My journey as a writer

Like most of the hare-brained things I set out to do in my life, this one started in a kitchen.  An old school friend’s kitchen, to be precise.  Will Liddell and I meet up with another comrade in arms from school a couple of times every year.  It just so happened that this time Will invited me to try out fly fishing at his farm on the beautiful stretch of river in Hampshire you can see in the picture above.

(I caught two 5lb trout, as it happens, all by myself.)

Over a celebratory cup of tea, Will said to me, “You and I should write a book.  You’re a trainer, I’m a doctor, let’s do a book about how to keep healthy using some of the models you use in the training room.”

That was a good idea, and remains so, but we put it on the back burner a week or so later as Will had a major farm project which needed his attention this year.

But he had planted the seed (he’s good at that, he’s a farmer), and as so often happens with major undertakings, things started to build their own momentum.

I started thinking about who else I knew who had experience of writing a business book, and remembered that I had contributed a couple of chapters to a book published 2 years previously by Kogan Page called Business Analysis and Leadership, edited by Penny Pullen and James Archer.  I got in touch with  Penny, who instantly suggested I sign up for the 10 day Business Book Proposal Challenge run by a wonderful woman called Alison Jones.  Alison has 25 years of publishing experience with the likes of Macmillan and Oxford University Press, and is a dynamic blend of coach, expert, writer and business woman.  She absolutely gets what it takes to be credible to a publisher, and how to use a book to build your business.  None of which I had a clue about.  If you’re thinking about writing your own business book, get in touch to see how she can help.

So I signed up for the 10 day challenge, and soon had a full blown publisher proposal, a new network of business book writers and a fully fleshed out table of contents with the whole book mapped out down to the last paragraph, all in a spreadsheet.  Totally unlike me, and absolutely the best thing I could have done.

At Alison’s suggestion I have built this website and reworked my existing site so that they work well alongside each other.  I’m writing articles about the book and speaking to organisations about opportunities to give talks about it.  I’m finalising the content of a 2 day workshop based on the book, details of which you can find here.

I have learnt so much it makes my head hurt.  Amongst other things I’ve learnt:

  • Writing the book is the easy bit
  • There is a TON of stuff to think about to support the book ever selling
  • Working with other writers who are trying to do the same thing is a crucial support I couldn’t have done without
  • Getting the attention of publishers is VERY hard
  • People are so supportive when they learn you are writing a book – no shortage of contributors!
  • There is no better way to organise your own thinking than to make yourself write it down.

It is a great relief to me that I am finding the writing flows easily.  I have restricted myself to writing just three chapters, as the advice is that to do more may be a bad idea if a publisher wishes to make editorial input on the tone and positioning of the book.  I have found that with my trusty table of contents to hand I can write a chapter in one morning.  I find it flows easily, as so much of my material comes from inside my head.  Stories and anecdotes are there in abundance, and often it’s just a question of unlocking them.  I think I’m lucky – a few of my fellow writers have found it hard to work out which voice to use, or indeed which part of the anatomy.  “Head or heart?” is a dilemma some struggle with.  (Not me, it’s heart every time.)

It is such a relief to have got the book out of my head and onto paper, as it were.  It all came so easily (I wrote about how the magic Table of Contents made all the difference here on my Blog page):  one chapter every morning for a fortnight and the job was pretty well done.

My publisher is indeed the wonderful Alison Jones, whose imprint Practical Inspiration Publishing is the new kid on the block in publishing, and is making serious waves.  Alison and I have got to know each other very well over the last year, and she seems to have great faith in the book.  So reassuring!  Working with her rather than a more established publisher will give me more visibility and I hope flexibility to try out new approaches, and I know what a great coach and business person she is.  I feel lucky to have found her.

I’ve started gathering a small army of well wishers to help me launch on July 10th.  I’m asking them to subscribe (on my Look Inside page), so I can easily update them on progress, send them chapters to review, and have them ready to buy the book and review it in a small military operation, so that we can zoom straight to the top of Amazon and get Best Seller status within days.  That’s the plan, at least.  So far 300 plus have signed up, which is greatly reassuring.  If you’d like to help out too, here’s the link to the page.