As Darren said a little while ago, everybody has a book in them, but it’s probably more accurate to say every blogger has at least 10 ideas for eBooks inside them. If you’re a writer, you’ve got a lot to say. You might want to write eBooks, print books, memoirs, autobiographies – a thousand ideas, but realistically not a lot of time in your schedule for your one (or many!) overarching grand plan.
You may well set aside 15 minutes every day to chip away at it, or you schedule some vacation time and get a chunk done. You might stop blogging over a certain period, or you could burn the candle at both ends… the choice always depends on the person making it.
I was given a fantastic piece of advice lately, and that’s if you want to do something, you don’t find time, you make time. So I asked one of the most prolific bloggers I know how she makes time to do write more involved books in addition to all the other things she does. Pip Lincolne is the author of five published books and is a regular contributor to blogs, websites, and magazines. She blogs at Meet Me at Mikes, and she graciously asked a few questions I had for her recently.
How do you make writing books fit into your everyday busy life?
I prioritize it. You know how you might insist on having a lunch break every day? (If you can!) I treat writing a book as seriously as having lunch and block out an hour or two each day to get the words down (let’s call that a long lunch, actually!) Some days are busier than others, but I always make sure that I spend at least an hour on the book I’m working on to be sure that I’m on deadline, but also to ensure I stay in the zone and keep things flowing nicely.
Do different styles of books take different times to write?
Well, I can only speak from my own experience here. I’ve written books with lots of craft projects in them, and more recently one with only a few craft project (and a more substantial observational-style writing element.)
The books with more instructional elements take more time, because not only are you ‘translating’ practical steps onto the page, you have to test those steps and rewrite and test again.
Although I got my start in publishing writing how-to type books, I much prefer the creative flow that observational writing offers.
Do you have a particular writing style now after writing so many? Is there a rough formula you follow?
I think I have a very consistent style, but sometimes, if I’m weary I might slip out of that story telling, chatty mode and into more of a documentary style. I much prefer the former and think that our writing uniqueness comes from writing in the same chatty way that we’d speak to a dear friend. Of course, if you are writing a more technical text, that might might not always be appropriate, but I’m lucky enough to be able to stay true to the voice that comes naturally for me.
I don’t really have a formula, but I do try to make sure that my work has clarity, flow and warmth to it. I triple check what I write for ‘sense’ because I often find that the sentences I conclude with often belong at the start of the piece (and things might need a brisk reorder and edit.) Often things write themselves backwards, if that makes sense!
I know you write a lot every day so how do you find the motivation to write extra on top of that?
I think that if you want to write well, you have to write often. I’ve certainly found that my writing has improved in leaps and bounds, not only via writing consistently, but also via reading great books and hearing other writers talk about their work.
I’ve always, always felt compelled to write regularly and prolifically. Apparently I have things to say! My great grandfather, Frank Boreham, was the same. He wrote over 50 books – selling millions of copies – as well as penning hundreds of editorials for The Age and The Mercury newspapers. I think my urge to write is in the genes! I can’t fight it! I thank Frank for that.
What are the lessons you’ve learned about the book-writing process over the years?
I’ve learnt so many things! I’ve always worked with wonderful editors, so I’m all about letting go a bit and letting the experts help me to tighten up and simplify my words. I’ve also been lucky enough to work with several great photographers (John Laurie, Tim James and Julie Renouf) and designers/stylists (Michelle Mackintosh and Ortolan.) They’ve shown me how wonderful the collaborative process can be. I think it’s easy to get hung up on having as much creative control as possible, but it’s very important to loosen up a bit sometimes and let others work their magic alongside your good ideas.
I’ve also learnt that it’s important to NOT wait until the night before your book’s publicity tour begins to read it from cover to cover again – especially if the first interview is breakfast radio – because you might be up half the night marveling at how your book actually isn’t half bad and a bit exhausted the next day! Better to do that first-since-published re-read as soon as it arrives in the post, I think!
