The No-Excuses Book Map
The first thing we're gonna look at is what I call the no excuses book map. This is a map to get you to the end. Here's how it looks. I know it's a little bit hard to see here, but this is part of the download that you'll get from the class. I actually didn't mention it before when we talked about downloads, but you'll get this download in the class. Here's how it goes. This says draft, this says revise, and this says publish. The no excuses book map starts up here and you move through these things. The good news is if you've taken this class, you've already done a bunch of it! These are the ones that we've already done. This says get your head in the game. You commit to your idea, you establish good habits, you set an attainable goal. We're gonna do that in this lesson right now so you will have done those things. The ones that are still left here is find an accountability partner and enlist emotional support. We'll talk about those in a minute. Then it's be intentional. This is all t...
he stuff. What's your point, what's your genre, who is your ideal reader, what other books are out there like yours? Those are the questions we've answered. You've already checked those off. Then it's get started. Design a structure for your material. That's what we've been doing today. Then this step is write 50 pages. I always put that as a first goal for anybody because if you write 50 pages of your novel, your brain will know you're not writing a blog post, you're not writing a short story, you're writing a novel. 50 pages is you're writing a novel. 50 pages it turns out is not that hard. It's not that hard. 50 good pages with all this strategic work behind you is a really big accomplishment. I like to have that as the first goal. Pick a time when you're gonna get your 50 pages done. Then I say check your basis. That's stop for a minute and this is revision macro, revision micro. Revision macro is your step back and you look at all the things. Do these 50 pages do these things, am I doing what I set out to do, do I like this, is the voice strong, is the writing good, am I feeling good about this? If you're not, you can adjust and fix them. If you are, then you can pat yourself on the back. The revision micro is what we normally think of as revisions. That would be go back and make the words better, make the commas right, make those 50 pages as strong as you can be 'cause that's gonna make you feel really great. You're gonna have 50 good pages. I don't wanna throw any other method under the bus 'cause there are so many useful methods for writing and there's so many good instructors and there's so many ways of getting at a novel and I think we all have to find a way that works for us at this time of our lives and for this particular story. The thing that I like about getting 50 solids pages is, I think it's a lot more confidence building than kicking out a draft really fast that doesn't hold together and then you look at that draft and you think, I don't actually like this, this wasn't actually what I wanted to write, there's logic holes, there's a fatal flaw in the first chapter, whatever the thing might be. I think that's very hard on a writer's ego. It feels really good to kick out a draft, but it doesn't feel good when you go in to analyze it and you realize it doesn't hold together. That's why I have a stop point at 50 pages, check your basis, and then write forward 50 pages at a time. It's just write 50 more pages, that's how you do a novel. That's it. Just 50 page chunks at a time with this solid base, you're gonna have a rough draft for your book. Then what you're gonna do is you revise. You can see I've got those iterative cycles baked in here for the revision cycle and it says, assess and evaluate, problem solve, execute the fix. It's using that analysis loop and when you're ready to give the book out to the world for feedback, you're gonna do the same thing. This is outside assessment from loving friends, then assess and incorporate feedback, outside assessment from tough critics, and assess and incorporate the feedback and you do that in rounds until you're ready to do a micro revision on the whole thing. The reason I like to think in terms of these feedback cycles and loops is that often times that's exactly how the writing goes. You're moving through that process but you're also iterating and moving around and then with your polished draft, you're either going to prepare to pitch to agents or hire an independent publishing team and go out that way. That choice is of course a whole other thing that we could talk about in a whole other class. This is the general map of how it goes. What I wanna look at next is where a book coach or a freelance editor could come into play for you. We talked here about find an accountability partner. This is one of those habits that I just think is everything. Writing is so interior, it's a thing that you do alone in a room. I read an essay years ago that was called the Talent of the Room. It was about the capacity to literally sit in a room by yourself and make up a story. I believe that it was written by Michael Ventura and what he was saying was you gotta be able to do that before you can do anything else is literally sit alone in a room, but it's really hard. Life is so busy, it's so noisy, there's always something else, there's something else to do that's easier than sitting alone in a room making stuff up that you might throw away. I think an accountability partner is just enormously important. You've set your page count, let's say 10 pages a week, let's say five pages a week, whatever it is, and your accountability partner calls you up and says, did you do it and you say no, you want to feel ashamed. That's what you actually want. You want somebody who can really hold you accountable so that you're not gonna get out of it. I actually had a really interesting situation last year around the holidays. A Wall Street Journal reporter with whom I had worked on his book proposal, got a book deal, and he was on book leave to finish it and he was not finishing it. He hired me, he said, can you email me every day and ask me how much I've done? I thought he was kidding. Haha, that's great and he's like, no I'm totally serious. So I did. For three months I emailed him every day and we had a spreadsheet and I would say, how many words did you write today and he would enter it on the spreadsheet that we shared. That was what he needed to do. It was wacko but it was what