Do you have post-it notes all over the place with ideas for your book, scraps of paper with scribbled notes inside your desk drawer, thoughts on napkins, and lots of crumpled up written pages in your wastebasket? Join the club. Completing a book requires time, dedication, and brain power, as does any task worth doing.
Did you know that 97% of people who start to write a book never finish it? That’s a pretty staggering statistic. Out of every 1,000 people that set out to do so, only 30 actually complete the task. And if you then add on top of that the fact that only 20% of people who write a book actually publish it, this means only 6 people get published. I sought out the top reason why this was the case and found the barriers to be things like “procrastination,” “trying to be too perfect,” “waiting for the optimal time to write,” “no target market” and “writer’s block.”
All are good excuses, but not valid reasons for not realizing your dream of being published. My research on the topic along with my experience as a writer who has now written four nonfiction books points to one key factor that impedes your ability to actually finish a project and come out with a good book in the end. It has nothing to do with the reasons mentioned above, but rather points to something akin to having too many cluttered closets. It’s disorganization.
When I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to write my first book, The Official Mickey Mouse Club Book (published by Hyperion in 1995) I hardly knew where to begin. I had written much as a publicity and marketing executive in my career at The Walt Disney Company – bios, feature stories, press releases, fact sheets, etc., all of which were about 1,000 to 1,500 words each. But writing a book with 40-60,000 words or more…yikes! How could I get my arms around such a task? That question was answered when I approached a writer friend with my anxiety about the work ahead. She, who had written a number of successful nonfiction books, said, “It’s not that hard, do it ‘this way’ and your book will practically write itself.”
“This way” incorporated principles that were not based on “how” to write a nonfiction book, but instead how to first “organize” a nonfiction book before ever putting a word to paper. I learned that by adopting ten specific strategies before actually beginning to write you can generate a breadcrumb trail that easily leads you through your story from point A to point B to point C and so on, right to the end of your book. It really will practically write itself.
I was so inspired by what I had learned, that I not only finished my first book but over the course of several years have since written three more nonfiction books using the same organizational strategies. I always wanted to share that magical formula of essentially putting a book together before actually writing it and finally did so a few years ago with a step-by-step little e-book entitled The Top 10 Secrets to Organizing a Nonfiction Book. The ten secrets are detailed in an easy-to-read format that provides context for each step in the organizational progression. Never again will you have to ask yourself, “Where do I start?” and “Where do I go next?” when thinking about writing that book you’ve always wanted to tackle.
As my esteemed writer friend had said to me, “It’s really not that hard.” She was “write.”