Michael's Books

How to Write a Book

With the manuscript for my first book, Seamless Teamwork, almost wrapped up, I have been reflecting on the process of writing a book. If I do it again — and yes I have ideas of books that need to be written — I would do some things differently. I don’t claim that what follows is unique or has never been said before, but what I do say is that I think what follows is a high-octane way to get a great book written.

Here’s my key learnings and ideas for next time:

  • Create a rough outline of the book, using a mind mapping tool like Mindjet MindManager. Break down the major topic of the book into 6-10 sub-topics, and create an initial structure for how the book might flow.
  • Approach people that you know who might have an interest in the topic of the book, and interview them. Ask them what they think about the topic, how they are currently living out the ideas in their day-to-day work, and the major insights they have had about the topic and the major pain points they have experienced.
  • Review the interview notes from all of your conversations, and update your mind map with the additional insights, counterpoints, and examples that you have learned.
  • From the mind map, start writing small articles or blog posts about each of the topics. Don’t aim for anything too long — a couple of hundred words perhaps, outlining the main thoughts for each main idea. Publish these through an email newsletter or a blog, and request feedback and correlation from other people about what you have written.
  • Approach a local business or organization and offer to run a free one or two hour workshop on the topic of your book. You say that you are running it for free because you are testing the material for a longer workshop, and are looking for an initial group of people to hear the ideas and give their feedback. During the workshop, listen to what the participants say, and capture other ideas and concepts. When the workshop is finished, transfer your learning to your mind map.
  • Repeat the workshop with some other local firms, gradually extending its length and the range of ideas that you test out.
  • Keep going with your writing schedule, of taking the main ideas from your highly-refined mind map and writing up each one in 200-400 words. Keep publishing what you are writing, for feedback and review from others.
  • Create a book proposal, and send it off to a publisher that you think will be interested. Or work with your book agent, assuming that you already have one. You’ll have enough material for the sample chapters, and because you have already run the workshop multiple times, will have a solid grasp of the overall shape and flow of your book.
  • Stop offering the workshop at no charge, and start levying a fee for it. Your material should be enough by now for a half day, full day or even a two-day workshop, and you will have been able to test and refine the ideas with lots of people. Start marketing the workshop in your local areas and beyond.
  • Put aside some of the profit that you earn from running the workshop into a savings account. This savings account will be used as the financial back drop you need to get the book written. You’ll need enough for living costs and expenses for one month.
  • When you have enough money saved, and have gone through all of the ideas on your mind map, rule out a month in your schedule for writing your book. Take all of your draft writings, all of the feedback from the workshop, and for a month do nothing but write the manuscript. This involves taking all of the main ideas that you’ve written already, and wordsmithing them into a final manuscript. Live off your savings during this time, and stay intently focused on getting the book done.

So there you have it … the current iteration of Michael’s “Fail Safe Way to Write a Great Book”. What book are you going to write?