Writing a Book: Your First Few Steps


I’m thrilled that you made the momentous decision to complete that book that you’ve been thinking about writing for years! Bravo! That’s the first step. Now let’s tackle the next few.

I’m not here to tell you that writing a book can be made simple through a few steps. No, it will take time and patience. There is no way to even pen a short book in a few weeks. However, with a few preliminary steps I’d like to try to cut down on potential frustration!

Sum up your book in just a few lines

Before you can really start even outlining your book, you need to answer this fundamental question in a few lines: “What is your story about?” Then see if you can boil it down to a single line, a single breath. For example: This is a story about a young man, who rose from extreme poverty to become a successful entrepreneur. You know what the book is about, don’t you?

Why is this important? It keeps you on track. Plus, the themes, messages, and purposes of the book come out quickly from this simple one-line statement. It also keeps you from traveling down a divergent path. For instance, you might be tempted to devote three chapters of your business memoir to a failed marriage, designed to help budding entrepreneurs. Perhaps you’re hoping to get in a few good digs along the way. Well, that doesn’t really match your original concept, does it? So, toss it.

However, delving into an early business failure could definitely help your readers avoid the same pitfalls. Those stories would definitely be good to tell and would be important to your story.

Assignment: Write a one- to three-line summary of your story, answering the question, “What is your story about?”

What’s your purpose?

Why are you interested in writing your book? What do you hope your reader will gain from reading it?

As I’ve written a few times in my blog, if your purpose is to get back at someone, think again. That story just isn’t something worth reading. Another purpose that rarely works is financial. If you’re looking to make a million off of your story, and that is your primary goal, it won’t come out right.

By defining your purpose, you can help yourself stay on track. When you get into outlining, you can make sure that each scene, each segment aligns with that purpose fully. And if you find yourself straying, you can toss the paragraphs into a roaring proverbial bonfire.

Assignment: Write down your purpose(s) in writing your book.

What are your messages?

It’s good to work out what messages you wish to impart to your reader early in the process. This will help you sort through all the information you’ll gather later, in order to figure out what will make the cut. It will also help you find your writing voice and determine how you want to tell your story (or share your wisdom).

For instance, one of your messages for your memoir might be about the value of perseverance. Another message could center around the importance of ethical behavior in business. So, the individual stories that will make up the book should center around these themes.

Assignment: Write down the messages you wish to impart to your reader.

Once you’ve finished these steps, you’ll be ready to start collecting notes, which you’ll use to create an outline. That will be the subject for the next blog article! Let me know how you did with the assignments above in the comment section below!

If you decide you wish to hire a ghostwriter, please contact me. I’d like to help. And if you wish to learn about my pricing, please check out my article on the subject!

Thank you and keep writing!

If you liked this article, here are a few additional ones you might find helpful:

Questions for a Ghostwriter

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Working With A Ghostwriter – What Steps Should You Take?

When You Shouldn’t Write Your Memoir

Woman_with_a_rough_life_checking_herself_out_in_the_mirror_(8436629921)Are you debating whether or not to write your life story? You’re not alone. I have had quite a few clients who have waffled over the same dilemma. And more often than not, I will advise people to go ahead and write down the chronological details of their past, if only for their immediate family. Recording your personal history for your children, and your children’s children, is a wonderful gift.

However, there are times when I would say you shouldn’t write your memoir. Here are a few examples that I have encountered this past year:

“I’ve lived a horrible life.” This might surprise you, but I get a ton of memoir requests from people who have lived a life of misery and despair. For instance, their childhood might have been filled with abuse then they later married another abuser, continuing the pattern. When I ask them about the purpose of their book, they usually say that it shows how one can live through anything.

While this may be a decent message for some, it isn’t really one to hammer into those who are trying to better their lives. It’s true that not every story has to have a happy ending, but most stories, particularly the memorable ones, inspire us. And it’s hard to be inspired when you’re reading such a depressing story. Most people would have no interest in picking and reading up such a book.

“I just can’t remember much.” A few times this year I received requests to write a book from people who truly can’t remember many details or stories from their past. Typically, when I interview a client I can help them remember things they never thought they could. However, if you aren’t able to remember much, it will be hard to put together your life story.

“I can’t write and I don’t have any money to hire a writer.” This is another popular comment. Though I’m not sure, I suspect these folks want me to offer to write their book for free (or for a percentage of the profits). Unfortunately, not everyone is completely upfront about their situation and will sometimes pretend they are shopping for a ghostwriter, even if they don’t ever plan to hire one. If you can’t write and can’t afford to hire someone to write it for you, your book won’t get written.

