Writing FAQs

Do you have questions about writing? Lots of creative entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and bloggers do. Here are some that I’m asked regularly enough that I thought, “Hey, that would make a good roundup blog post, Jodi.”

How/where do I start?

It all starts with a brain dump. I discussed that process in this post. If you have a general topic in mind, then brain dump surrounding that. If you know you want to write a book but have no idea what to write about, brain dump some of the things you regularly blog about or asked about (AKA your zone of genius). Once you do an initial brain dump, see where you are. Are any themes emerging? Are there topics/phrases that can be grouped together?

How many words should my book be?

I want to roll my eyes at myself for saying this (because it’s such a non-answer), but the truth is this: Your book should be as many words as it takes to adequately cover your topic. Don’t get too hung up on word count. For an average-length nonfiction book, that is generally between 60,000 and 80,000 words. If you’ve said all there is to say and you have 30,000 words, you might think about making it a lower-priced ebook instead. (Alternatively, you might review those 30,000 words with a fine-toothed comb and see if there are sections that could be expanded with new material or interviews, or new topics that could be introduced.) If you’re at 90,000 words and only about halfway through your notes, then your topic is probably not meant to be just one book. Is it really two topics with some overlap? (See that? You’re an author already!)

What if I’m not a good writer?

Even professional writers worry about this. Here are a couple tips:

  1. Practice, practice, practice. Write every single day. Read what you write so you learn your tendencies, your style, words you overuse, your tone. Writing is a craft that must be honed.

  2. Be realistic. The first draft of anything stinks.

  3. Worry less about this and more about your content. There are people who can help your writing look better (think ghostwriter or development editor). You’re not writing a novel, anyway, so no one expects to read Shakespeare. Your readers want your content.

Is XYZ a good book topic?

I wish I had a crystal ball and could predict book sales, but alas. When my clients and potential clients ask about this, here’s what I tell them: Do an Amazon search. If there are zero books on the topic, there’s probably a reason why. (I mean, not one? Do you know how many books are out there??) On the opposite end of the spectrum, if there are dozens or more books on your topic, you probably want to narrow your focus. It’s harder (and more work) to stand out in a saturated market.

Do I really have to write every day?

Of course not. But if you don’t, your writing likely won’t improve — nor will writing come easier to you, which is one of the biggest complaints creative entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and really anyone who is’t a professional writer has. You can free-write for 10-15 minutes each day. You can find a book or website with writing prompts. Above I likened writing to a craft that must be honed. If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ve likely also heard me liken it to a muscle that gets stronger with use. Potato, po-tah-to — same idea.

How many drafts do I need before it’s ready?

Another question without a right-or-wrong answer. (Have you gathered yet that there’s a lot of gray area when it comes to writing, versus black-and-white, right-vs.-wrong?) There’s simply no way to know in advance how many drafts you’ll need to write or how many rounds of revision you’ll need before your manuscript is ready. (Notice I did not say “perfect”!) I CAN tell you, however — without hesitation — that the answer is more than one. Generally, my clients find that after two to three full drafts, they’re working with sections of text (versus the entire thing). If you work with a developmental editor or writing coach, you may find that you’re revising chapters as you go rather than re-drafting the entire book once you’ve written the last word.kill comes into play here, too.

What other writing-related questions do you have? Let me know what they are so I can answer them for you!