Many people have asked me recently what it was like to write a book.
More specifically what does it take?
To some it up in one word: patience.
Regardless, here is the story of creating, writing and self publishing my first book: Why Wait To Be Great.
Around 4 years ago, I started writing virtually every day. There was no real purpose, it just spilled out. Sometimes for blogs, sometimes for sales pages. Sometimes for reports I’d write at work. Nothing major.
Then, 18 months ago I put the words ‘be nice.’ on a tshirt. Initially this ‘be nice. thing’ was going to be an apparel brand. A fashion forward type apparel company with girls and guys ranges that I would sell at markets and inside cool stores for $80+ per garment. (That’s why if you look closely, the full stop is actually a button).
But after writing a few stories to spread the word of the brand, I found this was not an apparel brand at all. It was so much more.
After getting some amazing feedback on my writing I started writing and compiling some never before seen stories into a book (will release this in 2019ish). After working hard on this, my progress stalled. I got busy and stopped working on this particular book.
I was always an avid reader and loved books that shared inner leadership lessons. The alchemist by Paulo Coelho, the leader who had no title by Robin Sharma, and anything by Ken Blanchard. They always used storytelling too.
That would be cool..maybe one day I’d do that, I thought.
Then I read a Robin Sharma book called: The Greatness Guide, which shared 101 small but powerful leadership lessons (1 story per 1-2 pages). That was certainly a massive catalyst. I was very inspired by the simplicity but brilliance of the messages.
I started compiling my own stories from my experiences. I’d write 2-3 and in one day and after a few months, I ended up with 240 of these.
I printed them all off at officeworks and sorted them into A’s, B’s and C’s.
A’s were my must haves and had to stay.
B’s were OK, but needed work.
C’s were no good and weren’t going to make it.
I then laid them out all over my floor and decided on a structure. It was looking good. I wanted 80 good stories.
After final count, I had 60 or so A’s..
Back to the drawing board (or keyboard in this case) I went.
Then…as it does, life once again got in the way. I picked up other projects and got busy. I lost focus and once again this book was put on the back burner.
By this stage it was Feb 2017.
I then made the choice that all my favourite books were all story based tales (as I mentioned above) and decided I would write my own. It would be a young male who would meet 4 teachers, each who would teach him 5 valuable life lessons.
I went to officeworks and bought a 100 pack of index cards. I mapped out the story, the lessons, the scenes (like it was a movie) and was pumped.
I knew I needed a writing routine, so I started rising early (4am) to head to a local 24 hour cafe before the world was awake. Over the next 2 weeks I wrote from 4-6 each morning, punching out 25,000 words for that book. The words were flowing and I hadn’t even hit the lessons from the second of the four mentors. I thought..this is good, but seriously, it’s going to be a year before it’s ready (with editing, tweaking, culling etc). Even though the words were flowing..something told me to just stop for a second.
Then two things happened which would shape the book many now are able to read.
Firstly, we had a coaches club meeting (a private service I run) with the inspirational speaker Jean-Pierre De Villiers. JP brought over his book for all the members and signed it. His book was 5,000 words.
I remember jokingly teasing him that it was so small. He then joked back, and said: “Hayden, what’s better…this book, or no book?!” He had me fair and square. Legit.
That week I had also had a coaching session with one of the world leading trainers of NLP, Alice Haemmerle (who also spoke at my coaches club in August 2017). I said I wanted to be a writer. She said…”Hayden, if you want to be a writer…write”.
It was so simple.
These two wake up calls were all I needed. That was it…I needed to get something out there.
So I parked the mentor book and decided it was time to get something finilased. I thought JP’s book was a little too small for my first book, so I said I’d write 10,000 words instead. It would be a leadership book with 3 sections. Each section would focus on 3 big ideas and contain 1000 words each. I would wrap a beginning and a conclusion (each 500 words) around it and boom, 10,000 words. Within 2 weeks I’d be done.
So that’s what I did. Everyday from 4-6 once again I sat in the back of a South Yarra cafe and wrote what came from my heart.
But I couldn’t stop. 10,000 came easy. But it was missing something. I needed to write a chapter on this, and then that.
