Dan Naden

Writing a Story Only You Can Tell

Of all the professional challenges I’ve faced, the most difficult one may have been writing a book. I’ve been writing nearly daily for a long time (probably close to 10 years), but starting and finishing a lengthy story was a new chapter – one that tested me in ways I never thought were possible. 

Like most endeavors, there’s a wealth of book writing how-to information on the Internet. It’s hard to discern the validity and accuracy of the information shared.

Is it legit?
Is it credible?
Should I trust what is being shared? 

Learning from other professional pursuits, I aimed to ‘get out of the building’ to truly make meaningful progress on starting and finishing a book. I reached out to my network. 

Who else had written a book?
What was their process?
How did they find the time to write?
How did they know when they were done? 

Over the course of countless conversations with friends and acquaintances who had written a book, I collected valuable insight into how the writing process should proceed. Because I was writing a fictional story, I focused my conversation to those authors who published that type of book. It comforted me to hear that the writing process — and the task chore of staying resolute — wasn’t easy for anyone. Writing is hard work. Editing is hard work. Publishing something is the hardest work. 

After zeroing in on my story topic (youth soccer) and my target market for the book (elementary and middle schoolers and their parents), I realized I needed pictures to keep the story alive and captivating for the audience. I wasn’t skilled in drawing the illustrations. I needed a professional. But how? Where would I find such a person? The answer, once again, had me pushing to get out of the building and leaning into my network. Researching and eventually finding an affordable (illustration was much more expensive than I imagined) and talented illustrator led to an amazing collaboration that took my book up a notch. 

There are many processes and best practices to follow as you attempt to write a published story. In my book, one of the most helpful suggestions is to not edit as you write. Write (or type) your story. Focus on the editing after the story is down, even if it is rough and sloppy. As I began to scratch out my story (chapter after chapter), I wrestled with doubt and frustration, yet I pressed forward to reaching a lifetime goal. I resisted the temptation to have a close friend or family member do the editing duties. The work may have been cheaper, yet I wanted to invest in a professional, unbiased, and experienced editing eye – someone who has seen and edited numerous books. 

The editor I selected only happened because I stepped out of my comfort zone (aka the building) and tapped into my network. My editor not only helped me clean up some grammatical hiccups; she also helped me dramatically improve story flow and character development — two areas that plague most fiction tales. Another area where my editor provided sage advice was knowing when ‘done’ is ‘done’. She helped me craft and build a story arc, bringing the story to a dramatic conclusion which (I hope) kept readers on edge until the final few pages. 

The Book is Done. Now What? 

Hundreds of books are written and published daily. But how can an author ensure that his book is reaching his target market? Being a product marketer and manager by trade, I started the launch process by building a ‘buyer persona’ for the book. What type of person would be interested in reading a story about the ups and downs of a youth soccer season? 

After clearly defining the target: middle-aged soccer parents and their elementary to middle-school aged children, I researched where these ‘personas’ go online to look for books to read. Besides messaging on the usual social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, etc.), I leaned into library systems and school districts to make connections which proved fruitful for book sales. Writers sometimes hate the ‘selling’ side of the business, yet if you have a story to tell, you must be vigilant about getting that story into the hands of your market. 

Find a Community to Sharpen your Grit

Writing is a solo endeavor. If you write for any period of time, you’ll realize the inordinate amount of time with just you, your thoughts, and a keyboard or notebook. Despite writing’s solitary tendencies, there is an active and thriving writing community out there if you know where to look. 

LinkedIn is a good place to start, yet, from my experience, it pales in comparison to finding a face-to-face writers group where you can swap celebrations and disappointments while engaging in the craft of writing. My attendance has been spotty as of late, but when I attended a writers group through my church, it was uplifting to know many writers struggled with the same fears, uncertainties and doubts I did. Even more valuable? Tips and suggestions to squashing the fear and get on with writing a story that only you can tell. 

Starting a writing project of any length – a short summary for a work project or a lengthy white paper to motivate your customers to investigate your solution – will require solo, heads-down effort. Don’t neglect, however, the importance of tapping into a community of like-minded professionals who desire to help everyone improve as writers.

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