What I Learned from Writing a Book in Nine Days

Ghostwriter I tackled something for the first time this year — a ghostwriting project. I must admit, it feels odd to have penned an entire body of work that very few people will ever know I am associated with. The crazier part? I wrote the entire first draft in nine days. Nine. Days!

This is not something I recommend, nor do I wish to attempt another nine-day writing project again. However, I learned some interesting things by writing a book in less than ten days.

  • I am capable of writing from anywhere. But after being sequestered in another state, without the security of my own tools in my own space, I now have a greater appreciation for my happy writing place.
  • Without realizing it happened, I had taken the ability to write for granted. But after working with a person who had a great concept without the skills to communicate it clearly, I was reminded how much other people struggle with words. Even stringing simple sentences together is overwhelming for many.
  • What felt like a nearly impossible deadline improved my writing by stretching me beyond my comfort zone. I had to free-write, lack of time left me no choice.
  • You know that writing exercise? Where you imagine someone holding a gun to your head in order to force you to write, motivating you to action? The right paycheck can inspire breakthrough writing as well.
  • I like to think that what I do is not solely an ego-driven practice. But someone else taking credit for the effort, energy, and creative inflections I put into a project? Eek! However, I discovered I am capable of putting myself aside for the greater good of an excellent message.
  • A lot of daily interruptions are truly unnecessary, and when I temporarily focused only on what was essential, it taught me what I could and should cut out of my life permanently.
  • There isn’t enough coffee on this planet to fully overcome the effect of five hours or less of sleep a night. Actually, hot lemon water is much more energizing and mind clearing.
  • Bathing, hair washing, and fresh clothes are niceties but not necessities when you are in the throes of an intense time-sensitive project.
  • Food delivery is my friend. Disposable eating utensils are a life saver.
  • I can now add ghostwriter to my resume.
  • I’ve come a long way in my writing journey, baby. Practice hasn’t made me perfect, (nor will it), but it has made me faster and better.
  • I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.

Have you ever written an entire book in ten days or less? If so, how did you accomplish it? Would you do it again?

Advertisements

The Joy of Writing

I’m not sure what surprised me first — the fact that my business coaching client turned non-writing friend answered the question intended for me, or how he responded.

Lake Superior Anita Brooks Photographer

Anita Brooks’ Lake Superior Reflection

From the dining room table, I glanced through the picture window at the full moon reflecting over Lake Superior in the distance. After finishing three days of intensive review with the four partners of my latest business coaching project, the mood was relaxed, while the five of us savored plates piled with steak and king crab. It was in this moment of celebration when one of my coaching clients leaned forward and asked me, “Do you enjoy writing?”

My mouth opened, but his partner’s voice sounded before I had the chance to speak. “Not anymore, now that you have to work at it. It’s different when it becomes your profession.” A sheepish blush crept across his rounded cheeks. “At least, that’s what I imagine.”

An awkward pause followed his interjection, but I didn’t allow it to languish long. I smiled to let him know we were okay — after all, I’ve made the mistake of answering for others.

Then I turned my attention to my other client. “Actually, it is different now that I write professionally, but I still enjoy it very much. I’d be lying if I said every minute felt good, but it’s like any difficult thing we accomplish. There are times I think about walking away, when things aren’t going smoothly, when I get bored, when I feel overwhelmed, when I despise the way my words come out on a page, and when I think about the investment cost of time, energy, and money. But the negative emotions don’t last. I can’t imagine doing anything else. A soul-deep, intrinsic drive pushes me to write, I’m compelled to do this, despite my finicky feelings. And reader responses make it all worth while.”

Intrigue was obvious on my client’s face. “So people actually contact you?”

I chuckled, but it echoed off as my thoughts turned to some of the specific readers I’ve heard from. I could feel a hot glistening around the edges of my eyes as I began to answer. “It has surprised me at how many people have emailed and sent private social media messages. Nothing compares to the power of knowing words you penned touched another human being.”

“What’s the best thing a reader has told you?”

