What I Learned From Writing More Than 30 Books
I tallied up my work this past week and realized I have authored or ghostwritten 34 books. I know I ghostwrite books for a living, but despite doing yearly revenue totals, I had not actually counted the number. But when I did, I realized just how productive I’ve been. And I’m really excited.
I have always wanted to be a working writer, and I am doing just that. The fact that this labor has produced more than 30 books makes me feel really good. And maybe you’re happy for me, too, but beyond being happy, you want to know how I did it. I hear you, which is why I’ll give you some tips that can help you become a more productive writer.
But first, a breakdown of the work. I’ve been a published book author since 2002, when I self-published my first novel, As If Nothing Happened. I landed an agent in 2005 and a book deal in 2006. I’ve authored three novels, one nonfiction book, and three ebooks. I did not count in this total one novel I wrote, Out of Control, because it was published under a book deal that I canceled. So I kind of forgot about it. But as I think, I suppose that ups the tally to 35 books I’ve written. Why should I not count it? Just because I forgot about it doesn’t mean I didn’t write it.
Then there are the ghostwriting projects — 27 of them. This does not include the books where I’ve signed on only as the editor, not ghostwriter, because some of those required severe editing and lots of work. I probably could have counted some of them among my ghostwriting projects. But I haven’t.
I’ve been ghostwriting books since late 2005, so the 27 ghostwriting projects have been since then. A few, I am working on now and expect to complete in the next few weeks.
So what does this all mean to you?
It means writing a book doesn’t have to take years and years. I’ve learned how to write multiple books in a year, often multiple books at one time. And a few keys can help make that happen.
Productivity tips to help you write your book
1. Plan your book. Think about what kind of book you intend to write. This doesn’t mean you must outline in detail every plot point or angle, but it does mean considering the broad outlines. You need to know why you are writing it and what you want the book to do for the reader. Will it teach or inspire them? Is it for entertainment? Are you writing a series? Is it a standalone book? Do you want readers to do something as a result of reading the book?
2. Research before you write. Conduct your research ahead of time. When I wrote Zoom Power: Your Key to Hitting Your Personal, Business and Financial Targets, I spent time at the start of the process, conducting interviews. Then when I sat down to write it, the writing only took three weeks.
3. Resist the urge to be perfect. No book is perfect. Period. So don’t try to make yours be. Many people never can complete their books because they can never get from one page to the other. They spend their time tinkering and tweaking. They second-guess themselves and find ways to rewrite passages, never moving forward. But one thing I often tell clients is that changing something a lot of times doesn’t necessarily make it better. It just makes it different. Writing is such a process that you can constantly find something to change. Changing at some point though, becomes counterproductive. So forget trying to make your manuscript perfect.
4. Stop making excuses. It’s tempting to say that you can’t find the time to write your book because you are busy. Well, the reality is that we are all busy. Some of us are busy in productive ways, some in not-so-productive ways. But most of us find that we have way more things to do than time to do them. So deal with it. You’re not going to find time for your book if you keep making excuses for why you can’t write it. You must look for time to invest in it, if you want to reap the reward of completing it and offering it to readers.
5. Think quality, not quantity. Many people think their books must be long, boring tomes. Well, they don’t plan for them to be boring. They do, however, want them to be long. But in today’s super busy world, readers don’t have time for long. If you’re writing a novel, the book must be long enough to tell a complete and satisfying story. But it shouldn’t go on forever. Of course there are exceptions to this, as I still remember the 1,035-page Gone With the Wind I devoured in high school. But generally, shorter is better.
The published version of my novel, Scandalous Truth, is 430 pages. While it is a good story and I’ve gotten great feedback, I think it could have been a few pages shorter. A good length for novels is about 300 pages, though it depends on the genre. Many nonfiction books can be quite effective and inviting to the reader at 150 pages.
6. Write often. You can’t get your book finished by writing only occasionally. You’ve got to put your rear in the seat. Don’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration has a funny way of not showing up when no work has gone before it. So the more you write, the more inspired you will feel.
Put these six tips into place and you will become a more productive writer.
What is the biggest productivity hurdle you face in your writing?
Great advice thanks - I truly agree with resisting the urge to be perfect. Most people kill themselves for the 100%, but that is rarely attainable, or if it is, just takes too much time to be productive. Have been there, done that, made the mistake and learned from it :)
Great tips on writing. Next post could be on what to do after it's written. That's where many authors find the true hurdle.
Thanks, Jason. You are so very right! Many authors struggle with getting the word out about their books. They have a batch of books in-hand or have published e-books to popular sites but don't know how to let their readers know about their work. Check out this earlier post on marketing self-published books. It's a good primer. We'll also do another post at the top of the week about marketing books and writing services using social media.