That was subject line of the email my mentor Lou Schuler sent me back in October. Avery publishing, a subsidiary of Penguin, had just O.K.'d the proposal for my first book, Built for Show.
I, of course, started jumping up and down and squealing like a little girl at a birthday party.
A few minutes later, reality set in. I still squealed like a girl, but it was the kind of squeal reserved for those times when the toilet wonâ€™t flush properly or perhaps when you narrowly escape smashing your finger in the sliding door of a minivan.
The thought of writing an entire book suddenly seemed very daunting.
Fast-forward to February and Iâ€™m about half-way through the manuscript. Thanks to a few tricks Iâ€™ve picked up, the writing process is now something I enjoy. And being the nice guy I am I wanted to share them with you:
1. Know what youâ€™re writing.
This sounds like common sense, but it warrants explanation. Itâ€™s easy to get overwhelmed. Itâ€™s even easier to lose focus. Both will show in your writing. Strip away everything but the essentials.
Let me give you an example using my book.
First, Iâ€™m writing a workout book and not a fiction novel. Whew! I can now forgo harnessing my inner Danielle Steele (or whoever else people who read chick-lit like), and focus on what I know: lifting heavy stuff and looking good naked.
Secondly, with a few exceptions, most workout books arenâ€™t that much fun to read. Mine, however, will be fucking hilarious. (At least to me)
2. Chunk and have a lot of sub- headlines.
People have very short attention spans. Having multiple sub-headlines will give the reader a mental break and will help them absorb the information better than paragraph after paragraph of type. Do it often.
3.Write how you talk
Itâ€™s much more fun to have a conversation with other people than by yourself (except for all the schizophrenics out there). Unless youâ€™re writing a business email or memo, drop the pseudo-professional, mock-intellectual bullshit and write how you talk. If you wouldnâ€™t say it out loud, you shouldnâ€™t write it.
Great writers are great readers. Start here: On Writing Well
A final note:
While writing is a personal venture, itâ€™s good to have help.
Lou, the seasoned veteran with over five published books, has done everything from helping write the initial proposal to editing each chapter and offering advice on how I can make it better.
Close friends and family members are also quick to tell me whatâ€™s good and what â€œthoroughly sucks ass,â€ so I guess Iâ€™m grateful for that,too.
If youâ€™re stuck, ask for help and find a mentor.
(Stay away from Lou, though. Heâ€™s much too busy making sure I donâ€™t screw up.)
If you need someone to bounce ideas off of, shoot me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org