80. How to Borrow Experience to Write a Better Book

Great writers study and practice writing for many years to hone their craft.

So how can you write a great book, without investing all those hours of experience, the first time around?

It’s not as hard as some people want you to think. (You don’t have to be miserable writing your book!)

In this episode, discover two simple ways to borrow someone else’s experience and wisdom to write a phenomenal, life-changing, successful book.

For more writing tips and inspiration, follow me on Instagram @candiceldavis.

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Episode Transcript

Hey there and welcome to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach, Candice L Davis.

I hope you’re writing if you want to be, friend.

If not, DM me on Instagram @candiceldavis and tell me why not. I can help you get back on track.

Over the weekend, my husband and I went with our friends to the Van Gogh immersive experience with a couple of friends.

My younger daughter, who lives in Vancouver, Canada, went to the same experience on the same day.

She and I both walked away most impacted by what we learned about his artistic practice.

Before he died at 37 years old, Van Gogh painted over 900 paintings. As a writer, I have to confess I was even more interested in the fact that he wrote over 800 letters. I love the art of letter writing, but that’s a topic for another day.

Learning about Van Gogh’s practice reminded me of my recent trip to Paisley Park with a group of girlfriends earlier this year.

Paisley Park was Prince’s home and music studio, and it’s open for tours.

We had an incredibly engaging tour guide, who was really passionate about his subject and a great storyteller. He shared a lot of anecdotes about Prince’s work and his life, but what struck me most was Prince’s artistic practice. 

He wrote more than 500 and perhaps upwards of 1000 songs, depending on who’s counting.

He carefully reviewed video footage of every performance and every rehearsal to find opportunities to improve.

His artistic practice—combined with unique access to the world of music from an early age and natural gifts, of course—allowed him to accomplish what few musicians ever will.

There’s something to be said for creating an intentional practice for whatever it is you want to do at the highest level in your life.

For me, that applies to both writing and coaching authors.

It’s important to me that I continually evolve and improve in both writing and coaching, and regardless of any natural talent I may or may not have, that requires me to put in the work.

The more authors I coach, the better I get at coaching authors.

The more books I write, the better I get at writing books.

So what does this mean for the author who only wants to write a few books or maybe even one?

If you’re running a business or working a full-time job or both, you probably don’t have a lot of extra time to devote to a writing practice.

You don’t have years to spend honing and perfecting the craft of writing before you write your book.

Maybe you don’t have a passion for the act of writing so much as you have a passion for getting your message out in the form of a book. You have neither the desire nor the time to dedicate to a serious writing practice.

So how can you write a great book the first and maybe only time you write a book?

Don’t worry. You can!

I don’t like the idea of shortcuts in any art or craft—and writing is both.

I’m completely over the idea of hacks and tips that somehow exempt you from doing the work.

You do have to put in the effort to create greatness.

But you can produce a great book without years and years of writing practice—outside of the practice you likely already have from writing emails, blog posts, social media content, talks, and presentations.

I know this for a fact because so many of my clients have written great books the first time around.

But how, Candice?

Here’s how. There are two deceptively simple ways to vastly improve your writing, and write a world-class book, when you don’t have years to invest in a writing practice.

Start by reading great books.

I’m always shocked when someone tells me they want to write a book, but they don’t really read.


If you don’t value books, why would you expect readers to value yours?

This makes no sense to me.

More often than not, I find out the person does in fact read books. They just read audiobooks, and they have somehow become convinced that it doesn’t count.

Audiobooks absolutely do count, but if you want to learn from great authors, I suggest you also read print copies of their books.

Pay attention to how they structure their books, the tone they use, their use of language, and how they transition from one section, subject, or chapter to another.

Don’t get fooled by the myth that everything about your book has to be original.

Almost nothing is completely original. Every author is inspired and influenced by the work of other authors even if they’re not conscious of that influence.

I’m not advising you to copy other books.

I am suggesting you pay attention to successful books, especially books you love and which have done well in some way. Learn from them.

You can absolutely borrow the structure, for example, of a book on a totally different topic and use it to shape your book.

If you love the irreverent tone of Jen Sincero’s Badass books, then identify what you like about it.

Is it the casual nature? The humor? The feistiness? The openness?

Decide what appeals to you about the tone and which of those elements align with your voice and the way you want to write your book. And then use them.

If you admire the structure of Patrice Washington’s Redefine Wealth for Yourself, that doesn’t mean you have to build your book around 6 pillars like her 6 Pillars of Wealth.

It just means you may want to build your book around your own system or framework in a similar way.

Use what you love about these books, or what you know readers have loved, as a jumping off point for your own book.

The second way to really elevate the quality of your book without devoting years and thousands of hours to a writing practice is to borrow the wisdom someone else has developed from their own deep and consistent writing practice.

If you’re looking for a course on writing or a coach to help you write your book, choose someone who has done the work you don’t have time to do.

I’m going to step on some toes here, but it needs to be said.

A writing coach or book consultant whose only experience is the one book they wrote probably isn’t the best person to help you write your book.

Don’t get me wrong.

If they’ve studied writing for years, if that book is brilliant and beautiful and does it’s job, or if they’ve spent years honing their craft with other writing work, then their experience is much more than having written that one book.

I’m not saying you can only be coached or taught by someone who has written multiple books, not at all.

I am saying you’ll be much better served by working with someone who’s done the work to really understand the art and craft of writing.

Borrow the wisdom and experience that person has developed through their own deep and consistent practice.

When my clients work with me, they get a coach who has not only written dozens of books, but has also studied and practiced writing and editing for two decades.

They get a coach who has studied and practiced writing everything from literary fiction to memoir and personal development.

When they work with my friend Karin Crompton, another coach, they get a coach who has written books and spent years honing her craft as a journalist and researcher. She’s a brilliant storyteller.

When they work with my friend Anita Henderson, they get an author coach who has written books and spent years developing her writing skills with a focus on marketing communications.  She’s fantastic at helping authors nail their message.

I applaud the person who writes their first book and wants to help other people do the same.

You can definitely learn from their journey.

But if you’re looking for someone to help you really elevate your book, look for a coach with deep experience and a commitment to practicing the art and craft of writing.

I came to writing from a place of deep love and respect for both the art and the craft.

So I’ve committed to a lifetime of practice and study.

I feel the same way about coaching.

You don’t need that same commitment to developing as a writer to be able to write a phenomenal book that changes lives for the better.

You can borrow tools and techniques from the writers who came before you by dissecting great books and choosing what you want to use as your own.

And you can borrow knowledge from people like me, and like my friends Karin and Anita, who put in years of practice and study for our own development but also so we can coach authors like you to produce your very best work.

Here’s a little secret you may not be fully in on.

The reason why some people seem to leap ahead in whatever field, and especially in fields like writing and business, is because they borrow other people’s knowledge and wisdom and experience and expertise.

This is why I’ve invested 1000s of dollars in writing mentors.

This is why I’ve invested 1000s of dollars in a business strategist, a business coach, a business mindset coach, and a speaking coach. Next year, I plan to have a marketing coach.

I’m more than willing to pay to get the benefit of what they’ve spent years learning through study and practice.

I invite you to give yourself the same gift of someone else’s knowledge, wisdom, and expertise as you write your book.

That’s all for this week’s episode, my friends.

If you want to borrow my knowledge and experience to write and publish the very best book you can produce, DM me on Instagram @candiceldavis, and let’s talk about how I can help you. I promise I can.

Thanks for listening to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach, Candice L Davis, and I’ll see you next time.

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