My 10-Step Plan to Writing My Book
I have an important question for you: If you developed a plan today, what could you accomplish one year from now?
This weekend as I was taking some towels out of the dryer, I realized that I’m almost to the finish line, that my job with writing this book is almost done. I’m on my last lap of revisions. Tomorrow I’m sending two-thirds of my completed (revised) manuscript to my editor, and then with an extra day off this week, I hope to get much of the rest done. This will be the second time that my editor has seen these chapters, and this time she’s simply going back through as a last glance to make sure all is correct.
As I folded the towels at my dining table, I felt a bit surprised that the writing process was this close to being complete. Like I can’t believe I’m actually going to finish this thing. I remember the day this spring that I called my friend Rachel to tell her my plan for writing and publishing this book. I needed to tell my plan to someone, and over the phone, Rachel kept telling me…
What Is it for You?
After I told Rachel my plan, I worked on it little by little. And the crazy thing is that this plan has actually worked. (Well, I guess whether it worked well is still to be determined—you can be the judge of that if you read my book. J)
I’m going to share the details of my plan with you, just in case my example could benefit you. But before I do, I want to encourage you to think about your passions and goals:
If you developed a plan today, what could you accomplish one year from now? I know life often doesn’t go as we plan, BUT maybe, just maybe… with God’s provision and grace, with your hard work and steadfastness, one year from now, it could actually happen. #WeWontShrinkBack
I confess that I never wrote out my plan in the beginning, but as I shared it verbally with Rachel and others, the plan has always included setting short-term deadlines for myself as I worked with my editor and also working with my “revision team” to improve my chapters.
The 10 Steps I Took to Write this Book:
1. The first thing I did was hire my editor, Bethany. You might remember that I wrote on my blog how my friend Jamie and I prayed for several weeks that God would provide me with the right editor if He wanted me to write this book. So Bethany is an answer to prayer. :) When I first hired Bethany in February, I emailed back and forth with her for a few weeks. She helped me to see how to take some ideas from my previous blog and develop it into an outline for a book. Then she told me that she would be able to start working on my project in May, so that determined my deadline of when I would start sending her my chapters. Having a deadline gave me a short-term goal to work towards.
2. Then I discovered Author Launch, which is an online course to walk you through the process of writing and publishing a book in 1 year. I purchased a $400 subscription, and right away I was so thankful to see the steps clearly laid out. This eased my mind into knowing I could follow a plan. Instead of spending tons of time browsing the Internet for advice, I was able to watch the videos on Author Launch to hear different perspectives of successful authors. I felt like I could take bits and pieces of each perspective and incorporate them into my writing style and my publishing goals. Author Launch has given me the guidance and support I needed to finish my book.
3. In February, I started reading and writing seriously for my book. I had to make the choice to not watch TV in the evenings because I knew once I turned on the TV, my creative brain just goes blah. I selected one night a week that I would still watch TV, but otherwise I usually stuck to this discipline—choosing a few hours of writing instead of a few episodes of Criminal Minds. If I wasn’t writing, then I was reading. I read at least a dozen novels and memoirs this spring because I’ve heard that the best way to become a good writer is to read good books. Because I just came off of being a grad student for 4 years, it felt super normal to spend hours reading and writing in the evenings and on weekends. (But I will say that this book project has been a lot more enjoyable to work on than my seminary courses.)
4. I asked a few of my friends and family members if they would be willing to read through my chapters and give me feedback. I now think of them as my “revision team.” I found that it was most helpful to meet face to face and to hear him/her read my chapter aloud. I had a list of questions that I would ask them: What do you perceive as the main point of this chapter? Which part was most interesting? Which part was long-winded or confusing? How did you feel when the chapter concluded? etc. I would invite my friends to lunch or dinner, and that gave me another short-term deadline to work on that chapter so I could show it to my friend at that lunch/dinner meeting. I usually had at least two people read a chapter, and then I’d make revisions before I sent it to my editor.
5. I worked on my chapters in chronological order. Instead of sending my manuscript to my editor all at once, I sent Bethany the chapters in sections. I didn’t get this idea from anyone; it was my preference. I guess because I’ve been a student for so long, I wanted to have the feeling of turning something in, so I could mentally move on to the next section of chapters. Each time I sent her a new section of chapters, I’d let myself download a song as a little reward for myself. :) At the end of July, I sent my last batch of chapters to Bethany.
6. In August, I drove to Nashville, TN, for a meet-up with the Author Launch community and also the Jeff Goins Tribe Writers Conference. I prayed and agonized a lot about whether I should spend the money to go, but one day as I was sitting at a picnic table during my lunch hour, I felt like God told me, “Hey, don’t shrink back. Go for it.” So I did! It cost about $500 to cover the conference, hotel room, food, and gas, but it was more than worth it. It was great to rub shoulders with other writers—just what I needed to gently slide into this writing role and feel at least halfway confident in it. The conference also was beneficial in helping me to bulk up my strategy for self-publishing.
7. In September, I received my chapters back from Bethany—section by section. That started that round of revisions. I made improvements to those chapters (according to my editor’s suggestions), and then I went through the same process as before of letting others (the same revision team members as before) read the chapters, and then I’d tweak them again.
8. In October, I started my blog to share my journey. I wanted my book to be more than words on a page, so my blog is helping me to start the #WeWontShrinkBack conversation.
9. November has been the month for final touches! (Thank you for praying for me last Friday. I felt the Lord encouraging me all day, and I got a lot done!)
10. In December, Bethany will finish her part while I finalize the book cover with my friends Forrest and Krysten. Then my goal is to send everything to Xulon Press during the first week in January. At that point, it will take Xulon Press about 6-8 weeks to have it ready for its release. (!!!!!!!)
So that has been and continues to be THE PLAN. Good luck with yours! #WeWontShrinkBack
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Mary is the Associate Director at Hope Center Indy.. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.