“I’d really like to get back at so-and-so.” Ah, revenge is a dish best served cold, right? Remember, though, that when you put things in writing, they are pretty permanent. You can’t take it back. It’s out there for all eternity for many readers to review over and over again. Writing a book to hurt someone else, even if you feel it is justified, is a bad idea.

“My family and close friends would kill me.” Surprisingly, this is a common fear. When I talk to most client prospects to give them advice and learn more about their projects, quite a few people have mentioned that they’re worried about hurting the feelings of loved ones. It’s a very valid concern, one that should be taken seriously. For as I mentioned earlier, once it’s in writing, it’s permanent.

As a ghostwriter, I can hide the identity of most people in your life through pseudonyms, but I can’t hide Momma or that eccentric uncle. Those close to you will know whom you’re talking about and they might not like what you have to say.

“I’ve lived a boring life, except for this one incident.” If you had, say, a near death experience, it might have been very exciting and worthy of a short story or newspaper feature article. However, if the rest of your life was relatively normal, or “boring,” most likely that one event won’t make for a good memoir.

“I don’t want everyone to know what happened to me.” Writing a memoir is like putting your personal life on display for all to see. If you are concerned about others knowing what happened to you, it’s probably not a good idea to write a book. However, I have clients who write their memoir not for the whole world to read, but rather just for their family. If even that bothers you then, well, I’m not sure what to tell you. The only way around it would be to fictionalize your story, but then it wouldn’t really be a memoir, and there’s a good chance your family and close friends would still guess that it has something to do with you.

Most of the time I encourage people to write their book, because I do feel people often have a book or two within them. However, sometimes one must be a bit flexible about the subject matter. Perhaps it isn’t your life story that you should write about, but rather a how-to book about your niche area of expertise or a science fiction novel. Whatever the case may be, I’m here to help.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

Why Should I Hire a Ghostwriter?

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Working With A Ghostwriter – What Steps Should You Take?

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Chess Is Child’s Play

Chess is Child's PlayChess Is Child’s Play teaches parents how to teach any child, of any age, to play chess. This is a personal passion project. I feel strongly that if we can teach our next generation chess, they will receive needed life skills. From personal experience and extensive research I have learned that chess helps children improve their problem solving skills, increase their self-confidence and focus, become more patient, and do better in school.

I learned to play chess when I was nine years old. Soon after I began playing tournament chess and became one of the top 50 US women players. Throughout my life chess has been a theme and an inspiration.

My husband and I have taught hundreds of children to play chess over the last few years. We have fine-tuned our techniques, creating a system that others can follow, even if they have never seen a chess board before.

Children love chess! If you put a chess board out, they will flock to it and play. Children think chess is cool! It is my hope that this book will give them an advantage as they attempt to solve some of the world’s problems that our generation has left behind.

This book is now available for purchase on Amazon.

Buy Now

Can I Be A Writer?

Are you asking yourself, “Can I be a writer?” If this question is burning deep within you, I want to tell you that the answer is, “Of course!” It takes hard work and dedication, but yes, you can be a writer.

Begin by writing about things you are very familiar with. Write about what you know. You can research any topic and write about that subject, but it is much easier to start by writing about what you know well. In order to write about something you must be knowledgeable about it. You can’t fake it. Your readers will be able to tell that you don’t know your subject and will lose respect for you.

Last year, I was hired to write numerous articles about mortgages. I had worked in the industry for five years. Besides being a mortgage director, I would also give seminars and lectures on the mortgage industry to clients and colleagues, so I was familiar with how to explain various complex concepts to people who were unfamiliar with the subject.

Even though I was a mortgage expert, I would still Google the various topics requested of me. After all, it was possible that there were angles I hadn’t considered or new information on the subject I could learn. Research is always an important part of writing.

I was surprised by how many people wrote articles about real estate and how mortgages work, who didn’t have a clue about the area. They obviously weren’t familiar with the subject and unfortunately would copy articles from other authors who were equally clueless. It was a mess! Because I knew the area so well, I could quickly sort out the correct information from the incorrect.

So the lesson there is, watch who you’re counting as an “expert.” As a rule of thumb, if you’re researching a topic you should find three articles that support a fact (but make sure the three articles aren’t duplicates of the same article). Most likely this will keep you from making an error in trusting the wrong source. It isn’t foolproof, but it has worked for me. Of course I use common sense as a guide as well.

However, the best way to make sure your information is accurate is to stick to subjects you know well, especially if you’re a new writer.

