By Kelly Irving
As I sat down to write this, that blasted cursor kept blinking at me. Blink. Blink. It went. Blink. Blink.
If you’ve ever tried to write something, anything, (let alone a book) then I’m sure you can relate.
Writer’s block – aka, our ability to stare at a blank screen or document, wide-eyed and brain-fogged for what feels like forever – is the stuff of legend in the authoring world.
In fact, I built my whole book coach business around it many years ago when I started getting just-signed-on-the-dotted-line authors coming to me for help to hit their submission date. After weeks or months of hand-holding and excitement with their publisher about their book idea, they walked into the Death Zone with a handshake, a “see your book in 4 months!” and the oxygen-deprived feeling of “what on earth do I do now?”
Sucking it up and staring at the screen is NOT a sustainable solution! (I know you will agree.)
So here are three of my simplest, but most effective strategies to help you find the right words to actually reach your audience.
Adopt a simple structure for your thoughts
First, let’s bust a writing myth: that you have to be a “good writer” to write a “good book”. That’s why book coaches and book editors like me exist! We make your writing better – when you’re ready for that phase.
Words are the icing on the cake when it comes to writing. It’s your underlying thoughts and ideas that are your currency. Hence, you need to stop struggling with the writing and focus on structuring your thoughts instead.
Over the years as a journalist, editor and book coach, I’ve honed a really solid and simple 5-step structure that I use for every piece of my own writing, as well as my authors. First, we start with a “Story” to create interest and engagement, then we get to the point and explain “What” the message is. Next, we say “Why” it’s important, before giving the reader a sense of “How” to do something about it, before finally wrapping up with the “Pay-off” for them when they do. (Skim this article again and see it at play, or have a look at this free resource for a detailed and practical guide.)
Writing, for example, 500 words on each of those five sections is way more efficient, effective and manageable to get the words out of your head and onto the page. (Just try it and see.)
Reframe “writing” into “drafting”
James Patterson is renowned for writing seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year (eek!). Apparently, Hemingway wrote every morning “after first light” (sounds idyllic, not realistic). We’ve been led to believe in this industry, that writers just sit down and, well, write every time they choose. That couldn’t be further from the truth!
In fact, I love how bestselling author James Clear, of Atomic Habits fame, put it in an interview I watched and wrote about: “It is actually the rewriting that is the real writing”.
Your first manuscript, email or blog is just your ideas down on the page – that’s why we call it a “draft”. It means that there is lots of room for improvement.
So rather than say you’re “writing”, try telling yourself you’re in the throes of “drafting”. This simple reframe takes the pressure off your need for perfection. In reality, no one just sits down at their laptop and taps out the perfect prose – not even the most seasoned author!
Focus writing to ONE real reader
OK, I know you want your book to be read by “everyone”, but try writing to ONLY ONE person.
A powerful book that connects and converts a reader into action is very specific. Unfortunately, we fear that writing to a narrow audience means our work will lose its influence, but the opposite is true. The more targeted and micro your audience/reader, then the more macro your impact will be. (Seth Godin is a legend on this topic.)
When I’m coaching authors, I get them to nail down a very clear avatar or reader profile of a REAL person. Think of someone in your network you’ll actually give your book to. Better yet, stick an image of that person above your desk or screen as a reminder to write to them.
This little hack also helps take the pressure off you to try and appease “everyone” (how on earth will you achieve that?).
A great example of this is author Denise Collazo who wrote her book to a real person in her community called “Nancy”, which she said made it “so much easier to write”. The result of that book? A $25 million-dollar donation to her organisation (you read that right) from a company that’d she’d been cold calling for years. I’m pretty sure they had absolutely no idea who Nancy was, but because the book addressed a very specific need, it influenced a wider audience.
Just remember, writing is a practice.
But if you’re not writing anything then you’re not reaching anyone. Blink. Blink.
So, which of these tips can you put into practice now?
Kelly Irving is a bestselling book coach, editor, and creator of the Expert Author Academy. She nurtures change makers from idea to implementation, with camaraderie and (firm but friendly) butt-kicking built into every step, so that they author work that matters and makes an impact.
Or find out more at: https://www.kellyirving.com