No time, money or skill? You can still get your book written

If there’s one thing you learn from spending a chunk of your career in the world of books and writing, it’s that there are a lot of great stories out there. Personal stories of remarkable success against the odds. Business stories of risk taking and growth. Political stories of intrigue and persistence.

It would be great if all these stories could be told. As Spanish philosopher George Santayana famously wrote, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’. Ideally, the stories would be recorded in books because books last. They go onto shelves and into libraries. They won’t disappear or become unreadable with new technologies.

Why so many stories will never be written

Unfortunately, many terrific stories are never written down. Sometimes that’s because their owners don’t want to share them. Often it’s because their owners (usually mistakenly) don’t see any significance in them.

And sometimes it’s because their owners, while keen to share their experience, don’t have the resources they need to do so. The unfortunate reality is that telling a story in book form requires resources. If you have the skills needed it will still take time. If you lack the skills or don’t have the time, you’ll need to hire someone else to do it, which will require a reasonable investment. (I don’t wake up for less than, well a bit less than Linda Evangelista but a good quality full ghostwrite can cost more than many are willing or able to pay.)

Does that mean you have no hope if you don’t have skills, time or money? No. All it means is that you’ll likely need to adjust your expectations, particularly regarding speed.

Four ways to keep your book dream on track

Here are four things you can do that require less skills and money, and smaller chunks of time, but still keep you moving towards getting your book written.

  1. Just write anyway. Many people avoid writing because they think they need to churn out Hemingway-esque prose at the first try. I used to think this myself. It’s just not true. Even the best writers rewrite their work, sometimes multiple times over, until they get it ‘right’. Sure, that last bit of getting it right does require a level of skill, but the resources needed in time and/or funds will be much lower if you’ve already created a draft, no matter how rough it is.

  2. Interview yourself. If you find any form or writing or typing tedious, try telling your stories to your phone. There are some very clever recording apps around now – Otter is one I use – that do a pretty good job of transcribing voice recordings on the fly. In this way you get to write without writing. If you lack inspiration talking to an inanimate object, ask a friend, spouse or grandchild to spend some time with you while you share your stories.

  3. Make it a priority and use your spare time. Another myth of book writing is that it has to be done in one go. You know, the author locking themselves away in a hut in the middle of the forest and living uninterrupted until the manuscript is complete. We’d all love to be able to do that, but who’s got the time? What we all have is five minutes here, half an hour there, perhaps a whole day once in a while. Now, instead of spending that time on your phone or watching Game of Thrones reruns (the ending won’t get any better), spend it writing (or recording) – again, no matter how rough. Two hundred words will soon turn into a thousand will turn into 10,000. Get to, say, 40,000 and you’ll have a good first draft on your hands.

  4. Get a coach. You may have noticed a theme in the previous points: it’s all about doing it yourself, doing it over time and just keeping going. If you find one other critical resource – self-discipline – then working with a coach might help. A coach will involve a smaller investment than hiring a writer but can give you structure and direction when you feel you are all at sea. (Look at the websites of Kelly Irving for business books and Ann Bolch for fiction and other non-fiction for an idea of the services writing coaches offer.)

Once you have complete first draft, then you can think about whether you want to rewrite it yourself and carry on with the remaining steps towards getting your book published, or seek out some external assistance with those steps. But get the draft done first.

My last piece of advice on this topic is to set aside any initial thoughts of stardom or having publishers fall over themselves to acquire your book. Those things can happen (if rarely), but they shouldn’t be the motivation for writing a book.

Tell your story because you want to tell your story – because you feel it needs to be told. Then worry about getting it out there.

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