Birthing a Book Baby

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FIRECracker

FIRECracker is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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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.

Wrong.

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.

Be Flexible

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…

and waited…

and 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.

Don’t Overwrite

Bigger, colourful, fancier words are always better right?

Wrong!

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.

Get support

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.

Why?

Because of this:

Having lunch with our extraordinary editor Nina and literary agent Andrea in New York

and this:

Obligatory selfie in the Penguin Random House office!

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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38 thoughts on “Birthing a Book Baby”

  1. I read “don’t be alarmed…” and had to laugh. My wife has been an editor for the last decade and regularly shares with me the latest idiotic thing her clients have done to the English language (she works for a government contractor, so the quality varies). If she were to start feedback with “don’t be alarmed,” that’s when the client has actually done something GOOD and worth making even better!

    You creators are amazing. My wife and I love words, but coalescing ideas and excitement into actual content is beyond us; we just appreciate (and in her case, polish) it.

    1. Normally people wouldn’t get alarmed, but being the paranoid psychopath that I am I totally got alarmed (though it might be PTSD from my first experience with the writing industry).

      Super cool that your wife’s an aditor!

    1. Great question. It’s coming out from Penguin Random House USA but it includes retirement advice for Americans and Canadians (401k’s and RRSPs etc), just like the blog.

  2. “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.” Hahahaaa… I hear ya sista.

    Writing isn’t for everybody. You are absolutely right about people wanting to be a writer because they like the IDEA of being a writer. Don’t write because you want J K Rowling’s fan following or the next Pulitzer or the Booker Prize. Write because you believe in your story and your characters. Write because you like the satisfaction of putting words on paper and most importantly write something that you’ll want to read. Don’t try to be a J K Rowling or George R R Martin or Tolkien. Be you. The world needs more originals.

  3. Yes, I can totally relate. My first three books have all felt like a massive herculean effort to get them from a cool fun idea in my mind to actual words on a page. The analogy of publishing a book and giving birth is apt. Believe it or not it gets more complicated the more books that you write as well. Because each of the previous books still need your attention for marketing and promotion, but the newest book still needs to be written. Then it gets even trickier if you are writing a series because readers are looking for consistency across the books. I’ve found that connecting with other authors has been great and has kept my energy levels high. Whether I’m helping someone who is starting out or learning from someone who is at the level that I want to get to, I find the person to person connection to be the most beneficial.

    Congratulations on your book! We’ll be requesting it at our library as soon as we can!

    1. Thanks, MK! Yes, getting support from a writing group or CPs is key. Too many ups and downs in this industry to go at it alone.

  4. I’ll never understand how some writers crank out 3 or 4 books a year. That’s some incredible productivity they have.

    I don’t have a lot of confidence in my writing and I’m about the slowest writer on the planet — writing a book probably isn’t in the cards for me. Although I do find the process interesting!

    Good luck on your book though! I’m sure it’ll be fantastic.

    1. One word: Ghostwriting 🙂 . Kidding – mostly. I met a guy who wrote one (fiction) book a month. I asked how in the world that’s possible and that was his answer.

    2. Thanks, Mr. Tako. Enjoying the process of writing definitely helps. Otherwise, writing a book would be completely horrible and pointless.

      I could never crank out 3 or 4 books a year. One is more than enough.

  5. “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.” That is some amazing imagery right there! I almost spit out my tea it’s so good.

    Congratulations on all your hard work. While you have given me the information to decide that writing a book isn’t in my cards, I’m super excited to read your book when it’s finished. It will be the first book I’ve bought since Simple Path to Wealth.

  6. I love Hemingway. Short sentences. Much meaning. Sadly, a short life.

    Congrats on (mostly) finishing the book. I was wondering how that was going!

    I don’t think I have a book in me at this point. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Justin! Even if you don’t have a full book in you, stories like the one where you left your rental car keys with some random lady at the train station needs to be read. Keep those hilarious blog posts coming!

  7. Really?

    I was that positive about the process?

    I didn’t mention it took me three years, most of that time spent hiding from the keyboard until my editor dragged me back kicking, screaming, snarling and sobbing?

    But it is wonderful having it written. 🙂

    1. I didn’t want to scare off any aspiring writers more than I already have. 😛

      So…when are you writing your next book?

    2. When my editor drags me back kicking, screaming, snarling and sobbing to the keyboard.

      Since after working with me he fled into a monastery, that may be a while.

      Maybe in my next incarnation. 😉

  8. Hi Firecracker,

    Was just wondering how you found the process between writing non-fiction vs. fiction? Was one easier / more enjoyable than the other? Was the process pretty similar or quite different?