he needed to do. You've gotta find the way that you're gonna be held accountable. Some of the ways that you could do this, it doesn't have to be somebody who writes. It could just be somebody who loves you and who will be that for you. It could be just somebody who you don't wanna let down. I say to them like any resolution, I wanna write a book. Will you help me? Every week I'm gonna email you how I'm doing, what I've done, what I'm feeling good about, what I'm not, and will you just listen to me? That can be really successful. You can have this in a writing group. I have a lot of thoughts about writing groups and what works and doesn't work that are just my own opinions from things I've seen over the years, but I actually think accountability is the highest good that a writing group can give to people, that sense of community and everybody working towards a goal and holding each other accountable. I think that can be enormously useful. The place where I think writer's groups get into trouble is when there's a group think about your book and people are kind of giving their opinions about your book without any sense of the strategy behind it or any sense of these things we've been talking about. Did they know your point, do they know your timeline, do they know your story present, do they know all those things? Do they know enough to ask the good questions? I see a lot of manuscripts that come from writing groups and people say my writing group loved it or the opposite, my writing group hates it and I don't know what to do. Usually there's no basis for why the writing group has said that. It feels very arbitrary. Or they'll say something like my writing group, this one is the one that kills me, my writing group thinks I shouldn't write a thriller. They want me to turn it into a romance. Turning it into a romance, that's like whoa, wait a minute, what do you want, what is the point you're trying to make, why are you making that choice? I think you can get swayed in a way that can be a little dangerous sometimes with a writing group. I really like it for community and accountability and also for this idea of emotional support. That's the thing to really think about is this is an incredibly complex, intellectual undertaking, a novel. People who don't write think that it's easy. They think all you need to do is just sit down and do this stuff. It is not easy. Part of what's very hard about it is the obvious emotional component to it and there's several layers to it. There's your own ego, there's that and that's huge. The whole hubris of saying I have something to say that I think the whole world should listen to. It's ridiculous to say that and yet that's actually what we're saying. You've gotta deal with that whole ego piece of it and then there can be jealousy. I have had writers in a couple of times in my career where everyone in their writer's group gets a book deal and they don't and they're like, I'm the worst, I should never do this, who did I think I was, that whole piece about the way the world responds to our work. We can't control that. We have no control over that. We have control over writing the best book we can, building our skill, deepening our understanding of this craft, we have control over all those things but we don't actually have control over the way the world responds. That whole emotional component is ongoing for writers. The piece I just talked about, jealousy of friends, then there's relationships with agents, then there's relationships with their editor, then there's bad book reviews, then there's bad sales, then there's really good sales. That's an emotional, really difficult thing as well. Suddenly you're famous, suddenly people are asking you to speak all the time and you're not a speaker. You're a writer. There's so many emotional components to this journey and people sometimes are mistaken in that belief that if they could just get a book deal, it would all be okay. It's not. It's hard work every step of the way and it's good work. I think it's really one of the most noble things that people can do is to share their story. I think particularly in these times that are tough times we live in that you can know with 100% certainty that writing a good story is a good thing to do. It's gonna help somebody else understand another person, another human being. That is a noble good thing to do and it matters. It matters so much no matter what you're writing. You can hold onto that piece of it for sure that it's good and noble but that doesn't mean that there are so many emotional ups and downs. I think one of the best things a writer can do is find someone to give them that emotional support. Along those lines, I often caution people against giving their work to the wrong people to read. That's a thing that I deal with the fallout from that a lot. What happens is that writers equate people they love with people who are good readers for them. They're not always the same thing. A perfect example of this in my own life is I've been married for almost 30 years. I know, right? I have a fantastic, happy, loving, great marriage. My husband is a finance guy. He's the director of finance. He has an MBA and for the first probably 10 years of our marriage, he would be my first reader. I would give him my stuff to read and I would be like, is it good, have you read it, what do you think, what do you like, that whole thing. He would come back and he would say, well, this sentence on page 3 has this comma and a typo. I'm like, what are you doing right now? It would be so upsetting to me 'cause I was trying to get a sense of is the emotion on the page, is this any good, does this hold together. We would get in the worst fights. It was so horrible. I would say, why are you telling me that? He would say, well what do you want me to tell you? And I would say, well tell me that it's good, tell me that I did well, tell me that I'm all these things. He just didn't have the capacity to do that. It was not something he was able to bring to the table. It took me 15 years to realize, don't give it to him. A couple of my books he's never read, any of it. He has no idea. That doesn't mean he doesn't support me. He totally supports me. He's very proud of me, he's totally in my corner but, he's not reading what I write. Finding that emotional support is just hugely important. I'd like to put it out to you guys. Who do you give your writing to? We know you guys in the front. Tell us about your writing group. Is it a group of two?
