Jeff Goins talked about "How to Turn Pro as a Writer (and my 3-Step Approach for Writing my Books & Blog Posts)".
Jeff gave a very interesting and insightful webinar. He's young and enthusiastic and, like others, left his day job and started his own business while also writing, a passion of his.
He started with a blog and it landed him a book contract. "How?", you may ask. It was a gradual process. When he admitted that he wanted to be a writer, he started his own blog. He wrote every day for two years and wanted to reach 250 subscribers. But his goal took a dramatic change!
Speaking of change, Jeff says that activity follows identity: before you can go do something that you want to accomplish, you have to change your mindset about who you really believe you are so that you can do that thing. And that's exactly what he did. (Contrary to Marisa Peer, he doesn't think that "faking it till you make it" works for you to do your best or accomplish your goal.) By the end of his first year of blogging, he started thinking of himself as a pro. And he kept on writing and sharing what he liked: stories with some sort of lesson.
How did he go from writing blog posts to writing a book?
For Jeff blog writing and book writing are different. But blog writing is a great way to practice. While both need a structure, a book has a much more gradual projection. (Once again, and this time in disagreement with Kristen Joy, the Book Ninja, he doesn't think that turning a blog post into a book works. These different experiences and perspectives are fascinating. They give us food for thought and ideas to experiment with.)
How different or similar are fiction and non-fiction?
In fiction you've got some problem, you work through it and you overcome it. There's a resolution to the conflict that may be success or failure.
In non-fiction it's similar. There needs to be a central problem, one big question, that you're going to help the reader attack and lead through that progression. Then you split that question into different steps in the process. Each question that is answered is a chapter. (He learned this by doing it.)
He learned two main things from the traditional publisher:
- you need an outline of the book, the structure of the book, what you want to say
- when you're ready to start writing, write what you're most excited about first: that's where the energy is! (I agree 100%.)
You can start anywhere in your book and then fill in all the other parts.
When writing his e-book - a book about writing -, his main thought was audience. "How can I position this book as a book that's going to help people and people will want to buy?" He wrote about short, practical steps in the process. He was very direct and focused. He knew who he wanted to write for and it immediately connected with his target audience. This taught him about art and audience, how to creatively express yourself while writing for the person you want to reach. This impressed me.
How did his email list grow from a few dozen subscribers to a thousand and up? A stroke of luck! He asked Michael Hyatt to read it, he liked it and endorsed it. Bingo!
He's learned something different with each book he writes. With the first book he learned how to write a book. With the second he learned who to write a book for. With the third book he learned how to tell stories. And with the last book, The Art of Work, he was able to bring all these lessons together.
He always works with a deadline. How does he manage it?
- set time aside to write every day ad don't do anything else
- work backwards on the deadline (how many words do I need to write a day? how much time do I need to write to meet that goal?)
It all boils down to the discipline of daily writing and a daily target that can be readjusted whenever necessary in order to meet the deadline.
Last but not least, let me tell you about his three bucket system, a three step process:
- ideas (that he jots down the moment they occur in Evernote on his iPhone; me too!)
This is how he explained things. When it's time to write, he'll take an idea out and draft it into a 500-word piece. It isn't polished, it's a rough draft. He puts it in a drafts folder.
Then one day he pulls out something from that drafts folder, edits it and finishes it out. He'll publish it or schedule it to be published in the blog, or save it for a book he's writing, or send it to a magazine for an article.
That's how he writes every day.
"If you fill each bucket, you'll never run out of something to do, write about, draft or edit." Very cool!
His parting tip for writers of a first book:
- how to go from amateur to pro: acknowledge that you're a writer and write every day.
He started at 500 words - more or less 30 minutes for most people - and increased it with time. He got more disciplined and structured as time went by.
Jeff, thanks for a great webinar! You grabbed my attention from the first to the last minute.