If you want to be a writer, you must write and write and write. Work hard to write your best and improve continually. Share your work with others and get feedback. Make sure to get constructive criticism from people who are more experienced than you and continue to write and write and write. Don’t let anyone tell you to stop writing.

So, for those who are wondering, “Can I be a writer?” please know that you can. Am I suggesting that you’ll be a best-selling author overnight? No. However, if you work hard and practice your craft, you can achieve your goals!

Make Money As A Freelance Writer

tonynetone /Free Photos

So you want to make money as a freelance writer? Great! Where should you start?

I just got off the phone with a woman, who wanted to make money as a freelance writer. She wants to break into ghostwriting and asked me for advice. I gave her a consultation and shared my thoughts on the subject. I really do enjoy helping writers to write, and if I can help them earn money doing it, that’s even better.

When I asked her what she enjoyed writing, she talked about short stories. I let her know that on a practical level there is zero money in this area. People just don’t hire writers to write short stories very often, and if they do, they rarely pay much of anything. If you think about it, there’s little value in a short story for the client. They can’t sell it for much. Sure, write short stories in your spare time. Get them published as a collection or turn them into little eBooks, but don’t try to build a business from this. It’s too tough.

The woman I did consulting for this morning also mentioned that she would like to write screenplays, but had no experience. That’s a tough one as well. People will normally only hire very experienced screenplay writers to write their scripts, because they want to turn around and sell it for top dollar. She would need to have written several screenplays to be of any interest to a client.

I explained that really she should focus on writing books. Had she written a book yet? No. So, the first step (probably the hardest) is to find a client who will hire her to write her first book.

How does she find her first client, someone who would hire her without experience? I asked her how many people she had in her contact manager. She admitted that she didn’t have her contacts organized, so I let her know that this is a very important step. It is a potential goldmine for a writer (or any entrepreneur).

Most people I speak to don’t have an organized address book or contact manager. When you’re looking for a client, you must contact the people you know and tell them that you’re a writer. Explain that you’re looking for writing work and ask them if they need your help (or if they know of anyone who does). If you call two hundred people from your contact database, there’s a good chance that at least a few will be looking for a ghostwriter.

Many people want to write their memoirs, their autobiography. They know their story will make a good book, but have no experience or know-how to put it down on paper. Or perhaps they are able to write a book, but just don’t have the time. CEOs and other busy business professionals rarely have the hundreds of hours available that it takes to craft a book.

It might not be easy to pick up the phone and “dial and smile,” as a good friend of mine would say, but it is a necessity in this business. Sure you can email too, but please don’t waste time on a bulk email that will just get discarded. People don’t like mass emails and consider them “spam,” deleting them without even reading them.

So, if you want to make money as a freelance writer, you must focus your attention on what will make you money. Focus on long term projects like books. And if you don’t have experience in this area and want to hire me to help, please feel free to email me any time!

Take That Book Off The Back Burner – Write Now!

It may surprise you to learn that many people are partway through a writing project. But they have put their brilliant ideas on the back burner.

Take that project off the back burner, bring it to the forefront, and crank the heat to a rolling boil!

If you know what to do, get to it! Write! Don’t stop; don’t edit (just yet). Simply write and write and write. Push through the finger cramps. Down that protein drink and get those words down on paper.

Do you doubt your story idea? Don’t! It’s normal, but not very productive. Yours is a concept you’ve been mulling on for years, remember? It needs to be written, transferred from your mind to paper.

When you have your rough draft done, now you can tweak it. This is a good time to get expert advice. Either hire someone to give you their advice or find a local writers group (there are many) and get feedback. Make sure your adviser or mentor is encouraging, but honest. Friends may just give you a thumbs-up for fear of hurting your feelings. Kind, but not helpful.

Don’t let another year go by without completing your important book project! This is the year to get it finished and published!

How To Write An Autobiography

If you are trying to figure out how to write an autobiography, you have probably long since passed the step of deciding whether or not your life is worth writing about. You know you have a story to tell. You know it’s worth telling. And, whether you are doing it for your family and children or for the public at large, you are interested in sharing it.

So the next question is, “Where do I start?” The easiest answer would be at the beginning.  But the beginning isn’t always so simple to identify—your life is a story, whether you realize it or not, and to write your autobiography, you have to do a little work on discovering that story.  Here are some exercises that will help:

1. Familiarize yourself with other autobiographies. Read the autobiography of someone you admire, one of your heroes, preferably one that has been broadly published, so that you get a feel for how it reads.

2. Research your own life. Your life isn’t just about what you remember. Find out about your family’s history, events leading up to your birth, and the circumstances of your family and the world around you as a child. You may find information you never knew before and make interesting connections about why you are the way you are. Digging into the past has a way of jogging your memories loose and bringing more data to the surface.

