Armand takes You Through His Thought Process When Writing a Book
In the April 2020 edition of Traces, we talked about the “Why and What” of book writing. In this article we’ll talk about the actual writing of your book.
The first step is to find a topic to write about and formulate your book around that topic. A lot of “Motivational” types tell us we just need to get started… just do it, just dive right in. So, following this advice, the majority
of people attempting to write a book take action.
They sit down in front of their computer and open up a blank document and start writing their book. This is one of the biggest authoring mistakes they can make because they are starting the process by staring at a blank page!
They have no idea where to start, where to end or what to put in between the start and end.
So, let’s get started the right way
First off, I’m assuming you’re writing a non-fiction book. If you’re writing a fiction book, I doubt if I can be of much help to you because I’ve never written one.
Let’s assume you’ve already decided on the topic. After that, you need to think about what to include in your book in order to fulfill the promise made in the title of the book. People read nonfiction books in order to garner some information.
Think about what information was promised to them in the title of the book, that’s our starting point. It’s time to brainstorm to determine what is
needed to fulfill this promise.
Let’s pretend to create a book, we’ll call it The Art of BS.
We don’t start writing the book yet. If we did, we’d end up staring at a blank page. At this point, we start by creating an outline for the book. We already have the title page. We know the title so we should be able to create an “About” page and maybe even a preface.
The first chapter comes next, so we put it in the outline. I’ll call it “Intro” in this outline. We know we’ll need a wrap up at the end of the book. We’ll all the wrap up the “Last Chapter”.
The Art Of BS
- Last Chapter (Wrap up
We now have everything…except the body of the book itself.
At this point, we need to think about what we are going to teach our readers. What subjects do we need to break this down into in order to fulfill the promise made in the title?
In this example I’m going to say my subject is tied to teaching people how to think on their feet, how to go with the flow and speak more comfortably, on stage, in front of people. We cover this in the Intro in order to let them know what the book intends to accomplish.
Let’s look at a potential brainstorm session and resulting outline I would make as I prepare to write. This is exactly the way I would do an outline while preparing to write a book.
The first thing I feel I need to teach is “Free Flow” and what it is and then the idea of “Improv.” I know I want to start off teaching this so I’ll inserting those, as well as the rest of the topics, in between Intro and Last Chapter in my outline.
Remember, (between the Intro and the Last Chapter) I’m just listing the topics I want to cover in the book. At this point they are not in any particular order. I’m just listing them as I brainstorm what needs to be covered in my book.
One of the problems people encounter, while speaking, is things going wrong. So, I definitely want to cover that, so I will put it in my outline.
Another thing I want to discuss is how to use the audience for content. A lot of times when I am speaking, I ask the audience questions, and I use their feedback. This helps me create content on the fly.
Another thing a speaker has to have in their arsenal is “Go To” stories. These are small stories that I can use to illustrate a point I’m trying to make that often comes up in my speaking. On my outline I might write a little note to myself like, never tell a story without a point, and never make a point without telling a story. I include it in the outline so that I won’t forget to write that specifically when I cover that topic in the book.
As an aside…I first heard that statement made when I was 18 or 19 years old. It was made by Charles “Tremendous” Jones. I just want to make sure to give him credit for that statement. He is the epitome of a great speaker. I suggest you do a YouTube search on him and listen to him speak.
I’ll add “Preparing for the Worst.” This is very similar to “what to do if things go wrong” but there are slight differences, so I’ll make a note to myself that I might want to include it under the other heading instead of using it as a stand-alone subject.
Next, I’ll write down “Free Flowing Exercises.” I feel that I should teach my readers how to include exercises they can have their audience do at either live at the event or once they go home.
Another topic, “Ditch the Power Point” will be where I explain how I love PowerPoint, but they confine you to the outline your audience sees on the PowerPoint. By ditching it, they can open up the presentation and tailor make it, on the fly, to better suit the audience. I’ll also include a note to myself here to talk about white board or flip chart presentations.