It got to 18,000 words and it was looking good. I had already decided on a cover (can you believe that cost me $5 to have designed?) and wanted to send it to an editor I knew, before getting it out as fast as possible.
I messaged her and mentioned I was 95% done. She said, “cool, message me when it’s all done and let’s book it in.”
So I spent the next few weeks tweaking and changing until I finally ended up with around 22,000 words and what I thought was a solid book. (Although it was far from it.)
At 6:30am on May 1st I posted an image of the 3D cover on Instagram..I had no idea how people would respond to it. Just after I posted it, I sent an email to the editor I was to use and said I’m ready to get started.
I then walked my dog and did my usual morning routine stuff. I checked back in about 8:30am and the image of my cover had been seen by hundreds (meaning no turning back now). I also had an email waiting from the editor…
“Congratulations on finishing, we have availability to start in August or maybe July.”
Now, I had a major event coming up in June and I needed it before that…I asked but there was no way we could use this company within those time limits.
I left it a day, but decided…hey, I’ll just tweak a few things and keep refining the book. I called another editor and got her to look over what I thought was fairly close to being a finished product. She offered me some feedback and said it was well written..but lacked structure.
Looking back she was VERY right.
So…4 more months of daily writing, editing, tweaking and connecting the book, (more 4am sessions and 6+ hours over weekends) saw the book hit 34,000 and really start looking like a great piece. The links between chapters were strong, as were the themes and overall structure.
(This was by far the hardest part for me. Getting it right. Sharing the message exactly how I wanted it was crucial.)
Each time I tweaked from start to finish, I would get a copy printed and bound at Officeworks. I would then hand edit it, before fixing on the computer…Then back to Officeworks I would go.
In the end I ended up with 14 revised bounded documents. I’m not sure if the staff at Officeworks knew me by name, but they must have wondered why I was in so often.
I’d missed the deadline to have them at my event, but it was June by this stage and I didn’t want to wait until August to get it done..so I decided to hire an editor online.
I’d had a few people look over it, and remove spelling/grammatical errors and was fairly convinced by this stage, the book had maybe a dozen or two corrections to be made. Plus a check over for major inconsistencies and repeated themes..stuff that might exist in account I was so close to it, you know?
I put the ad on an online job board and by that night had hired an English/French teacher named, Sian.
This was the best investment I made into the book. I am so glad I did this. I’m also lucky/grateful to have found such a fantastic editor who cared for my work and decided to really put love and care into the final result.
She corrected it in two parts…the first half came back with….1200 mistakes…! Most of them small but each one needed to be checked. (The second half had about 800).
Sian lived overseas, which meant because of the time difference, every time I gave her a round of edits or a question, it would be 24 hours before I’d get it back.
Not a major deal, but I wanted to get this thing out. It was over 2 months since I’d mentioned I had sent the book to my editor and people were asking almost daily how my book was going..!
We were on the final rounds. We could see the finish line..but there was still one more hiccup.
Originally I had written the entire thing in Google Docs (as it saves every 2 seconds, is in the cloud and there is only ONE version at a time), but in the editing phase we decided Microsoft word was the best because of the comments and tracking changes feature.
So we ended up with 8 or so versions…but had a system to control this so all good.
Then I remember one night I went to search for a section I was going to remove…*control F* “insert word to search for”…<word not found>.
Confused, I scrolled down to where it might be..and to my shock, a huge chunk of the book was missing.
Not just a paragraph..but 2000 words. Important words too. They were needed.
I was hungry to get the book out, but this needed to be fixed. Worst of all, it needed editing yet again. Which meant more days of back and forth with Sian.
This happened one more time too. Of course it was frustrating to randomly find parts of your book missing but beyond that was not knowing whether or not there were other parts missing.
I’d read the book 30 or so times by this stage so it was getting very familiar (could not see the forest for the trees).
Regardless we finished it, got it finalised and 8 months from the day I started Why Wait To Be Great, I went to office works one last time to have the final manuscript printed.
The second part of this story is the process I used to self publish.
I will explore than in depth another day, for now, thanks for reading and I hope that gives you a little insight into what went into the little black book many of you now hold.
(If you don’t yet…why not?! Why wait? Buy your copy now and get ready to grow.)