Anita Brooks Plane Wing in Flight

Writing and Reading Are Uplifting Experiences

I dipped a piece of crab in melted butter and slipped it in my mouth before answering. “Probably not what you think. A lady emailed to tell me she bought a copy of Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over in an airport on the east coast. She started reading on the plane, and said it hit some tender spots, so she closed it and vowed not to finish. But when she got home, she said, “That book kept calling my name.” That’s when she picked it up and began reading again.

In her email she said, “PLEASE forgive me, but a couple more chapters in I threw your book across the room, but only for a few minutes, because I couldn’t help myself, and had to go get it. I just finished reading the entire thing for the third time. THANK you! Your book saved my life.”

As I heard myself telling this story to my clients, I realized something afresh.

Goodreads Review Getting ThroughYes, the writing is hard at times. There is no doubt my emotions can lead me temporarily astray. However, as a professional author, I DO still enjoy writing as well as having written — because I understand the impact my words can make.

The greatest joy of writing comes from knowing I was made to do this, and that others are helped because I act despite my fears and insecurities. Many think, dream, and fantasize about writing books, but there is no greater joy than realizing I am an honored member of the club that says, “I did.”

Have you discovered the joy in writing?

Double Booked by Two Authors

Photo/KarenAnita“Did you find your book?” I asked.

“No, but yours is on this aisle,” Anita responded.

Then the young lady standing near us asked, “What books do you need? I’m looking for one about anxiety and worry.”

“Well, I’ve got the perfect book for you,” I grinned. “I just wrote a book about the lessons I’ve learned about worry.”

Anita added, “It’s called Words That Change Everything: Speaking Truth to Your Soul. They have several copies of it here. It’s a great read!”

BookCover/WordsThatChangeEverything

The lady looked stunned as she examined the back cover of my book and my photo. “Seriously, you wrote this book?”

“Sure did,” I smiled. “And if you need a book about Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, I highly recommend this one.” I pointed out Anita’s book: Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over: Stories, Tips, and Inspiration to Help You Move Past Your Pain into Lasting Freedom.

“I sure do! I’m looking for a book to encourage my friend, whose son was killed in a motorcycle accident a few weeks ago.“

Getting Through What You Can't Get Over Book Cover“Well, Anita’s book contains several inspiring stories about people who walked through some really difficult situations. I think it would be helpful for a person going through grief and post-traumatic stress.”

“Are you both authors? And you wrote both of these books?” Our new friend appeared confused.

“Yes, we attended a booksellers’ event here in town during the past few days. So, we decided to stop by this bookstore on our way home to see if they carried our books.”

Glancing at the two books in her hands, our new reader looked back up at us and giggled, “Well, I’d love to buy both of your books!”

“Awesome! Would you like for us to autograph your copies?” I asked.

“Yes, that would be great,” she smiled. “I still can’t believe you both really wrote these books!”

“Well, we’re finding it a little hard to believe that you were looking for books that deal with those topics.”

“I’m serious—these are exactly what I needed!” Then, she added, “This has to be a “God-thing.”

“Yes, a ‘God-thing’ for sure.” We agreed.

Photo/AnitaKarenThen, one of us suggested, “Hey, let’s take a ‘selfie’ to capture the moment.”

After I fumbled to find my cell phone in my purse, I said, “Okay, let’s strike a pose. Smile!”

After our brief photo shoot, we all embraced, recalling our unexpected encounter.

“Can we pray for you and your friend before we leave?” I offered.

“I would love that!”

“By the way, what’s your name? And what’s your friend’s name?”

“My name is Kendra. And my friend’s name is Karen.”

“Well, of course her name is Karen,” I laughed.

As Kendra walked to the register to purchase our books, we heard her telling the assistant manager about our encounter.

Anita and I waved at both of them as we turned to leave the store.

“What an awesome ending to a very productive week,” I commented to Anita.

“I told you we needed to stop by this bookstore!” Anita laughed.

Before we left the parking lot, Anita posted the photo of us with Kendra on Facebook, sharing our experience at the bookstore.

Best bookstore stop ever! Met this beautiful young lady named Kendra. She was looking for a book on anxiety and worry for herself, and another on grief for a friend who just lost a child. Talk about a God moment.

