Five Writing Tips for Non-Writers
By: James Woosley, owner of Free Agent Press
Not everyone is a natural writer. And even those who appear natural to outsiders are often struggling on the inside. In fact, writing is a bit of a roller coaster. One minute the words are flowing and you wonder if you should take a break to jot down some notes for your Pulitzer acceptance speech. The next, you realize everything you just wrote is crap and you deserve a restraining order forcing you to stay fifty feet away from keyboards at all times.
Don’t worry about what kind of writer you are. Don’t worry about the tools that you use. Don’t focus on the wrong things like needing a title (you don’t need a title to write a book…just write!) or how bad your spelling and grammar are (that’s why you hire an editor).
If sitting down at a computer and typing on a keyboard isn’t working or doesn’t fit your style, here are some alternative methods to get the words out:
Start with the Skelton, not the Skin
If you want to organize your thoughts, start by outlining the content. If outlines give you flashbacks of painful term papers in high school, think of it as writing your table of contents instead. Write out the sections and/or chapters of the book. Then for each chapter, list a few subsections that define the content of the chapter. Pretty soon, you have an outline for the entire thing! And as a bonus, now you don’t need to worry about writing an entire book. Simply write one section at a time. In just a few hundred words, each section will come to life. Connect them all and boom! You just wrote a book!
Talk It Out
Remember the old TV shows where an executive would dictate a letter to his secretary? Well, it’s the future now and not only is the executive more likely to be a woman, the secretary is probably a robot. You can talk into your computer or phone and use speech-to-text software (it’s built into Microsoft Word and Google Docs these days). Or record the audio and have it transcribed (by a human or AI tools). You need not touch a keyboard to write a book.
Teach It First
If you know your topic well, you may have already taught courses or led seminars on it. Find those recordings (or make some) and then listen to them. I did this when I started writing my first book, Conquer the Entrepreneur’s Kryptonite. I started with a blank document and then listened to myself. I took notes as if I were a diligent student, and soon the core of the content was on the screen. After some rearranging for clarity and impact, then embellishment with additional stories, I had a good chunk of the book completed.
Gather an Audience
A lot of authors are introverts. I am. My happy place when writing is isolation. Put me on a cross country flight in first class (elbow room) with headphones and a laptop, and I’ll knock out eight thousand words between takeoff and landing. But if your one of those extrovert types, this is probably some form of torture. So invite someone along for the journey. Call a friend and talk through the concepts for the chapter. Record the conversation (with permission) or take detailed notes. Pretty soon the conversation becomes the chapter. You could also invite some friends over and talk through the topic until inspiration hits. Make it a party (but make sure everyone understands the purpose is to write a book or you’ll have a mess to clean up the next morning but no words).
Conduct an Interview
If you don’t want to use a ghostwriter, at least steal one of their tools for your own purposes. Much like the previous tip, find a friend or friends to interview you about your topic (bonus points if it’s on an actual podcast!). Write the questions in advance and let them get creative. Record the results and use it to document your thoughts. Clean it up and you have a first draft.
Use a combination of these methods or anything else that works for you to write in a non-traditional manner. The important part is capturing the words. No one cares if you use a worm on a hook, a net, or a stick of dynamite.
This is the second post in a four-part series on writing and publishing by James Woosley, owner of Free Agent Press. James is the author of two books and has helped publish more than 100 books as a designer and publisher.
James Woosley is an underachiever—only because he’s constantly expanding his potential by doing something amazing then immediately striving for more—knowing that his mind, body, and spirit have been stretched to a new level of possibilities.
As a business coach, consultant, publisher, and project manager, James helps people and organizations move ideas from the dreaming and planning stages to full implementation. He sets goals, plans strategically, and makes things happen…for himself and those around him.