    Cheers Adam

    1. Oh, completely different. Fiction is WAY harder (and less lucractive). So…less money for more work.

      With non-fic, you can market test with just a proposal. If it doesn’t get sold, you only wasted a 50 page marketing plan/outline and maybe 2 intro chapters. With fiction, you need to write the whole thing. Also, fiction is more painful to edit because any plot or character changes could result in deleting a major chunk of the book. Especially if that character appears throughout the story. And if you have plot holes you have to re-write a lot of it. With non-fict, it’s a matter of moving things around without it affecting the overall structure and storytelling.

  9. Congrats! Explosive fist bumps all around!

    As a writer, I loved hearing your stories behind the desk. Fingers crossed for more.

    I sometimes enjoy writing and cackling to myself. I also sometimes enjoy stitching my pieces together to make a book. I only like rewriting to make significant improvements. Like JL, I always enjoy having written–and getting money/praise for it!

    I’m ready to pre-order whenever.

    Oh, and if you don’t mind sharing how it feels to get a few haters/reviewers after your book release, I’m all ears!

    1. Thanks, Melissa! I’m sure the reviews will be nerve-wracking, but good thing it’s not the first time! I’m battle-scarred and ready (I think).

  10. I’m so proud of you guys, this is such an accomplishment. Mr.Wow has been mentioning that I should write a book for years now and I’m just not sure if I am up for the commitment at the current moment, maybe somewhere down the road. Heck, it’s hard enough getting a blog post out every other week. Baby steps, ya know. Speaking of which, when’s the gender reveal party?

    1. Baby steps is right 😉 If you do decided to write a book, I’ll be the first to order a copy!

      The book is expected to come out in the fall next year, but book cover reveal should be earlier!

  11. Congrats you two! This is an amazing accomplishment, and I can’t wait to read it :). I hope you’re reveling in this part of the journey after all the hard hours. It takes a lot of energy and will power to keep going.

    I self-published a 100k word magical realism novel a few years ago, and your descriptions of this process is on point. There’s a sense that you can’t “help” but write this book but it is oh-so-painful at the same time, like giving birth as you described! You also feel the widest spectrum of emotions in a very short period of time (“I’m a genius! I’m an idiot…”).

    Thank you for sharing this journey with the rest of us. I can’t wait to hear more.

  12. The good news about writing a boo is that’s a totally different source of income that stands alone. Yes, stand alone income. Get a lump sum check. Pay your taxes, invest in real estate, move onto the next book. Then you have your affiliate marketing income that you earn online 24 hours a day. I love business. All kinds of $ gUaP $ to be made! 🙂

    1. Interesting way to look at it, DNN, but from my experience making a money with a book is not the best way to go. There are thousands of other ways to make money that’s WAY easier. The amount of hours, blood, sweat and tears that goes into writing a book results in you getting paid minimum wage at the end. It really is for the love of writing, not for the money.

      But hey if it worked out monetarily for you, that’s great!

  13. Congratulations on the first draft! Just curious if you’re using any software to help organize writing the book? Also, will you have to do marketing for the book as well? Will the publishing house pay expenses for marketing such as book tours? Or are you expected to market the book, tour at your own expense? Connecting with fans is priceless but it’s also a big commitment of time and energy too. Let me know when/where I can preorder the book. Actually, I’d love a signed copy. hahaha

    1. Thanks, PS! To answer your questions:

      1) Yes, I used Scrivener to write the book. You don’t need it but I find it helps me organize my thoughts. If you’re interesting in check it out, here’s my affiliate link and you can get 20% off with the coupon code “WRITING”:
      http://store.eSellerate.net/a.asp?c=0_SKU82916413320_AFL4298976596&at=

      2) Yes, the publisher is paying for the marketing. Since Penguin is the biggest publisher in the world, they have their own in-house publicists who will guide you.

      3) Thanks so much for your support! I’ll be announcing it on the blog when the pre-order page is ready to go.

  14. WOOHOOO!!! Can’t wait for when you announce the release date!!!

    How about doing a meet up the next time you’re in New York. I’m sure you have quite a few fans in here in the big apple that would love to see you both. It would also be great for your editor and agent to get a feel of your NY fan base. Just an idea =)

    Robert

  15. Awesome, this is so exciting! I was wondering when you’d be writing another book. Extremely happy for you, and I can’t wait to read it! Let me know about pre-ordering, too.

    Love how you broke down the outline & figured out how many words per book, per chapter, per page, etc. You’ve still got that engineer mind working for you! lol

    1. Thanks, BBSS! Really appreciate your support! (And yeah, I can’t stop mathing shit up even though I’m technically an author now. Guess that engineering brain never goes away :P)

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