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“Writing this book almost killed me. It was like giving birth.” – Ramit Sethi
“I’d cry. I’d whine to Mr. Frugalwoods… I re-wrote the first chapter no less than 17 times.” – FrugalWoods
“Did I enjoy writing the book? Um, let’s just say, I’m happy to have written a book.”– JLCollins
“Get ready for the roller-coaster ride of your life! Writing a blog is nothing like writing a book.” – Vicki Robin
“I spent over 2,800 hours of my own life writing Financial Freedom…writing a book is no joke.”– Grant Sabatier from Millennial Money.
When it comes to writing a book, “easy”, “a picnic” and “fun” are not words used by authors to describe the process.
Most authors are happy to have written the book, but boy is it painful going through the process of writing the damned thing. And having been in the same situation when we wrote our first book in 2008, we know what that feels like.
But back then we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Now as jaded, grizzled veterans of the writing business, would we have the same experience?
Well, after 7 intense months in the writing cave, I’m happy to announce, we finished the first draft of our book—all 70,000 words!
A lot of bloggers think going from blog to book means concatenating a bunch of blog posts together, massaging it, and hitting print.
If you do that, you’re better off starting from scratch. A book is very different from a blog. Just like how you wouldn’t just take a scene from every episode of Breaking Bad and mash it together hoping a coherent movie will somehow emerge; stitching together existing posts to create a book would be equally futile. If you don’t want to end up with a Frankenstein manuscript, do NOT, for the love of God, recycle your posts.
In fact, our publishing contract specifically prohibits us from recycling 20% of the book from our blog.
So, in order to write an actual book and not a Frankenstein blog-book, here are the 5 lessons we learned while writing our first draft of QUIT LIKE A MILLIONAIRE:
Create a Detailed Outline
You know how they say, “measure twice, cut once”? This is why you must outline as many times as possible to iron out the kinks before you write a single word.
MathShitUp to figure out how many chapters you need, how many words per chapter and then put a schedule together to get it done. (And you thought math wasn’t useful if you’re an artist. HA!)
For example, a non-fiction book is generally around 70,000 words. Since there are around 250 words per page, this would give us 280 pages. Since each chapter should be around 10-15 pages (longer than that and you’ll lose the reader’s attention), you’re looking at around 19 – 28 chapters.
I can write two 1000-1500 word posts a week. This means I can write 2000-3000 words a week. Wanderer usually writes once a week, so that means the two of us can get 4000 words down per week.
70,000 / 4000 = 18 weeks = 5 months.
Does this mean we can get the first draft done in 5 months? Nope. Don’t expect to write everything once and just be done with it. That’s not how writing works. Rarely will you be able to write anything once and let it stand. Hell, even J. K. Rowling had to write the scene where Harry learns how to play Quidditch 15 times!
Writing is about RE-WRITING. So take whatever time you’ve calculated and doubled it! If you’ve written a book before, you can use 1.5. And if you’re writing blog posts at the same time, keep that in mind as well and step down your schedule if you need to.
You can try to finish a book in less than 6 months but just getting the words down doesn’t automatically make them good. Writing is easy, but writing well is insanely hard.
In our case, since this isn’t our first rodeo, we figured we would need 5*1.5 = 7.5 months to complete our first draft, which is why we negotiated the end of Aug as our deadline. As I’m writing this, we’ve finished our first draft and just need to add in the epilogue and appendix, so I’m happy to report we’re right on schedule!
But even then, it’s not time to pop the champagne yet. Delivering our first draft doesn’t mean our editor at Penguin Random House will automatically accept it. We will likely have to go through multiple rounds of editing before it’s good enough for copy edits.
Just because you need to plan the heck out of this book doesn’t mean the plan never changes.
Since the book proposal, we’ve had to delete an entire chapter, merge two, create three from scratch, and rearrange the ordering throughout the book. If that were all done on the fly, it would’ve been agonizing to erase all that hard work, but because we had a detailed outline, we simply deleted and added a few paragraphs in the outline descriptions.
Even after you start writing, it doesn’t mean you can just follow your plan and then get a final draft without a massive amount of changes.
Since you’re not writing in a vacuum, you will likely need to make the many many changes suggested by your editor. In our case, since we learned that getting feedback is paramount to reducing the amount of re-writing, we sent off the first 2 chapters just to make sure the tone, storytelling, and math all made sense before continuing down that path.
