Posts Tagged ‘production’

Many authors find that finishing their book on time, and avoiding writer’s block, is easier than they expected. This is one of the reasons that successful authors spend a lot of time in the planning stage, positioning their books and preparing a detailed content plan.

The more you plan, the easier it will be to write and finish your book on time!

As a result, once you have created a content plan and have committed to daily progress, you’ll find finishing your book is mostly a matter of “work” rather than stress.

Keeping on schedule

Comfortable, stress-free writing is important because it’s essential that you finish your book on time. You simply can’t afford to get behind schedule; too many people are depending on you to finish your book on time.

If you’re working with a trade publisher, they have already committed to a publication date, and have scheduled numerous staff and freelance resources like:

  1. Cover and inside-page designers
  2. Developmental editors
  3. Technical editors
  4. Layout and production
  5. Proofreaders
  6. Sales and promotion resources

If your manuscript arrives late, it can lose its place in the publisher’s production cycle.

Worse, if your manuscript delays your book’s publication, it may not be available in stores when previously-scheduled marketing and promotion events take place. Delays also make bookstore owners and buyers question their previous purchase commitments, which can lead to canceled orders before your book even appears!

Keeping on schedule is primarily a matter of:

  • ŸStarting with a detailed content plan. Ideally, by the time you start writing, each chapter in your table of contents contains Level 1 and Level 2 subheads indicating what you’re going to be covering, and where it will appear in the chapter.
  • Prioritizing your time. Which involves recognizing the importance of your book to your future and committing to as little as 30-minutes a day to finishing your manuscript. Pages quickly mount up!
  • Avoiding distractions. Distractions can take many forms, including unnecessary self-editing while writing. Your immediate priority is to complete the first draft as quickly as possible, so you and your editors can make it all it can possible be.
  • Delegation. There are probably some tasks which you consider “writing” that you may be able to delegate, such as listening to, or transcribing, interviews, researching quotations, and checking for minor spelling errors as you go along.

    Writing out of order

    One of the most important ways you can keep your writing on schedule is to write out-of-sequence. Or, as I prefer to think of it, “Write the easiest stuff first!”

    Specifically, instead of starting by writing the introduction and chapter one, start in the middle, with an “easy” chapter- -one with lots of detail you can just about finish in your sleep.

    Not only that, you don’t have to write entire chapters! Instead, write an easy section, or subsection, then go on to another “easy” section or subsection of a different chapter.

    There are two points involved:

    • ŸFinish it! First, its essential that you finish the first draft, so it can be massaged into shape.
    • Build up speed. Second, progress builds upon progress. Even if you feel like a cat who’s stayed out all night when you begin writing, once you’ve written that first paragraph, or two, you’ll find yourself writing faster and faster. Once you get started, and into the rhythm of writing, it’s easy to keep going.

    In fact, it seems that writing a book is primarily a matter of “starting to write” each time you sit down for a writing session!

    Of the more than 500 nonfiction authors and book coaches I’ve interviewed, a large percentage state that the introduction and Chapter l of their books is usually the last to be written.

    What about writer’s block?

    A lot is written about writer’s block. Writer’s block refers to an author’s sudden inability to make any progress writing their book. It’s characterized by extreme stress that gets worse the closer it gets to submission deadlines.

    Many new authors fear writer’s block is “part” of the writing process. However, here are a few observations about writer’s block:

    • ŸWriter’s block doesn’t have to be a part of the writing process. Although writer’s block gets a lot of press, it’s not a given! It’s doesn’t have to happen. It’s not “part” of the writing process. Writer’s block is more a symptom than a cause. There are things you can do to prevent it.
    • Writer’s block isn’t forever. It can be cured! There are strategies and workarounds you can choose to restore productivity to your writing sessions. As you become a more comfortable writer, you’ll find yourself knowing the warning signs and can take immediate action.

      Tips for avoiding writer’s block

      Here are some of the ways you can keep writer’s block from appearing:

      1. Planning is the best way to prevent writer’s block. Stress is caused by the unknown, but when you know what you’re going to be writing, you’ll become comfortable with the writing process. That’s why a detailed content plan is so important; when you know, down to the subhead level, what you’re going to write about in each chapter, finishing your book becomes more a matter of “doing it” than “creativity” or “inspiration.”
      2. Consistent daily progress prevents writer’s block. Stress is often caused by overly-ambitious goals, like trying to write a book in sequential order during holidays, vacations, or weekends. By expecting yourself to write during “marathon” writing sessions creates a great deal of stress. It is infinitely less stressful to write 30 minutes every weekday, hoping only to write a page or two of double-spaced copy, than it is expect to spend a day in isolation and anticipate writing 25-50 pages.
      3. Progress builds confidence, preventing writer’s block. Your confidence and enthusiasm will increase to the extent you track your progress and can view a constantly growing number of completed pages. This is why it’s so important to print your latest pages on 3-hole paper and save them in a 3-ring binder, at the end of every writing session.
      4. Reasonable expectations prevent writer’s block. As a result of the way writing is traditionally taught, authors tend to compare themselves to impossible standards- -often, their own favorite authors. It’s important to keep things in perspective; few authors write perfect first drafts! Often, the perfection that appears in a book is the result of months of extensive writing, rewriting, and editing involving several specialists. Writing is a team effort, and your job isn’t to prepare the perfect first draft, it’s to write a good, solid first draft and be willing to work to make it as good as it can be.
      5. Frequently review what you’ve written and what you want to write the next day. Immediately before going to bed, for example, review what you’ve written that day, and go over your writing goals for the next day. This engages your mind; while you’re sleeping, your brain will be processing and organizing information. As a result, when you sit down to write, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you get up to speed.

