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Marketing / Business writing

5 book writing tips that work

As today is the very day my latest tome hits the shelves, I figured it was ideal timing to share some writing strategies that really worked for me.

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I really enjoyed writing The 1 Minute Commute and surprised myself with some nifty little scribing tricks. Here are my top 5.

1. Sit down son, we need to talk

For me the starting point was to have a long chat with an imaginary younger version of me. One Saturday sports day, while my son was annihilating some other boy on the tennis court, I sat in the car and babbled into my phone’s voice recorder.

In the space of 40 minutes or so, I’d walked student-me through a broad brushstroke of business essentials and wanting to hold my youthful attention, weaved in a few funny anecdotes and stories.

When I got home, I played it all back and created a mindmap that – once fiddled with and added to – became the flow of my book and ultimately the content and chapter headings.

With the mindmap in front of me, the book spluttered into life.

"I simply cherry-picked my topic and selected my task depending on my mood."

2. Find the cover story

It’s thanks to an early career in advertising, that I need to crack what the cover will say way before I worry about the main text. Headlines and propositions build excitement and that’s a fine motivator.

The final trigger to truly get down to work was clearly articulating in a couple of snappy paragraphs who the book was for and how it would help.

This step is something of a throwback to these 1950s sales tips from Elmer Wheeler, notably ‘sell the sizzle and don’t write, telegraph’.

Armed with my mindmap and cover messaging, it was time to head out for a walk.

3. Go walkabout

I’m not someone who responds well to an intimidating blank sheet of paper, so I needed to come up with an alternative.

What worked stupendously well for me was to plant a couple of points from my mindmap firmly into my head; follow them with a shot of espresso; stick a fresh AA battery into my trusty and inexpensive Zoom H1* and hit the pavement.

*FYI I found this vastly superior to my smartphone as it doesn’t ring, ping or otherwise interrupt my train of thought. #leavethephoneathome

At the end of an hour or so, I’d have a jumble of ideas, thoughts and ramblings ready for transcription into what soon became my first very rough draft.

4. Now clear up that mess!

Thanks to the wonders of artificial intelligence (AI), transcription is even easier and far cheaper this year than it was way back in 2017 when I was writing The 1 Minute Commute.

In recent weeks I’ve trialled speech-to-text service, Temi and while it’s mediocre with two voices, it’s very accurate with just one steady voice.

So every couple of days armed with the latest transcription of my ‘walk and talk’ ideas in a Google Doc, I’d set about editing the jumble.

This walk>talk>rinse>repeat model meant I had different parts of the manuscript at different stages of readiness and I simply cherry-picked my topic and selected my task depending on my mood.

5. Get locked in!

For me, the last piece of the writing jigsaw was finding a great publisher early in the process, one who would get right behind my book and push me to keep to a deadline.

I’d had my eye on Pan Macmillan for a while as I could see they had a nice little gap in their portfolio and once I was fully pumped up I burst in and gave them Elmer Wheeler with both barrels. They didn’t stand a chance.

Have your written a book, or considered it? What are your book writing tips? 

Robert Gerrish

is the founder of Flying Solo and helps soloists stay upbeat and energised. He’s recently published The 1-Minute Commute, is a presenter and facilitator and works one-on-one with those needing a refresh. Find out more about his skills and services and his Olympus Trip 35 camera side hustle or connect on LinkedIn.

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