There are three of us. Anna may be watching. I don't know. (woman chuckles)
Hi Anna. (woman laughs) How does it work?
We do it online with Zoom. We meet once a week for an hour or longer, whatever, or shorter. Each week is one person's week. We don't have to submit anything except once every three weeks.
Do you help each other with that emotional peace?
I think so.
I mean I think the way it works is it's pretty fluid but I think we've been really good about not dropping the ball which is a hard thing to do. We'll kind of see how we feel. Laura was saying, maybe I'll do three endings this week. I was like, that's good. Sometimes she'll say I have this great idea and then I'll say, I should do that too. It's pretty fluid in terms of what we bring to the table.
Sometimes I'll use the group for brainstorming. I don't know what should happen and then people will go you should make this happen. This would work or I never understood this.
Just sort of loops.
Does anybody else have any methods that they use?
It's just a dear girlfriend who is also a writer but a writer of a totally different kind. She does comedy and sketch, screenplay writing, but one of the things that's really beneficial about that is, to your point, it was very fluid in the way that we talk about our writing. We've gone through similar workshops where we're talking the same language around the writing and it's not just does Jillian like it, it's does it hold up to the character development that we learned for DMA?
That's excellent. Excellent, good. Anybody else? I have one more.
First I wanna say I haven't been paid by Jenny. (women laugh) I have used Author Accelerator and I was one of the students in the first book startup and I got paired with an excellent coach. I had been struggling and struggling with my book. I got halfway through. Jenny helped me now that I was writing about the wrong person, and then I worked with a book coach, producing 10 pages a week, sometimes two, and it helped me get my book finished. Now I've got a second one.
Thank you for that. That's so great. (class claps)
The accountability was huge.
The thing about coaching is I think it can be very beneficial to pay because if you pay, you've got skin in the game. That's really what it is. I found that in my own business life that you've got that's the accountability I just have to have. I'm trying to do something right now in my business that is very emotionally hard for me to do and I knew I needed help. I had to pay some big bucks because otherwise, I just was never gonna do it. Sometimes that's what you need. Just knowing what the general process is and how it works and how you're gonna move through it and where you're gonna get, these critical habits of the accountability and emotional support. What I sometimes I'm frustrated by is you'll hear writers talk about this thing like, you have to write everyday, this arbitrary rule or, you have to write 1000 words a day or whatever the thing is, however many words a week or what have you. Those are very external. They don't solve that internal problem of this emotion of am I any good, is this any good, should I keep going. I think the emotional part is often overlooked. It's so important and that's the coaching model which is support while you go just because it's hard and it's hard not to get mired in doubt. Whatever you do to get that emotional support, do it and don't underestimate it because there is no writer who doesn't feel it. You can't make art and you're making something out of nothing. That's what I always remind people. You're making something out of nothing. That's hard, that takes energy. You want to be kind to yourself and not expect to get it right the first time and not expect to be a genius at it and not expect everything to go very well. Sometimes it does but most of the time not so much. It's a process and a journey and as I said before, I think it's a really good thing to be doing. I think you can't point at novel writing and say not worth while for humanity because it just really is. It just really is.