10 Jan 44. Something Isn’t Working
If you’ve been wanting to write a book for some time but you haven’t, something isn’t working.
If you’ve started your book but, for whatever reason, you haven’t finished writing it, something isn’t working.
In this episode I break down how to recognize when things have gotten off track with your book and how to decide what to do about it.
Hey there. Welcome to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach, Candice L. Davis. In this episode, I want to talk about what to do when your book idea or some part of your book isn’t working.
When I first decided I wanted to commit my time to writing books, I wasn’t looking for an income.
I had been convinced that there was no money in writing, but I still wanted to write.
My first goal was to get some of my short stories published in the best literary journals.
But I knew I didn’t have anything good enough to send it.
There was no point.
I had to concede that writing on my own and in small online groups with no professional wasn’t working.
That didn’t mean I gave up. Instead, I looked for another way, a better way.
And I started with fiction writing course at my local community college.
Eventually, I reached a point where I believed my writing was good enough for those journals.
I started submitting my work, and I received plenty of rejection letters for my trouble. (Actually, letters is a strong word because most were just slips of paper less, just two inches tall, saying thanks but no thanks.)
At that point, I didn’t concede. I didn’t give up because I knew I had something of value to offer. I knew because I’d done the work and because I got feedback from mentors who were honest with me about what was good enough and what still wouldn’t make the cut.
It just needed to find the right home.
I continued submitting my work, and eventually, I started to receive acceptance letters and awards. I received a fellowship for a prestigious writing program.
If hadn’t conceded and accepted that I needed instruction to improve my writing, I don’t think I would have gotten very far in my writing career.
On the other hand, if I had conceded when I got those early rejection letters from literary magazines, I would never have experienced the success I enjoyed.
I might have given up on writing altogether, which would have led me down a completely different path.
In the last few weeks, we’ve all had cause to think deeply about what it really means to concede.
To surrender or to yield.
To admit something is true after you’ve resisted that truth for days or weeks or years.
Knowing when to concede is important, but it’s just as important to understand what to do next.
Conceding that things aren’t going the way you want with your book project is not a sign of weakness.
And it doesn’t mean you need to scrap the whole thing.
Conceding, accepting the truth of what you’re dealing with will save you time.
Let’s look at 3 times when authors need to concede.
The first is when your idea is too small for an entire book.
I almost hesitate to include this because I rarely think an idea is too small. Typically, it’s just the way the idea is handled.
I don’t know about you but there have been times when people have told me they’ve written a book and then they hand me something that’s a scant 50 or 70 pages.
Don’t get me wrong. There are many great books that are quite short. But that’s because they’re designed to be that short.
I recently spoke with someone who believed any expert should be able to write their book in 3 hours.
Those books may be perfectly serviceable as how-to manuals, I guess. But those aren’t the kinds of books I coach my clients to write.
Frankly, even a great tech manual is going to take you more than three hours.
If you just want to write a book to say you did and put “author” on your resume, your speaker sheet, and your social media profiles, that’s up to you.
But I coach my clients to write at a higher level. I coach my clients to write timeless authority pieces that can stand next to the books that come from traditional publishers.
Typically, that’s going to take more than 50 pages of content.
If your book is coming out much too short, you might need to concede that the idea isn’t big enough for a whole book.
That can be resolved by keeping your same idea but writing bigger. When my clients don’t have enough content, we look for ways to connect what they want to write a bot to something else that matters to their readers.
At the other end of the spectrum, you may need to concede that you have way too much content squeezed into your book.
I know you have tons of knowledge and wisdom and lots of inspiring stories to share, but if your outline is bloated or your manuscript is over 100,000 words, you need to give serious thought to cutting.
Of course, it’s much easier to cut your book back if you catch this at the outline stage, which is why it’s helpful to have a coach give you feedback on your outline.
But don’t be afraid to cut after you’ve written.
Nothing ever has to be wasted. You can use that content elsewhere, and even if you don’t it may just be that you had to write it in order to get to your final product.
Concede that your manuscript is too long and cut.
Some of my clients have cut away as much as 1/3 of their manuscripts and ended up with better books because of it.
The last area in which I would encourage authors to concede is to recognize when you need help with your book.
I started this episode by sharing how I had to concede that I needed help when I wanted to get my writing published.
So many of us have big dreams for our books.
We see other authors out there and they’re publishing bestsellers. They’re getting glowing reviews from important book reviewers. They’re on talk shows and radio shows and getting interviewed for big publications.
And it *looks* like they’re doing it all on their own.
It *looks* like they wrote their wonderful book in solitude and then released it to the world.
It *looks* like they’re just more talented or smarter or better at this whole book thing than we are.
But the truth is that, if they wrote phenomenal books, those authors almost always got help along the way.
Some of them spent years studying and honing their craft.
If they published traditionally, they were assigned an editor who worked with them to make the book the best it could be from the idea to the structure to the words on the page.
If they had a great agent, that agent also gave great advice and feedback.
And if the author self-published a phenomenal book, there’s an incredibly high probability that they had help.
They worked with a coach to help them refine their stories, develop their models, and structure the book in a way that would appeal to their readers.
They worked with a professional editor who made their words shine on the page.
One of my mentors sold her book to a publisher who told her it would be the first book they wouldn’t make a change to. They didn’t want to change one word or move one comma.
This sounds like an amazing feat—and it is—but you also have to realize that she had worked with a paid mentor to help her take her writing to that level.
She had workshopped every page with her writing group, a group of incredibly serious authors.
So when you’re reading your favorite guru’s book or the latest project from your favorite novelist, keep in mind that they had help to produce that work.
That’s not to say they aren’t talented or they don’t have a gift for writing.
It *is* to say that the best books are written as an act of collaboration.
If you’ve wanted to write a book for months or years, but you haven’t gotten started.
If you started off well, but you’re stuck in the middle of your book
Or if you know you could write an even better book than the one you’re producing
I invite you to concede.
Concede that you’re human like all those bestselling, award-winning, talk-show-circuit appearing authors you look up to.
Find the help that fits your budget.
Take a class.
Hire a coach.
Work with a professional editor.
Accept that writing a phenomenal book almost always requires help—and then get the kind of help you need.
That’s it for this episode. If you’re enjoying the podcast, share it with someone you know wants to write a book. My goal with Nothing but the Words is to offer anyone who wants to write a great book all the tools and resources they need to do it, so don’t keep it to your self.
Thanks for listening to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach Candice L Davis and I’ll see you next time.