Close and closer

One of my coaching clients came to me because he was stuck. He’d written about 100,000 words but didn’t know what he’d written and where to go next.

The problem wasn’t one of minimal output or reluctance to do homework. This client needed guardrails.

So we pulled way back and returned to the purpose of the book, summarizing in four questions: Who is the book for? Do they like long books? What is your purpose in writing the book? What does the book itself want to be?

We went back to first principles, building a structure and mapping out each chapter. Now he’s ready to write the book. Not just ready, KEEN!

When we chatted this week, he felt he was too close to the material to know what he has, but also getting closer to the purpose. Working with an editor or writing coach is helpful as they are close enough but not too close to the material—in essence, they can advise from 20,000 feet.

He knew that the purpose of the book would reveal itself even more as he wrote. Very true! But also: not so fast.

If he just starts writing again without any guardrails, he’ll quickly return to 100,000 words that don’t answer those four crucial questions. So we looked at writing IRL.

“What is your writing routine?” I asked.

“Every day, 8 am to noon.”

“OK so let’s assume that you’ll write for about two hours a day because *life*. Monday to Friday you’ll write, using the map we’ve created. And on Saturday you’ll reflect on what you’ve written, compare it to the map, and see if it brings you closer to the answers we established for those four questions.”

Note that reflection does not mean editing. Editing in this case would slow down the writer, who has a tendency toward perfectionism.

Establishing a writing routine that builds in reflection time will mean the difference between finishing a manuscript and finishing a book.

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