Once she vetted those chapters, we then sent her the whole first section of the book (6 chapters).
Then I waited…
Those two weeks felt like the two longest weeks of my life.
By the end of it, the deafening silence made me pretty nervous. Luckily, we’d been through this before and I knew that editors are juggling multiple books and busy as all hell. So I crossed my fingers and distracted myself by continuing to blog (another reason why it’s good to have another project to switch to while writing a book).
And let me tell you, there’s nothing like a heart attack to kick-start your morning when you receive an e-mail from your editor with the words:
“Don’t be alarmed…”
So of course the first thing I do is immediately become alarmed.
But as I scrolled through the mass of comments, deletions, and underlines (seriously I think there may have been more comments than my own writing), I started to relax.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out. In and out. In and out.
As it turns out, most of the edits were line-edits, which involve grammatical, spelling, and deletion fixes. I didn’t have any problems with the structure or need to re-write big sections of the chapters. *Phew*
I’m not banking on the fact that there won’t be more changes going forward though. When it comes to book writing, flexibility is key. No first draft stays the way it is. You’ll probably get a gazillion notes from your editor and that’s normal. Don’t freak out.
Perfection is Your Enemy
If you’ve ever tried to write anything, you know the feeling of sitting there for hours, taunted by the blinking cursor on your blank page, wanting to slam your head on the desk until you pass out. Or when you finally muster the courage to write something—ANYTHING—you end up deleting and re-writing the same sentence, over and over, again until 7 hours later you’ve written a single pathetic little paragraph.
I feel you. This is what every writer has to go through, no matter how long you’ve been writing for. We tend to talk ourselves out of writing for fear that it’s not the single most perfect sentence known to man.
But in reality, perfection is our biggest enemy. Writing is all about re-writing, so embrace those imperfect sentences. Get messy. Vomit onto the page and then clean it up afterwards. You can’t edit a blank screen.
Bigger, colourful, fancier words are always better right?
Good writing is minimalist. Think Hemingway, not Joseph Conrad. Your job is to make life easier for your reader, not to show off your vocabulary or make your reader feel like they’re in English class. When it comes to writing, the best advice is “less is more”. If your reader needs to get out the thesaurus for every other sentence your book is going to be exhausting to read. Less is more.
Other writers have said that Wanderer and I are lucky to have each other and I completely agree. Writing is a lonely activity. Ups and downs are a given, so in order to weather the storm, you’ll need to find a CP (critique partner). They will be the ones who will honestly tell you when something isn’t working and be the shoulder to scream into when you’ve written a chapter 16 times and it still doesn’t work.
Most of the time you’ll want to find CPs who aren’t your family or friends (unless your significant other can be brutally honest with you) because they can objectively tell you when something isn’t working.
Now I know I’ve made writing sound as fun as slitting your wrists and jumping into a shark tank but I promise you it’s not all bad. Even with all the sleepless nights, re-writing, banging your head against the table, staring at a blank page for hours, wondering if you’re stinking up the room with the stench of your failure, it’s all worth it in the end.
Because of this:
Getting to accomplish your lifelong dream—there’s really nothing like it.
I never really understood the appeal of New York until we met our literary agent and editor —who took us up to the Penguin Random House offices. New York truly is the place where dreams come true.
Another unexpected conclusive I’ve discovered through this whole writing process is that birthing a book is a lot like becoming FI. Lots of people want to do it, but few end up accomplishing it.
According to the New York Times, 81% of Americans want to write a book, but if that’s true, how come there aren’t 243 million books published in the US each year? As it turns out, most people don’t want to write a book, they’re just enamoured with the idea of being an author. The idea of accomplishing your dream, signing copies of books with your name on it, seeing crowds of adoring fans, and getting paid to do something you love is very appealing.
Parking your butt in a chair every day for a decade while bleeding onto the page? Not so much.
It’s the same with becoming FI. Everyone wants to become FI, but only those who enjoy the process and are willing to put in the hard work will get there.
So when it comes to your FI journey, treat it like writing a book. Plan it out, be flexible (don’t worry if you make mistakes, you can always fix it), and stay the course. It’s not about hitting a home run; it’s about the long game and not shooting yourself in the foot.
What do think? Have you ever tried to write a book? Do you think becoming FI is similar?
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