I want to make sure I include how to bring the audience back to the point after a story if it made you deviate from the topic. At this point we have nine teaching chapters with number ten being my wrap up. The average business book has 10 to 12 chapters. I would like this book to have 12 chapters, so I need to come up with at least two more topics”.
As I brainstorm for these two additional chapters, I’m going through this thought process…if a person wanted to learn how to free flow think, speak off the top of their head, get their point across, feel comfortable while doing it even when they make mistakes.
Hmm? I just heard myself say, “free flow think.” I like that so I want to make sure I include that in the book under the “Free Flow” chapter, so I’ll add it to my outline.
“Purpose” should be a chapter, so I will add it right after “Free Flow”. In this chapter, I will explain that their live presentation has to have a purpose. If you don’t understand purpose before you even began to speak, you will have no idea how to get to the point of the presentation.
Dealing with hecklers is another topic I want to include. Even though this book is not intended for comedians, the reader may come across hecklers who just won’t shut up while you’re speaking, so I want to show them how to handle it and gain back control of the audience.
Actually, that would be a great topic all on its own, so I will add “Audience Mind Control.” By this I mean getting the audience
to pay attention and to participate. As I am thinking about it, I
realize I need to include one more topic, “Getting Comfortable
with Being Uncomfortable.”
As you continue to brainstorm, you may find more things you want to cover, and you may even come to decide to remove or combine items with other topics. You may also decide you want to change the order of some of the topics.
With that said, as I review my outline, I decide I want to remove, “Preparing for the Worst” as a stand-alone topic and move it under the “What to Do When Things Go Wrong” topic. And “Free Flowing Exercises” might fit better under “Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable”.
I think “Audience Mind Control” should come right after, “Using the Audience for Content.” We are now up to 11 chapters, and I feel good about that. Up to this point we have only thought about and worked with the
Outline. We continue to work on it until we are satisfied with it.
Remember these are the chapters, so you want to go over and over them making sure they flow correctly and are titled correctly. This outline is the big picture, the overview of your book. Do I know exactly what I will be writing in each chapter? Not yet, but I have a clearer picture of what will be covered in the book.
As you know, many of my articles are taken from my live trainings. When I did this during a live stream, I created everything you just read in less than 15 minutes. In reality, if I am actually writing this book, I may spend a day or more creating it, refining it, and coming up with good chapter titles, etc.
This is not about sitting and staring at a piece of paper or a computer screen. That just creates brain overload and suffocates ideas. What I mean is that I will come back to it from time to time throughout the day as ideas hatch when your brain isn’t being forced to come up with them.
As I go through this process, I always keep the person who will be reading this book in mind. I want to ensure they will be able to understand it. I want to make sure I don’t leave important things out.
I want to be sure I meet the promise I made to them with my title. At this point, we need to start thinking about the length of the book. Research shows there are specific numbers when it comes to the length of the average business book and that length is roughly 200 pages.
So, we know the target number of pages we should shoot for. Now let’s take those 200 pages and divide them by the average number of chapters or main topics, which is twelve, and we come up with, 200 ÷ 12 = 16.6. So, it will be an average of 16 to 17 pages per chapter.
Each of those topics will contain four sub-topics. That means each sup-topic should contain four pages. This calculates out to 48 subtopics in the book. These are averages—some chapters may be shorter, and some may be longer.
As an example, I will go to the “Intro” in the outline above, and
change it to reflect the four sub-topics,
• What is BS?
• When to BS.
• Is it really BS?
• BS Is Freeing.
We now have the four sub-topics for the Intro chapter. I went ahead and also added the sub-topics for the “Purpose” chapter and the “Free Flow” (Improv) chapter. In this one, I used sub-sub-topics. In reality, I would do this for every main chapter. Here’s the outline we’ve created.
The Art Of BS
- About (1-2 pages)
- Foreword (NOTE TO SELF: Should I find someone to write
this for me?)
