Book writing for humans
“Does the writing part really have to take eight or nine months?” I get this question often from first-time authors. My clients are high achiever types that want to “get it done.” During a recent conversation with a potential client it came up again, but this time it got me thinking. My typical answer is yes and no, and I explain it from a writer’s point of view, including factors like research, author and contributor interviews, concept development, etc. It occurred to me that this answer is only half of the equation. I’ve been neglecting a big factor, one that has very little to do with the actual writing.
We are humans
Our humanness is the wildcard in our book writing journey. Every client I have worked with starts their book writing journey filled with excitement and a high level of commitment. They attend every scheduled meeting and share all the blogs, articles, journals, and photographs they can find. It’s all good and we motor along nicely. But then life and our humanness kick in, forcing us to take detours.
In the five years that I’ve been ghostwriting, my clients have hit these potholes hard. The results range from minor detours to major blowouts that halt a project. No matter the severity, the potholes of life slow our progress. What do these potholes look like?
The demands of work increase or change unexpectedly from events like landing a major client, dealing with a difficult client issue, or a key employee deciding to exit.
Travel for business or personal need, along with the post-travel backlog.
Health issues, both planned or unplanned, of your own or that of a family member.
Amateur feedback (friend, family, colleague, trusted advisor - none of whom have ever written a book) on your rough draft. This one is so disruptive that I address it in a clause in my ghostwriting agreement.
Fear. Seeing your long-held thoughts in writing is unsettling. Trust me.
Life: Kids, pets, holidays, car trouble, canceled flights, pandemics, alien invasions. You get the idea.
When a client partners with me, the equation multiplies because I’m human, too. Effective project management is part of my role and I do my level best to keep projects on schedule. It requires plenty of honest communication and a bit of tough love. Can we write your book in five or six months? Or even less? Yes. But we must adjust the process, scope, and fee to suit that abbreviated timeframe. And hope that life doesn't toss in a pothole or two.
Good books take time because we are human. And that is a beautiful thing.
In honor of Mae West on her birthday:
"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough."
- Mae West