3. Organize. Make a timeline of your memories so you have them organized by date, and leave ample space to fill in the blanks.

4. Outline. Make an outline of how you want your story to go, where you want to start, if you want to write it chronologically or skip around on your timeline.

5. Identify your theme or message. It may be very clear to you or it might take some digging, but every story needs a good strong message. What is it that you want your reader to learn? What should they walk away with after reading your book? Maybe your theme revolves around resisting corruption, overcoming a handicap, or persisting through obstacles. It is also possible that this overriding idea won’t be apparent at first. Through your research and organization, you will start to see what your story is about—and the answer may surprise you. If you need a little help, please email me. This is one of my fortes!

6. Write. Okay, this can be one of the hardest steps, particularly if you don’t have much experience with writing. When I’m coaching a writer I always tell my client to just start writing. Even if you don’t love the way it sounds, even if you feel like it’s no good at all, just get words down on paper. Don’t ever let perfectionism stop you from getting things done. Know that you’ll probably edit and re-write this book several times; that’s just part of the writing process. But if you never get anything down in the first place, it’s awfully hard to edit!  So my advice is always, “Write, right now!”

7. Ask for help. Whether you are a novice writer or an experienced professional, writing your own story can be difficult because it’s entirely through your eyes. Consult a friend, an editor, or a writing coach to give you a fresh viewpoint and get you through those sticky spots when you run out of ideas entirely. I offer writing coaching at an hourly rate, which has really helped other writers get through their personal blocks.

8. If you find that you’re not up to the task, hire a professional. Professional writers are well trained in storytelling and research and can help you fill in the gaps in your story. Their level of assistance can range from minor assistance with re-writes and research, to doing all the writing themselves under your name (ghost writing). You will always keep the rights to your story. If you’re not an experienced writer, this may be the best solution for you. And if you’re writing your book with the idea of selling it, you’ll definitely need a skilled writer to help craft your story so that it’s marketable.

So now you have a few tips on how to write an autobiography. Enjoy the process! And remember – Write, right now!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Do you need help writing a book?

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Should you hire a local ghostwriter?

Working with a Ghostwriter – What steps should you take?



Writing Resume

Objective: Ghostwriter

Overall Writing Philosophy:
My forte is communicating ideas effectively, in an easy to understand way. Whether I’m writing fiction, non-fiction, or articles about a complex subject, my goal is to breathe new life into the project.

Writing Experience:
1. Personal publishing credits
Mongoose Press
Chess Is Child’s Play
This is a book I authored, published through Mongoose Press, which teaches parents, of any skill level, to teach their very young children to play chess (ages 2-7).

Red Moon Press
Joshua’s Missing Peace
I ghostwrote this book and received a cover credit. This true story is about a mother whose son was put on dangerous psychiatric drugs, only to find out that he had an advanced case of strep throat.

Haiku (short poem)
•  Acorn – Spring 2011
•  Haijinx – March 2011
•  The Heron’s Nest – Sept 2011

2. Ghostwriting
October 2003 – present
• Seventeen memoirs
• Three science fiction/fantasy novels
• Seven fictional novels
• Eight how-to or business books
• Four children’s books

3. Article and Guide Writing

Yahoo! Small Business
January 2013 – Present
Feature articles for the small business owner

July 2009 – April 2011
• Over 100 articles about mortgages and real estate
• Seven complete guides about mortgages
• A comprehensive glossary totaling over 200 terms

The Haiku Foundation
May 2010 – Nov 2010
• Three articles on haiku
• Moderator for their forum

Management Success
Sept 2010 – Feb 2011
• Seven complete newsletters
• 14 articles on automotive repair

Feb 2003 – May 2003
• Three how-to-booklets on pet care published by Petco

4. Chess Journalist
June 2009 – Sept 2009
Three online articles based on my experience teaching children to play chess

Southern California Chess Federation
Jan 1990 – Jan 1992
Editor and Chief of Rank and File magazine

United States Chess Federation
Jan 1990 – Jan 1998
Freelance journalist

The Advent
Sept 1981 – May 1983
High School chess correspondent

5. Screenwriting
Wild Heart Films
June 1998 – November 1998
I wrote and produced the full-length feature film In The Open.

Additional Information:
Received BS in Civil Engineering from Cal Poly Pomona
Chess Enthusiast: One of the top 50 women chess players in the US
Licensed Mortgage Broker and Founder of First Founders Financial
Independent Filmmaker: Produced three features and three shorts