This is a very personal post, but I wanted to put it on the blog because I have gotten a few questions from lovely readers wanting to write their own books, memoirs and guides. I am by no-means an expert in authoring but I have written five books – three self-published and two traditionally published with major publishers. My latest one has been the most fun—Captivate and I am thrilled to share some secrets of the writing process!

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I am happy to share my experience if it helps you! I decided to do this by questions I regularly get from you and see if I could place them into a coherent and helpful structure. I also filmed a video for you with some writing hacks:

I have an idea for a book—how do I get started?

I read somewhere (don’t ask where) that 86% of people feel they want to write a book. So I get this question a lot. In fact, when I tell people I am an author this question comes up about 80% of the time! (or they ask for their husband / daughter / brother). The first thing you want to think about is what kind of book you want to write. They are very different—and have different paths:

  • Memoir: Do you want to tell your story?
  • Non-Fiction: Do you want to give advice?
  • Fiction: Do you have a story you want to tell?
  • Poetry / Short Story: Do you have lots of little stories to tell?

You must fit into one of these categories—there are more sub categories like Sci Fi and historical, but it is really hard when you are trying to write a memoir/fiction. Pick one if you can.

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Should I self-publish or traditionally publish my book?

To answer this question, I must ask you three questions:

  • Are you in a rush? Traditionally published books take a minimum of 18 months—typically closer to two to three years. Yes, years.
  • Do you care about being in book stores? It is very hard to get a self-published book on shelves. If you plan on printing some and giving them to friends or having a kindle version then you might stick to self-publishing.
  • Do you want to make money? Unless you have a massive platform or following, you will likely make more money self-publishing. It’s true that self-publishing requires some money up front, but you make far more for each sale.

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I have so many ideas, how do I start writing?

This is a big question for you to tackle right away:

Who are you writing for?

Are you writing for yourself—to express yourself, to get something out into the world, to check off a bucket list goal? Then you should just start writing because the process itself will inspire you.

Are you writing for others—do you have something you must share to the world and a specific reader in mind? Then you should talk to your ideal reader before writing.

Most likely, you will say you are writing for both you AND your readers. This is fine, but think about who comes first.

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How do I organize a book?

I highly recommend two books to read before you start writing.

For me personally I write in this process:

  • 1 Big Document. I take every idea in my head and write it down on a document that ends up being 50-100 pages of notes.
  • 10 Mini Documents. Then I go through and see if I can lump things together into 10 to 20 smaller documents.
  • Order the Documents. Once I have them all split into buckets I put them in a logical order. This is the start of my outline.
  • Master Outline. Once I can see the basic chronology I make a master outline—1 long list of all the topics in the right order.
  • Outline within Outlines. After I have my master outline I go back into the smaller documents and make small outlines of them—these become my chapter outlines.
  • Start Writing. I try not to waste too much more time before writing. Because I have learned as soon as you start writing your voice solidifies, your outline becomes more clear and you feel less fear of blank pages (starting is the hardest).

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How do I sell a book?

This is coming soon…obviously I am still launching my latest book Captivate and learning a lot from this launch. Stay tuned for Part II of this post if you want to hear the behind the scenes of the launch.

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People has been translated into more than 16 languages. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma. She regularly leads innovative corporate workshops and helps thousands of individual professionals in her online program People School. Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more.

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