When she found out we were authors, and Karen wrote a book titled Words That Change Everything, and I wrote one called Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, she took a copy of each off the shelf. After a quick, impromptu signing, we parted ways—all of us stunned in a great way. People like Kendra are why we do this.

 Amen, Anita. This IS “why we do this.”

Tell us about one of your God-moments as an author.

 

Writing with Personality for Extroverts

Be YouLast month, I shared some simple insights on Writing with Personality for Introverts, so this time, I want to speak to their counterparts. Some misinterpret the definitions for these contrasting temperaments.

An introvert is not always quiet, and an extrovert is not always loud. As a certified personality trainer with over twenty-five years of experience, one of the best determiners I’ve found is this: An extrovert does their best thinking out loud, and an introvert’s most effective ideas take place in solitude and silence. They need to think before they speak.

As a bona fide extrovert myself, I often hear myself say something to someone else that I don’t want to lose. Then I have to stop, dig out paper and pen, as I tell them, “I’m sorry. I need to hurry and write that down before I forget it. Some of my best ideas come from conversations with other people.”

I usually receive an understanding nod along with a statement like this: “Go ahead, I’d hate to be the reason you lost a great idea.”

Sharing & IlluminationThe truth is, sometimes too much solitude hampers my creative flow. As an extrovert, I’ve learned that lunch with a friend or two, calling someone to go for a walk and a talk, or a brief phone call with a colleague, client, or family member releases fresh thoughts that enrich my writing.

Another thing I’ve learned is to use an audio app, so I can speak my thoughts out loud, and capture the concepts that flow from my loose lips. Sometimes I pretend I’m talking to another person, but whether I imagine a human face or not, my rambling, audible monologue releases many interesting pieces of prose.

Guilt used to smother me, because I felt stifled by sitting in solitude for too long. Now I realize extended periods of silence drain my energy, while intentionality in human exposure lifts my spirits and infuses my creative zest.

Nelson Mandela Know YourselfThe key to making any of us more effective in our endeavors is knowing who we are, and giving ourselves permission to operate in our natural giftings and preferences. As long as we are careful to do so in balance.

Whether introvert or extrovert, all writers require a healthy amount of time spent in study, interview, and interactions with other people. We equally need quiet moments with our thoughts and computers. Depending on our personality, some of us require more on one side of the spectrum or the other. Simply realize this — it’s okay to be different, we’re wired that way.

Are you an introvert who needs to think before they speak, or are you an extrovert whose best ideas pop out of your mouth while in conversation?

 

Writing with Personality for Introverts

Writing With Personality

Five Fresh Starts for the Living

I’ve studied, trained on, and spoken to audiences about human personality for over a quarter of a century now. But one of my favorite ways to use my education is to help my writing friends.

Recently, one of my author pals described her struggle. “I can’t seem to find my motivation. This summer has flown by with my visiting children and grandchildren. By the time they leave, I’m exhausted and don’t feel like doing anything creative.

“Having a recently retired husband under foot isn’t helping either. I’ve tried moving to several different rooms, but the noise of the TV or his honey-do repairs, not to mention his unrequested input or endless questions, disrupt my thoughts. When I write, I need quiet time to reflect, organized space to prepare, and a break from other people. I also need my family to take what I do seriously — most of them don’t think writing is real work.”

My friend is definitely an introvert. And what she was voicing was permission to work according to her intrinsic, soul-deep needs.

I replied, “It’s okay for you to feel this way. Have you told your family how you feel?”

“Not really,” she said with a sigh. “I don’t want to offend them.”

“I understand, but do you realize they may not grasp what they are doing to you?”

“They should.”

“We often assume other people know what our needs are, but the truth is, unless we tell them, few even think about it. One thing you might consider is coming up with an assertive, yet respectful way to let the people in your life know what’s bothering you. For instance, you could say, ‘I think my writing might have caused some confusion. I know most people don’t realize I’m working, especially since I do it from home, even I forget sometimes. But this is part of my job. I hope you understand if I put a few guidelines in place, to hold me accountable, so my work gets done and I meet my deadlines. It might mean I’m not available as much as you are used to.'”

