In our last interview we spoke with James Sudakow about why you shouldn’t be afraid of a weekly column. Maybe you have a column, or you’re on your way to getting a column, but wondering how to polish your writing so it really shines?
This week we’re rounding up the best writing tips from our resident book writing expert, Lisa Tener.
Lisa Tener is an enthusiastic advocate for the power of the written word to transform careers, businesses and people, An inspiring book-writing and publishing coach, author and speaker, her clients have signed 5- and 6-figure book deals with HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster, Random House, Scribner’s and more.
You’re an author yourself and also passionate about helping others publish a book. How did you become a book writing coach?
I’ll try to give you the short version. It took me 7 years to go from idea to holding the published book in my hands. In that time, I figured out a) all the things I wished I’d known when I started b) shortcuts c) how to make a compelling case for a book and d) how to tap into your creative flow to write with ease.
When my first book was published, I realized I didn’t actually enjoy teaching the subject of that book (Anger). I was much more interested in creativity and writing. So I started teaching how to get into that writing flow.
But people kept contacting me for help getting their books published and soon I had a track record for helping people write successful book proposals and get publishing deals. That was pretty exciting.
Rusty Shelton had been the publicist for our book, which got terrific national publicity. After the contract was over, he still went out of his way to support me. He recommended me to teach a writing workshop for Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course. That opened so many doors and I feel it’s been one of the keys to my success as an entrepreneur and book writing/publishing coach.
I’ve met doctors, therapists and others in the health professions who were doing very interesting research or have effective systems for creating wellbeing and addressing personal issues, but needed help shaping their books, knowing where to start, writing a book proposal. It’s been a joy learning all they have to teach and helping them embrace the many aspects of being an author–writing, marketing, business–all of it.
What’s your number one piece of advice to those who want to write more?
It’s awesome if you can write every day, even a little bit, but it’s not critical. It is important to be writing every week consistently, ideally a few times a week. Again, it can be in small increments. Schedule the writing time in your calendar for a specific date and time block. Keep it sacred. I’ve been doing that with my writing partner every day and our book proposal is almost done after working on it for just a few weeks.
What’s your best piece of advice on how to improve your writing?
Oh, I have so many favorites. The first is to read out loud. You will hear things that miss your attention when you read in your mind. You can also have someone else read out loud to you and you’ll catch different things.
May I add two more? #2: Always look to tighten your writing. You don’t need to do that when you’re writing in the flow but later when you edit, ask yourself, “How can I simplify this? Can I say this in fewer words?”
#3 Use specific verbs to paint a picture. Verbs are so much more powerful than adjectives and adverbs overall. The convey the movement, energy and emotions of your writing. He went to the store: boring. It doesn’t paint a picture. He ran to the store: better. He sprinted to the store: Now you’ve painted a picture in our minds.
How do you keep up with blogging on your website?
Honestly, sometimes I go to bed too late. It can be challenging. One thing I try to do is write a few posts ahead so that if I’m really swamped in a week I still have a post for that week. Lately, because I’m working on a book proposal of my own (with two co-writers) and because I am also writing some guest posts and articles that you’ve been placing for me, I’ve occasionally missed a week, but mostly I manage to write one or two posts a week.
Another thing I do is when I have an idea, I immediately start a post on my blog and jot down a few notes. Sometimes I go back and have no idea what I intended. Other times, I end up writing the whole post right then and there. Or I just jot notes but when I return to it, the notes help me complete it quickly. I’m not a methodical person, so I don’t plan it all out. I try to be efficient and effective but I don’t expect perfection from myself, either. It has to be fun and enjoyable or it’s not worth doing, right?