5 writing truths from working with 100+ books

I delivered a book draft to a client this week. No matter how many books I’ve written, coached, or otherwise impacted over the years, the first draft is always an incredible milestone.

And no matter how well I plan the process—how dedicated, focused, and organized I am—the last few weeks before a book deadline are always complete and utter craziness. This book was no exception.

If you were to visit my home office right now, you’d see the signs: stacks of paper everywhere, purses and shopping bags on my office floor, dozens of sticky note reminders on the wall, and odds and ends strewn across my desk surface, including old coffee cups, a tube of lipstick, and earrings. Why the clutter? Because when my world is nothing but get the book draft done, who has time to put cups in the dishwasher, and lipstick and earrings back where they go?

There is something about the magic of a deadline that brings out the best in me as a writer (and worst in me as a tidy human). Suddenly, I have laser focus and crystal clarity as I revise, and I’m energized and excited to polish the draft to send off to a client. It doesn’t hurt that I get to work with the best people on the planet, on important books that add good into the world.

A deadline brings out my inner writing ninja: precise, focused, certain. But like any writer, handing off the draft is a completely different experience. Even after more than a decade in the industry, I feel the same emotions at the stopping point of every first draft.

Is the book good? Will it connect and resonate with readers? Will it achieve the goals we set for it, the reason it’s being written in the first place?

Every book is a journey. Every book is a learning process. Every book is its own emotional experience, both on the page and once it’s released into the world (whether sharing with an editor, client, or publisher).

With well over a decade in the publishing industry, and working with more than 100 books over the course of my career—whether as an author, ghostwriter, book coach, trainer, or editor—I’ve learned a lot from every book. Here are five truths that resonate with me after my most recent book-writing journey.

Lesson #1: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”

This quote by Robert Frost is one of my favorites. And it’s true. Writing—great writing—forces you to access parts of yourself you might typically push aside. I have shed many tears while writing. I’ve lived love, joy, pain, loss, and heartbreak on the page. Writing in the truest way possible means embracing emotion. And not just when writing memoir or fiction. Writing a meaningful business or leadership book requires emotional connection too.

Lesson #2: Never write a book without a plan.

New authors often believe the writing process involves nothing more than a great idea, blank page, and lots of coffee. They imagine sitting down one day and writing the first chapter *snap!* just like that. But that’s not how writing works for most of us. Instead, a plan is your greatest tool for writing success: a solid book concept (a clear articulation of your idea, core book message, audience, and key takeaways) and a clear outline (a chapter-by-chapter overview of what you plan to write).

Lesson #3: Productive writers don’t wait for inspiration.

The more I learn about brain science, and observe my book coaching clients’ and my own writing progress, the more I’m convinced that routine and energy management are the biggest predictors of writing productivity. I used to think I could only write when I was inspired, or had the just-right writing conditions (coffee shop, mellow music, hot tea on the table next to me). But running a national magazine and having to meet ultra-fast deadlines nearly every day taught me that I could be predictably productive every day. Now, I write at the same time daily. I manage my energy well by stopping writing when my creative energy is used up for the morning. And I get more done in an hour than I used to get done in several days.

Lesson #4: Writing a book is no different than any other goal.

I used to deify authorship. To me, the idea of becoming an author was a far-off thing I’d maybe do . . . someday. If someone gave me a book deal. But even then, I wasn’t certain I could deliver. Now that I’ve written multiple books, I understand that writing a book is a skill, and like any skill, it can be learned. And like any big goal, getting expert help, breaking the big project into smaller pieces, and calendaring out the writing process helps ensure success.

Lesson #5: Writing a book is so worth it. (Seriously.)

I deeply believe in the power of sharing one’s story, ideas, or expertise. The process of writing an entire book is hard—don’t get me wrong. Just outlining the book is a project! But if you can engage fully in the process, and stick with it, the other side of the writing process contains within it deep meaning and reward. I’ve seen clients grow their influence, impact, and income. I’ve also seen them grow internally: with greater confidence around their ideas, deeper clarity around their thought leadership, and an immense sense of accomplishment over completing a lifelong goal.

I could go on, but these are the five truths that are connecting for me today as I reflect on the past eight months of this important book I’ve been working on.

How about you? What have you learned about writing a book, or about accomplishing another big goal? What book are you working on right now? Share with me in the comments!

2 Comments

  • Linda Wolfe Reply

    My debut memoir, “Life With(out) James: Light from Darkness”, spilled out of my heart quite quickly….Imagine being bombarded with fear by your son’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis as well as blindsided by paradigm shifts of reality. Following his nine year good-bye from the onset of symptoms to his eventual passing, how could he instill hope from beyond? The most time consuming part has been researching agents as well as the specifics of writing a proposal. Finally, I feel I have enough information at hand to confidently proceed.

    • Stacy Ennis Reply

      Wow, I imagine that had to be a difficult emotional journey. It sounds like you were able to find flow because of your deep connection to the book. I’m glad you feel confident about your next steps, and I hope you keep at it!

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