“I could probably do that,” my friend replied.

I chuckled as I remembered when I first created my Writer’s Cave guidelines with my own family and friends. I had imagined all kinds of reactions, but once I shared my plan, they took it in stride and quickly adapted. It freed me from much writing angst.

I commiserated with my friend. “Dealing with your husband is a different matter — since he does live in your home too.”

Her soft laughter had a tinge of nervousness to it.

“Have you tried scheduling yourself in a closed room for a period of time and asked your husband if he could keep the volume down? Have you requested he wait to do repairs or ask questions until your allotted time ends?”

“Well, no.”

“Silencing ear muffs are another great alternative. I’ve got a set you can borrow.”

Her laughter had a relaxed ring this time. “I’ll have to check into those.”

“If neither of those options work, or if it offends your family, then maybe you could find a quiet coffee shop, restaurant, or other location away from home to help you concentrate. One with few people, since company drains your creative juices.

You can honestly tell your family and friends, ‘I won’t be available from this time to this time, I have a writing appointment.’ They don’t need to know the details, or that your appointment is with yourself.”

“I like that last option. Thanks.”

My introverted friend needed emotional support more than anything. She needed permission to be herself, someone drained of creative energy after an extended period of time with other people, even those she loves deeply. She knew what was necessary, but was afraid to act, she needed a third-party voice to set her free.

It must have worked. The last I heard, she was making good progress.

Know Thyself -- SocratesWriting with Personality is helpful for introverts, and their counterparts, extroverts. (I’ll share some insights about the latter next time.) But wherever you fall on the personality spectrum, as Socrates reminds, know yourself, and allow you to be and do as needed — otherwise, you will struggle to get your writing done. Another great writer and natural introvert, Karen Jordan, shared her insider’s perspective recently — it’s a great read, especially if you don’t want to feel alone.

Are you drained or energized by extended periods of time spent with other people?

 

7 Ways Writers Can Find an Exclusive Voice

It’s one of the best compliments I receive from readers. “I loved your book. I could hear you encouraging me as I read. It felt like we were talking over lunch.”

Unique. Transparent. Courageous. Authentic. Fresh. Today’s most popular writing voices are often identified by these descriptors. But how do you tap into the exclusive inflections that showcase your authentic self on the page?Grandpa and Granddaughter

Recently, while watching my nine-month-old granddaughter amuse herself by practicing her newly discovered babble, I thought about a writer’s struggle to speak on paper. In the infancy of our career, we could learn a lot from babies about speaking in an identifiable way. And if we relax and learn to amuse ourselves in the process, we’ll likely find our voice faster.

Most of us need help understanding our voice. But if you follow the seven steps listed below, I can assure you, very soon, you’ll relax into the thrill of conversational-style writing.

  1. Karen Jordan author of Words That Change EverythingWrite to your best friend, parent, sibling, spouse, or child. Someone you wouldn’t hold back with. Last month, I rode to and from the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association Conference, (AWSA), and Christian Booksellers Association, (CBA/ICRS), expo with my author friend, Karen Jordan. One of the things I love about her new book, Words That Change Everything, is her transparent way of writing. Like me, she often envisions a specific person when writing her words.
  2. Imagine your ideal reader. Then, write to them, and only them. Writing expert Jeff Goins says, “My ideal reader is smart. He has a sense of humor, a short attention span, and is pretty savvy when it comes to technology and pop culture. He’s sarcastic and fun, but doesn’t like to waste time. And he loves pizza.”
  3. Ask yourself, What do I like to read? Spend some time looking closely at the books, articles, and blogs you are drawn to. What are their similarities and differences? What is the personality of the writer?
  4. Review your recent writing, and ask yourself, Is this how I talk?
  5. Interview some of your readers. Ask them, “What does my writing voice sound like to you?” List the answers you receive, and ask yourself, Are they hearing the real me through my words?
  6. Don’t start your project/page/chapter by thinking about writing for publication; at first, simply write it for yourself. Free-write without pressure or hindrance — you can always trash it later. But for now, allow your mind to run unfettered and your fingers to type unbound. The gems that shine through your free expression may surprise you, and will lend to freshness in your voice.
  7. Ask yourself, If I knew I had thirty days to live, is the message I’m sharing coming through in its purest state? Is this what I would want to say to the world through my last breaths, and how I would want to express it?

