Writing often begins with wondering. Pen in hand, you find yourself asking…
Will people ever read what I write?
Do I have what it takes to write a book?
Why should I write when mountains of books already exist on this topic?
I call these “God nudges.” They are stirrings that emanate from outside a writer’s life—you might say from above.
After coaching countless people in their publishing careers, I’ve discovered that these questions are common to everyone who has ever felt a nudge to write.
How do you know, in your situation, if it’s time to finally write the story that’s been rattling in your bones?
I’ve developed a five point checklist to determine if you’re really ready to write your book.
Place a check by each of the following to which you answer Yes:
1. Do people keep telling you to share your story? ___
You’ve got a fresh idea or inspiring story and you’ve noticed that friends, neighbors, and strangers keep saying, “You’ve got to write that down” or “That’s a great book idea.” You need to stop making excuses and start writing.
But there’s an exception to this rule: Imagine a person tells a long-winded, rambling story with no end in sight. You’d graciously like to change the topic or excuse yourself from the conversation, but you need a gentle transition. “You should write a book,” you stammer, then slip away to the restroom or appetizer table or out the bathroom window.
“You should write a book” has become a cliché response in many conversations.
Perform an evaluation. Are the people urging you to share your story climbing down the fire escape, or are they sincere and trustworthy in their encouragement? If the latter, let the words flow.
2. Is your big idea best packaged as a blog post, long article, or a bona fide book? ___
Have you ever read a book and discovered that after the first chapter the author had shared all he or she had to say? Perhaps the remaining chapters felt increasingly empty, redundant, or flat out empty.
Maybe the problem wasn’t the messenger, but the medium. Perhaps the information should have been presented in a live 30-minute teaching, a blog post, or a lengthy article.
Sometimes, a big idea just isn’t big enough for book.
To know if you’ve got an idea big enough for a book, open a document on your computer and start jotting down your ideas in three categories: killer stories, big ideas, and calls to action. Carve out 30 to 60 minutes a day for 14 days to fill in content for each category. If at the end of 14 days you’re staring at a half page of notes, you’re not ready to start writing your book. But if you have page after page of compelling story ideas, at least a dozen sub-ideas to your big ideas, and two dozen calls to action, then you’re probably ready to get rolling.
3. Are you willing to write your story in such a way that it’s all about your audience? ___
All good writers tend to write what we know. Often, our big ideas and stories are personal—they tie into our experiences, discoveries, losses, pain, suffering, and/or triumphs. But readers don’t want to read about you—although everyone loves a good train wreck. They want to read about themselves. They want you to make their life easier, better, more successful.
Your first draft will likely be all about you, but your best draft will be mindful of your audience.
Are you willing to look at every story you tell, every lesson you teach, every idea you explore and ask, “How does this love and serve my reader?” If so, you’re ready to start writing.
4. Has your idea or story had enough time to mature? ___
The best stories and ideas are like the best people. They are well aged, steeped in the wisdom of time.
Your words need time to mature, to be proven true, to develop a good track record. Yet, too often writers rush to print without a proven track record. This creates a permanent distrust between you and your readers, and it can inflict great harm.
When you cease to embody your story, people will stop trusting you and your methods.
If you’ve just lost 100 pounds, wait a few years to make sure your methods keep the weight off work. If you’ve saved your marriage, we celebrate you. But wait at least five years to tell your story so we know you’re still committed to each other. If you’ve experienced a growth surge in your business or church, wait a few years to ensure your tactics are sustainable and long-lasting.
I’ve read far too many business books only to learn that the author’s company later filed for bankruptcy. I can name too many church leadership books and then discovered the pastor with the shiny new approach is no longer employed.
If what you’ve learned or discovered has stood the test of time, then it’s time to start writing.
5. Are you willing to hustle? ___
Twenty years ago, you could write a book, hand the work to a publisher, and trust they would do the heavy lifting in marketing and publicity. Those days are gone.
Every publisher wants you to quantify your platform.
That means you’ll need to find a way—through blogging, social media, online videos, or contributing to mainstream television, radio, or print—to build an audience. The good news is that more ways exist to grow an audience quickly than ever before, but you’ve got to be willing to work hard.
If you’re willing to hustle, then it’s time to start writing.
If you’re ready to say “yes” to writing, you can enjoy a free minicourse to Jumpstart Your Writing.