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How to avoid detours on the road to writing your book (and actually finish it)

The trouble with books is that it’s hard to write a really good one. If you tried, but got discouraged or kept putting it off, then you know what I mean. Detours are everywhere on the journey to a good book. It’s overwhelming. It’s hard to know where to begin. It’s hard to get organized. And it is truly hard to just get it done. Most of us weren’t cut out to be professional writers. If you were blessed with a technical, analytical or highly creative mind, you are most likely nodding in agreement right now.

But why do some authors make it look so easy? Because they figured out how to avoid these three common detours that most people encounter when they embark on a book writing journey.

In this article, I’ll show you how to navigate around these detours and provide a couple tools to guide you on your way. And if you are a strong-minded successful woman leader like many of my clients, be sure to read this through to the end.

Detour #1: Writing without a plan

The first detour most people encounter is that they jump in the car and just start driving. No real plan of where they are going, just driving like crazy. Or in this case, writing like crazy. I get it, I’ve been in that place where ideas are flowing, and excitement just takes over. You have an awesome idea, and you just want to jump in and get going.

Taking a road trip without a plan can be a lot of fun, just seeing where the road takes you. But when you are writing a book without a plan, it leaves you vulnerable to wasting your time, getting lost, or simply coming to a complete stop. I’ve seen authors get sidetracked by every shiny new idea, end up with loads of content they can’t utilize or a book that they never finish.

My client Helen is a good example of a strong-minded, successful woman who just wanted to jump in and get writing. When Helen contacted me, she already had more than 60 chapter titles and five chapters written. She shared with me that because of her hectic schedule, she was getting up at 4 AM to fit in her writing. Now that’s dedication.

Her chapter topics included a mix of business, professional and deeply personal experiences that she thought were important elements. During her Catapult Sessions, we dumped it all out into a mind map, rolled up our sleeves and worked through each one.

That process allowed Helen to step back and gain some much-needed perspective. Along with a little tough love, we were able to narrow her focus to elements that would be a strong contribution to her primary message. In just a little under three hours, Helen gained a clearer focus, a solid plan and was fully recharged with excitement to continue her book project.

The benefit for Helen is that now she is utilizing her early mornings effectively to write with purpose and generate the best content possible. This Blueprint Cheat Sheet will help you declutter your mind and put some focus and structure around your book idea.

Detour #2: Writing in isolation

It’s amazing to me how much clearer my ideas and stories become when I explain them out loud to another person. That romantic notion of a writer escaping to an isolated mountainside cabin to write their manuscript is the stuff of TV movies. To avoid this detour, I recommend you find someone you feel comfortable with to use as a sounding board.

That’s how my client Amanda leveraged me. Amanda is an experienced author who wrote and self-published a book that told her personal story of family illness. She explained the emotional toll it took on her to write that first book and to share her heartbreaking story.

Amanda came to me with the desire to create her first business book. She was struggling with how to put her ideas and experiences together to create a book that she could use to brand and market herself and her business. She was stuck before she even started.

Once we established the book’s purpose, audience, and message in her Blueprint Session, Amanda used me during our coaching as a sounding board to develop the concepts of each chapter. It is challenging to formulate and sharpen your idea on the page until you articulate it. As she talked through the concepts, the real gems were revealed. Together, we were able to break through the surface and dig deep to develop each idea in full.

Amanda’s productivity exploded after each session allowing her to laser focus and ride the wave of writing momentum. Her book was completed in less than a year and quickly became her go-to marketing tool.

When it comes to finding a great sounding board, look for someone with strong skills like listening, asking great questions and helping to synthesize your stories. There is a bit more to selecting the best resource, so feel free to use my guide for picking the ideal sounding board for your book journey.

Detour #3: Telling details instead of story

When a topic matter expert sits down to write, their content can become technical and dry pretty quickly. After all, you are trying to download a lifetime of experience into one book. Unfortunately, you end up with a book that only a few people can understand. Your goal is to write a readable story and to entertain while educating. For some people, writing can be torture. As a result, this detour is a bit trickier to avoid than the first two.

My client Jessica got thrown off by this detour early in her journey. A brilliant analytical thinker turned author, Jessica came to me with four chapters already written and was seeking a critique of her work. After months of laboring over these chapters, she was looking for confirmation that she was on the right track.

Review of her work revealed that her writing style was indeed dry and analytical. She was too focused on explaining every detail with exhausting precision. It was obvious that she was brilliant, but she was lost in the weeds of detail.

Through our discussion, we discovered that Jessica’s story was filled with color and fascinating experiences…a truly powerful story. She just didn’t know how to put that color into words.

Between her less than stellar story writing skills and the wrong mindset, Jessica needed help. One step that really helped Jessica was following my Prepare to Write Daily Guide. These simple steps helped her shift her mindset out of task-slayer and into the optimum state for writing.

The guide worked well, but after writing a few more chapters, Jessica had an epiphany. She realized that the more she gave me to ghostwrite, the more time she could spend on the marketing, network building and promotion of her book. Her time and skills were better spent on work other than the writing itself. Working together we developed a manuscript that she was proud of and that was engaging to read. Jessica used the book to establish herself as a topic matter expert in her industry.

Writing a book doesn’t have to be a series of detours

Writing a book is a major undertaking, a true journey. But it doesn’t have to be a journey marked with detours. Get off to a solid start by creating your own blueprint. Find and utilize someone as a sounding board. And finally, shift your mindset before every writing session to keep your story interesting and engaging.

Are you a women leader looking to write your own book? Have you encountered any of these detours already? These are just three detours to avoid. Yes, there are a few more.

I love helping women leaders tell their stories. And I’d love to give you a jumpstart on your book journey.

For women leaders only: my gift to you is a 30-minute brainstorm session to discuss your book idea and get you off to a strong start. Don’t miss this opportunity to save countless hours of struggle trying to do this by yourself.

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