Getting Through What You Can't Get Over Book CoverRemoving our writing masks takes intentional effort. When I wrote Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, I left puddles of emotional blood on many pages. However, I knew readers needed me to do it — our creative endeavors depend on reaching into our souls to thrust our true selves onto the page. When we do, readers feel like they know us personally, and want to draw nearer. Loyal fans are engaged when they can recognize our projects, without seeing our names.

Can you hear my writing voice in this article? How have you learned to write from your authentic writing voice?

What Actors and Authors Have in Common

Writing is a Personal JourneyI was watching Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show when it struck me. Jimmy greeted the actor with a cheek-to-cheek kiss, before ushering her to the comfy studio couch so they could share a cup and a chat.

After some banter about a recent encounter they’d had at the party of a mutual friend, they discussed some morsels about their personal lives, focusing on commonalities they shared. Then they got to the real reason for the staged visit.

Fallon gushed, as he introduced the new movie title. “Gosh, it’s so, so good. I just love it. I mean when you… Oops. I almost spoiled it, but it’s just that good.”

Listen So Others SpeakThe actor giggled. “Thanks, Jimmy. I was honored to play this role, I know I’m supposed to say I love it too, but I really mean it. This is probably my favorite project so far. I only hope the people who watch it are touched as much as I was making the film.” She raised her hands in the global prayer pose symbolizing humility.

As I watched their interchange, I reflected on other shows I’d seen her on, and her other movies. It seemed every year she was cast in a new release, some blockbusters, some with a cooler audience embrace. That’s when it hit me — how similar a successful author’s experience is to that of an actor.

My third published book just released, and as I promote it, pursue the next big project, while juggling my personal life in the process, I realize the importance of strategic planning. I wish I had the resources, connections, and energy of a Hollywood public relations machine behind me, but even without, I can learn from their methods.

7 Common Factors Between Actors and Authors:

  • Getting Through What You Can't Get OverThe actors are the face of the movie, so no matter what anyone else does behind the scenes, it is the actor who must make public appearances and visit shows on the interview circuit. An actor’s passionate voice, joined with an intriguing movie trailer, is what drives audiences to theaters and streaming sites. For authors, it’s no different. We are the face of our books. Our passionate voice about our message, mingled with intrigue about our book’s content, is what drives readers to want to know more.
  • Each actor brings their own distinct personality to promotion. Some outgoing and bubbly, some serious and reflective. Both work, they will simply attract those of similar taste. Be who you are as an author, and allow natural attraction to draw people.
  • A fresh movie release shifts the actor’s focus to a new message. As authors, I think hearing the branding mantra sometimes makes us sound stale and boring — think broken record. Personally, I believe it’s not only acceptable, but interesting, if we moderately mix up our messages, while staying true to who we are.
  • Getting Through What You Can't Get Over EndorsementA good actor hunts for new scripts and contracts — sometimes preparing for years before they can make a movie they are excited about. Successful authors should do no less. Keep your ears open for hot topics, and drop ideas, research information, quotes, and more for future books into a program like Scrivener — Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over started this way.
  • Most actors would prefer to spend more time on their craft than on marketing, and many authors feel the same. However, actors and authors both know that without solid marketing, we won’t get the opportunity to do another new project.
  • No matter how many shows an actor guests on, if the movie is lousy, sales will spiral. The same is true of our books. We can’t get around it. Good content is, and always will be, the marketing king.
  • Actors cannot produce inspiring art alone. They require support people like agents, fellow actors, experts in PR, producers, directors, etc. Authors also need a group like this to expand their message reach.

The more I reflect on what it takes to release a successful movie, the more I see the connection to releasing successful books. The Hollywood model has worked for decades, which tells me that as much as things are changing, some things stay the same.

What commonalities between actors and authors do you see that I failed to mention?