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Part 4: Writing a Business Book- How to Get Started

Getting started on writing a book for your business sounds easy in theory, but when you get down to the writing itself, it can be more difficult than imagined. Yet with a bit of planning, coming to a working outline, getting your bum in the chair, and giving yourself some tools to keep writing when the writing gets tough will ensure you soon will be writing a book to support and grow your business.

This blog is part of a full series called Writing a Business Book, designed for small business owners and entrepreneurs who are thinking about writing a book that supports your business.

  • Part I: Are you ready?
  • Part 2: The four enormous benefits to writing a book
  • Part 3a: Figuring out your subject
  • Part 3b: Refining your perfect subject

Plan Ahead so You Can Get Started with Writing Your Business Book

As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you’re writing constantly. You write blogs and marketing documents; you may have written or contributed to the copy on your website and/or maintain the site with regular updates. You write emails until your fingers feel like boiled potatoes, and you write plenty of other stuff besides.

But writing a business book sounds BIG (to be clear, it is big). That said, how you approach the writing doesn’t have to take on epic scale proportion if you don’t let it. You can cut the portent and dispense with the dread purely by being tactical.

Like those lovely ambitious sorts who scale mountains, run marathons, or embark on home renovation, you too can prevent yourself from going into a fear-based cardiac arrest by recognizing that planning ahead is key:

  • Go out and buy a binder with those very nice coloured tabs.
  • Make some notes.

    After all, no sensible person takes a sledge hammer to a wall eight months pregnant without a plan!

author holding sledgehammer while pregnant at One Lit Place

Note: we *mostly* had a plan.

Book writing is no different. Even the act of sitting down and pulling out those cute binder tabs prepares the mind, priming it to slow down and understand that this is the kind of task that can be broken down into parts.

And parts, one can do- and with success- because a part is a cute little chunk. Going one chunk at a time, like eating, makes the task manageable. We do not eat the entire pizza in one bite. What are we, cobras?

In her seminal book on writing, Bird by Bird, Annie Lamott explains whence the title came about: when her brother was panicking about having to write a report on birds that was due the next day, her father put his arm around him and said, “Just take it bird by bird, buddy. Take it bird by bird.”

You’ve read the previous blogs in this series about realizing you’re up to the task (Part I), you have the power and authority of an expert in your field (Part 2), and you’ve zeroed in on your subject (Part 3a), tightening it to its purpose  (Part 3b).

That bit of pre-work has already and will continue to carry you far. Imagine having not done that and sitting down, pen in hand quivering over a fresh sheet of paper? That sort of nonsense would fell the strongest among us.



The Outline

Certain types of books, such as fiction, do well to find their locus through the act of writing, which means often a writer will simply crack her knuckles and dive in, knowing the writing itself will show her the way.

Writing a book for your business, however, tends to thrive on a somewhat more tactical approach. By laying out the various points you wish to speak to, and the sub points beneath the main points, a kind of working outline will emerge, like a figure in the mist. That outline will end up being the spine of the book.

staged branch in dirt

Once you have that spine, inside of each section, now articulated and defined, you can let your years of expertise, wit, knowledge and curiosity go to town. That’s where you can allow your voice to come to the front and be the guiding force of the book. After all, your clients and customers gravitate not only to the services and products you provide, but you as the provider of those things. You are what makes your business unique and special.

If even seeing an outline brings you back to all those nights in school when you were trying to write an essay for English Lit or Philosophy that was due the next morning at 9 a.m. and gives you the skitters, fear not. This outline doesn’t have to follow any specific organizational structure; in fact, the more personal it is to you, the more it will feel intrinsically yours and connected to how you’ll come to feel about the project overall.

Also, luckily, there are also many fine free online platforms and templates that make outlining and organizing a book-length project much easier.

Go to Work

The only way to write a book for your business, is to write a book for your business

(Wow, that’s a revelation. Did she just say that??)

Meaning, writing only happens when you are writing. All those hours of thinking, worrying, mentally constructing, belabouring, and talking with your mastermind group are preparing you for the act of writing, but the only way your book is going to get written is if you sit down and write it.

Make a Schedule

calendar for Getting Started writing a book for your business at One Lit Place

I advise my clients to begin a new calendar that is only for their writing time. If on Monday-Friday from 8:45 a.m.- 10:00 a.m. your bum is in the seat, your phone is off, your email notifications are also turned off (this part is muy importante), you will get a lot of writing done.

Does everything you type have to be magic? Best writing ever? Heck no. You will write far more material than you can use, much of it “throat clearing” as we call it. But if you don’t clear you throat, you can’t sing. Let the writing happen, and you will have it written.

If you let the wind move you, wait for the muse, or strike only when the iron is hot, your book will remain an idea that eventually someone else will write out from under you.

By getting started, doing some planning, and sitting down for a specific time each day, you are giving yourself the best chance at success.

This book is necessary; after all, you are in business for a reason (people want what you have!). This book with its intelligent ideas, useable practices and personal insight is the distillation of your years of hard-won experience and acquired knowledge. Remember as you sit down each day: people will be grateful for the work you have done.

Time to get started.

If you have begun to write a book that supports and enhances your business or you would like to begin, please share your experiences or questions in the comments below –

Or dive in and know that in 4 months you can have a completed draft of your book written. How’s that for efficient?

stack of business and self-development books beside yellow potted plant and reading glasses

2 Responses

  1. I love this article. My favourite line is, ‘sledgehammering while knocked up is not recommended’. Dah, yes! None the less, it makes a valid point. We all have our issues. The truth is that life will always interfere with writing. Writers have to find a way to use those interferences to motivate stories. Whether we admit it or not, we come to our writing filled with those many experiences that we claim keeps us from ‘getting our bums in the chair.’ Jenna, has convinced me that making an appointment calendar is a way of carving out time away from all the other distractions that I use as excuses. OK, maybe accompanying my husband to his chemo appointment isn’t an excuse. It’s a priority, and very worrisome. It keeps my fingers off the keyboard.

    I make writing appointments now. I don’t always feel in the mood to write but even if I only write a few crappy words, it’s progress. And, most days, I average about a thousand words. Like Lamont says, ‘bird by bird.’ But, I’m not a cobra. I can’t write an entire novel in one sitting. Another great line!

    Try the calendar and schedule some writing appointments for yourself. Works for me. Thanks Jenna. I have about 20,000 birds to go. I’m keeping my appointments and then you’re it.

  2. Thanks so much for your thoughts and encouragement to your fellow writers, Marianne! There is always a time and a place to write- when life rears up and needs us to be in service may not be one of them- but then again, to write our way out of that time or through it, or when things are flowing finely and we can give ourselves in full, even then, a schedule is our friend. Wonderful you’re getting the words down, tackling each bird as it comes!

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