I’ve learnt that I work best if I write almost every day. Five days a week, minimum, works well for me. It keeps me writing naturally and stops me from overthinking the words or writing too sentimentally.
What are the shortcuts you’ve figured out over the years?
I’ve got a snazzy shortcut for creating a framework for a book. This is helpful for people who want to try writing a book, but aren’t sure where to start. I used this method to write my most recent book. It goes like this:
- Choose your subject or storyline.
- Write ten or twelve MUST KNOW (or MUST DISCUSS) points or plot events to fit that subject or storyline.
- Turn each of those points or events into a chapter title (they can just be working titles at this stage).
- Write 1000 or so words on each of those chapters (or slot in writing you have already done where it ‘belongs’, under the relevant point or event).
- Try to write for at least an hour, five days a week. Just get the words down, however they come out.
- Re-read, rewrite, edit.
- Repeat as needed!
What do you do with your blog when you write? Is it kept at the same frequency?
I do keep blogging pretty consistently when I’m writing a book, because the more I write, the easier it is to write. I find that when I don’t have a lot of writing work on, the words come less freely. This is part of why I love Julia Cameron’s writing exercise The Morning Pages (from her book The Artist’s Way.) The Morning Pages set the daily task of writing quite a significant amount, long-hand, just for the sake of writing.
I find it’s a great way to stay in shape during the ‘off season’, so to speak! It encourages me to get whatever is in my head (quite messily) down on the page and has a magical way of loosening up the cogs, making writing much easier and more natural for me. I recommend this method to all my blogging students too.
In short: if you want to write well, write more and write daily.
What about social media? How do you keep on top of that, given you’re a personal blog and you can’t exactly hire people to be “you”?
I tend to use social media for sharing others’ work as much as my own. I use CoSchedule to share my own posts to social media. It’s such a great plugin and I’m a huge fan. You can create your social posts and schedule them from within your WordPress post editing window. I do this when I’m finished writing my post, so it’s part of my editorial workflow rather than a pesky ‘extra step’. Then the plugin does the job for you – sharing to Twitter or Facebook in whichever way you’ve asked it to. So streamlined and simple to use! Elephant stamp in the time-saving department for CoSchedule!
I then make sure I check in and monitor/reply to anyone who’s nice enough to talk to me on Facebook or Twitter. It only takes a few minutes a couple of times a day and it means that followers aren’t just yelling into the void (to quote Grace & Frankie!)
When it comes to sharing great stuff other people are doing, I have all my favourite reads on Feedly so I can enjoy the in one time-saving window. I then share the best of my Feedly reading, loading them up in Buffer with a chatty comment, an image and a tag for the great-stuff-creator where possible. Buffer sends them out to my custom schedule and using Feedly and Buffer together is a great time saver (you can also share directly from within Feedly if you like but I prefer to share on the actual Buffer platform as I like the interface.)
How do you know when to say yes to a book?
I think a great publishing deal comes down to working with good people. If you have a great rapport with a publisher, if they’ve got a great track record, if they’re prepared to give you a bit of room to move (so you can have a bit of creative freedom when you’re writing) and a great royalty then chances are it’s a ‘yes’!
It’s also good to know what marketing and distribution ideas they might have for your book, as well as any design vision they might be considering. Then you can see if everyone’s on the same page (!) and if your book will have the support it needs to stand out from the pack.
I’d definitely go for a great royalty over a big advance if you have to choose. I’ve heard people splash around big advance figures – but you’ve got to earn that money back in book sales. A big advance = big pressure! So look for the best royalty rate you can get. The Australian Society of Authors (ASA) recommends at least 10% – but you may find that as a first time author it will be lower than that.
I’d also do my homework and ask for help – perhaps by engaging a literary agent (because they’re smart when it comes to digital rights and other ever-changing details) and joining the ASA so that you can find out more about what goes into making a great book.
Has it convinced you that you can make some time in your schedule around blogging to finally get started on that book? What are you writing about?
Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.