- Preface (NOTE TO SELF: Optional)
- Intro (NOTE TO SELF: Instead of “Intro,” maybe call this,
“What is the Art of BS?”)
a. What is BS?
b. When to BS.
c. Is It Really BS?
d. BS Is Freeing–Why It’s Good.
- What is the Purpose in the Presentation?
a. To Sell
b. Get Leads
c. Just Present
- Free Flow…What is it…Improv…Free Flow Think
a. History of Improv
i. Classic Examples of Improv (Roman/Greek/Theater)
ii. Famous Speeches of Improv
iii. Famous Movie Examples of Improv
b. What Is Flow?
c. Thinking on Your Feet
d. Freeing Yourself
- Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
a. Free Flowing Exercises (things they can practice and do)
- What to Do if Things Go Wrong
a. Preparing for the Worst
- Using the Audience for Content
- Audience Mind Control–Participation
- Using Go-to Stories (NOTE TO Self: never tell a story without
making a point, and never make a point without telling a story)
- Dealing with Hecklers
- Ditch the PowerPoint (NOTE TO SELF: white board or flip
- Bringing the Audience Back to the Point
- Last Chapter/Wrap up
On average, each of these sub-topics will be about four pages each.
Once starting to write, you DON’T want to write for the sake of writing. In other words, you don’t want to add fill or leave stuff out in order to meet the numbers laid out above. As you proceed, you may find that some chapters as well as sub-topics may be longer or shorter.
You could even determine that you need more chapters or even less chapters to thoroughly cover the promise of your book. Your book may be a little more or less than the 200 pages laid out in the outline—this is just my general rule of business books One more thing to remember, these may not even be the final chapter titles in your book. You’re just giving them these names as you are writing the outline.
This outline contains rough numbers for pages, titles, topics sup-topics etc., but it is all a part of the process as you get ready to write your book.
Don’t rush this process. Sure, you may be able to do it in an afternoon, but I think you should give it more time and thought in order to end up with a great book. It bothers me to see people take a subject, outsource it and have someone else write the book. That’s not the way to write a great book.
I’m a purist when it comes to writing a book. I think it has to have extreme value, and it should leave the reader wanting more of you. You want to make your book so good that the reader wants to go and tell a friend about it.
At this point, we have the out outline and we know what content will be in it, so we’re ready to start writing. For some, this may be easy because you are a natural writer. For others, like me, it is difficult. I am not a natural writer. I hate writing. I can do it, and I want to write this book, but I do not enjoy it.
Options for Writing
We know there are 48 sub-topics and each one is only four or five pages, so we could write one per day and our book would be completed in 48 days. If you can do that, congratulations! More power to you because that is incredible. What if you wrote two topics a day? That’s even better, your book would be written in less than a month.
For most of us, this will never happen. We have great intentions, but we are not natural writers. Don’t be ashamed; it’s hard to stay motivated for 28 days and much harder for 48 consecutive days. The second method. The method I prefer is to record the book.
When I wrote my book, Success Leaves Traces, I started by outlining it just as we did above. Then I took the chapter topics from the outline and wrote each one, along with their sub-topics on a separate index card. I had approximately 12 index cards. In order to force me to record the book, I scheduled an audio webinar and invited my students to listen in as I recorded the book.
This is optional, but it is what I needed to get it done. I didn’t need to worry about video. I know the topic well enough that I had a good idea what I was going to say. I used a wireless mic and would just take the first card and walk around the room as I talked on the topic and sub-topics for that card.
I made this into a two-day session of about two to three hours each day. This worked for me because I have experience with speaking for two to three hours at a time. For the average person, it might be better to break it up into smaller segments. I would suggest around 30 minutes at a time.
You don’t need a live audience to record. I’ve already told you that I needed this to be scheduled in order to force me to do it, but there’s another reason I do it in front of a live audience. When I have a live audience, I’m “on”. I do a much better job than just talking when no one is listening. I can’t screw around and do 100 retakes. I need to perform.
