerpts of your book/ebook as blog posts you get an idea of whether or not your content resonates with your readers. If the excerpt doesn’t get shared or commented, it might not belong in the book.
- Share Passages on Facebook: Sharing paragraphs or excerpts on Facebook not only allows to you get feedback in real time, but also a build a group of early readers. Create a Facebook group or simply share your passages as status updates. The important thing is to pay attention to how people respond.
The curse of being a creative is to horde some of your best work. But the irony is the more the you give away the more that seems to show up. So don’t be afraid of revealing too much early on. Even if you share something as a blog post, the impact will be very different when you put all your writing together as a body of work.
6. Put the Puzzle Pieces Together
Books and other large bodies of work are like puzzles in which you create the pieces first. A book or ebook has to have a logical flow or what publishers refer to as an arc and narrative. I likened the creation process of my last book to creating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Once I had the peanut butter and jelly, I had to create the bread. Creating the bread is how a random collection of ideas becomes a coherent message.
What traps so many people when it comes to larger bodies of work is that they get caught up in everything but the process of writing. They prioritize form over content and as a result are unable to finish the things they start. Ditch your map for a compass, take the scenic route to your destination, and you might be surprised by how much faster you’ll get there.