      Basically, give yourself a break! Give yourself every advantage possible, beginning with a firm content plan, a realistic commitment to daily writing progress, and don’t compare yourself to your favorite authors. If you get to talk to them, chances are, your favorite author will admit that they depend a lot on their editors to get the job done right.

      What to do if writer’s block occurs

      Here are a few of the strategies that I, and my clients, depend on to defeat writer’s block.

      1. Write something else. Don’t prolong the agony; if you are stuck at a particular point, temporarily put it aside, and write something that’s easier to write. If you are stuck getting started in Chapter One, for example, jump ahead to an easy-to-write bullet list of resources or recommendations in the middle of Chapter Five.
      2. Change the format you’re trying to write. If you’re having trouble writing about a specific topic for your book, try describing what you’re having trouble writing in a letter or a memo. Tell your wife, a friend, your co-author, or a trusted customer what you’re trying to write about.
      3. Write less. Instead of trying to write a complete chapter, or section of a chapter, give yourself a 1-page limit! Force yourself to cover the topic in just one page! Reducing the amount you feel you have to write takes away a lot of the stress.
      4. Give yourself a time limit. Another way of overcoming writer’s block is to give yourself a 5-minute deadline; get a timer and see how much you can write, as quickly as you can, in just 5 minutes. Once you start writing, of course, you’ll probably find it difficult to stop…and your writer’s block is a thing of the past.
      5. Pick up the phone! Most people find that it is easier to talk than it is to write. So, invest in a digital voice recorder, or voice recognition software, and your pick-up the phone and call a friend or a trusted co-worker, and simply tell them what you’re trying to write, and why its so relevant. Have the call transcribed, and you’ll have the first draft of your book.
      6. Offer a free teleseminar. Teleseminars are great writer’s block fighters; they provide a deadline for action, and make it easy to share the information you already know. There’s little, or no, cost involved, and you can schedule them at the last minute, i.e., 24 or 48 hours in advance, thanks to today’s e-mails and social marketing tools. Don’t worry about the number of participants; the event is primarily for you, providing an audience, a deadline, and a limited amount of time, for sharing your ideas and creating a recording you can later transcribe.

      These are just a few of the simple steps you can take to cure writer’s block. The important thing to remember is that writer’s block is a result of stress; stress caused by unrealistic goals and/or a lack of planning your writing before you start to write.

      Like for health issues in general, for writer’s block – prevention is the best cure!

      Leadership Cancers #5: Simplemindedness

      by Gary Monti on April 13, 2010

      Have you ever nailed something? I mean, you got it down to a few simple keystrokes or a few lines in a paragraph. How sublime is the feeling of accomplishment? All the effort seems worth it when the faces of those who use your brainchild say, “Yes, this is it!”

      On the flip side have you ever created a train wreck of a solution? One so clunky you’d like to just shoot it and put it out of its misery? Or have you ever had a customer say, “All you have to do is…” and you start wondering what she was smoking for lunch?

      The differences between getting it just right and failing miserably can sometimes be reduced to two words – simple vs simpleminded. The two seem to sit very close to each other and may be hard to distinguish. Let’s take a look at them and examine the boundary between the two.

      DaVinci, Simplicity, and Telephones

      As mentioned in the first post in this series, DaVinci summed it well:

      The sophistication is reflected in the simplicity.

      A client’s VP of Sales, when talking about what comprises a successful product, said it in today’s terms, “The product should be so simple that my grandmother can use it without reading the instructions.” It is referring to what is sometimes called seamless performance. In other words, the product performs so well and delivers such high quality results it actually disappears. Landlines are a good example. When I pick up a good old-fashioned, copper-wired phone my minds eye is focused on the person I am calling and the call itself. The phone literally disappears from my consciousness. That is simple.

      When I use my cell phone…well…that is another story. There is just a touch of stress, barely perceptible that is saying, “I wonder if this will go through and if it does what are the odds it could drop out?” It’s ever so subtle but it is there.  If you don’t think this is true for you try making this simple observation the next time you want to make a small, important call to someone about whom you care. Pay attention to your feelings when it can’t get through or is dropped as you are ready to breathe out and talk. Is it frustrating? Do you feel disappointed? Where does anger fit?

      Simpleminded

      So where does simplemindedness fit into all this? To answer this let’s go back to “simple.” When something is truly simple it means all the principles and disciplines required are present and combined in a balanced manner to create a product that performs as expected. For simplemindedness to be present all that is required is to leave out a principle, have some principle inadequately represented, or have the relationship between design elements be off balance.  It’s that simple! Sticking with cell phones, battery life and bandwidth represent the second and third situation, respectively.

      What’s the Answer?

      If we pick up the cell phone situation and bring it over to the realm of relationships with clients, peers, vendors and other stakeholders there is a way to keep simplemindness out of the relationships and subsequently the product. Know the disciplines, principle, and balance between them that is required to move from customer need to functional specification to design specification to production. With this information you are forearmed and prepared to fend off the “all you have to do…” declarations that key stakeholders may make. You can push back in a very sane manner that is business-like and respectful.

      Share you comments! I’d like to know what you think. In addition to commenting on this post you can also send a response via e-mail to gwmonti@mac.com or visit www.ctrchg.com.