For me, there’s an inner source in my head that wakes up and forces me to deliver a performance rather than just bland audio. This does not happen when I just record something. Of course, you can do it however you wish and take as long as you wish to record all of your content. What’s important is that you are “speaking out” your book.
So instead of taking months to write it, you can record it in a matter of hours or a few days to complete the book. Here’s another benefit of recording your book. If you don’t like it and want to make major changes, you can just re-record instead of having to re-write it.
You don’t need fancy programs to record in front of a live audience. Don’t get caught up in the details. You can use services like Zoom or GoToWebinar to record in front of an audience. Both of these are easy to use. Some teleseminar services will even be free as long as you keep your audience small. By doing audio only, you don’t have to worry about expensive video equipment, and you don’t need to dress up or fix your hair.
The next step is simple. You hire a service to transcribe the recordings.
Here are a couple of transcribing options. Rev.com is a service that
will transcribe for about $1.25 a minute.
I am continually looking for less expensive methods for transcription, and I found a site at Descript.com that runs on both PCs and Macs. They are ultra cheap. You can transcribe ten hours of audio for only $10. This calculates out to less than two cents per minute of transcription. They have an intro plan that gives you the first three hours for free. This is what I use. Their software does a great job, and they have great features.
To see me demonstrate Descript.com, log into the Marketing University Member’s area and open up “Best Selling Author’s” training. Go to session two and at about the 48-minute mark, you’ll find my Descript.
com demonstration. One important note on this—if I didn’t want to use a live webinar to record, I could record right into Descript and have it transcribed directly. This is a really cool feature for this service.
Why is that? When you are watching me live, you see my facial expressions, hand motions etc. They help explain what I’m saying. With video and audio, I can mispronounce words, make corrections to myself, but with a service like this every mispronounced word that you might not have noticed in the audio is now transcribed… so, the text is horrible!
You need to edit it, to make it readable. You can edit it yourself, or you can search online for people who edit books. Editing is a two-step process. First, you need to make sure your sentences make sense. No matter what you use to transcribe (unless you use a live person to transcribe) your sentences will be fragments.
Second, you need to make sure your content is correct. You can have the same editor do both of these functions. How much does an editor cost? The range is ridiculous. It can go from a couple hundred dollars to thousands and thousands of dollars. I would have a very hard time paying someone $10,000 to fix my grammar. So, what can we do?
We could go to someplace like Fiverr.com and hire someone. I know what you’re thinking, “oh my gosh, I can’t believe Armand is recommending Fiverr for editing a book.” Be honest, that’s exactly what you were thinking…correct?
Trust me on this. Go to Fiverr.com and look at all the services they list: underwriting; translation; email copy; legal writing; transcription; proof reading; editing, and the list goes on. Start looking for people under proofreading and editing. You’ll find this service listed for a range of prices.
To see me demonstrate Fiverr.com, log into the Marketing University Member’s area and open up “Best Selling Author’s” training. Go to session two and at about the 60-minute mark, you’ll see me look at different people and talk about what service they offer and for what price. I show you what to look for when choosing an editor from Fiverr.
Another place to go to outsource the editing is onlinejobs.ph and hire Filipinos to do the editing. While it may be hard to believe, their command of written English is probably better than yours. They can write in English better than you can.
To see me demonstrate onlinejobs.ph, log into the Marketing University Member’s area and open up “Best Selling Author’s” training. Go to session two at the 1:02.30 time stamp. I spend about eight minutes explaining how to choose a Filipino editor.
The next piece is layout of the book and images. Your layout will depend on how you’re getting the book published. If you’re selfpublishing, it’s something you definitely need to do. If you’re using a publisher, the layout and images will depend on what they ask of you. This covers the writing of your book.
As I have shown you, writing a book does not have to be complicated. To be quite honest, anyone can do it. I have covered the highlights of my live training in this article. If you want the full training log into your Marketing University Member’s area and open up session two under the “Best Selling Author” training.