When I talk to business book authors, everyone likes to talk about titles, PR pitches, and cover art. Those are the fun things, the creative part of the process.
When you get to talking about the writing, the group splits. 50% love the challenge of composing their thoughts as words. The intrinsic motivation exists and those people look at the combining to words to create meaning as a wonderfully challenging puzzle.
The other half loathe it. They don't experience the reward from writing and it makes the conversation about writing 50,000 words an unpleasant one. To get past this, many business book authors avoid the process altogether and hire ghostwriters. And that is fine (and expensive), but let me suggest another route.
If you would you want move from loathe to love, you need to do some writing, and a great way to start is by using other people's words.
Writing Exercise: Rewrite The Greats
First, find a set of authors that you admire and gather up the passages that you found most captivating. These could be magazine articles, blog posts, or chapter sections, but they need some length to them. The ideal length is around 750 words (that's about three pages in a 6"x9" book).
Next, you a place to do some writing. Opening up a blank Word document or text file is easy. 750words.com is also a pretty cool site to do this work on as well, with lots of whistles and bells to track your writing.
Finally, you start writing or actually rewriting. Retype every word as it appears in the original version. Capture every comma and semicolon.
Amazing things start to happen when you do this. You start to hear the author's voice in our head. By typing the words, you start to slow down and see how the writer constructed the sentences and the paragraphs. You'll notice word choice. And once you do this with multiple authors, you'll start to compare and contrast styles; form opinions about which is better or worse for the material.
I did this as an exercise earlier this year and it was great. If you need help finding a good set of people to rewrite, below are the non-fiction writers I used and they are a great place to start.
- Message In A Bottle by Charles Fishman (Fast Company, July 1, 2007)
- Coach Leach Goes Deep, Very Deep by Michael Lewis (New York Times, December 5, 2005)
- How David Beats Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell (New Yorker, May 11, 2009)
- The Fleet of One by John McPhee (New Yorker, February 17, 2003)
- The Origami Lab by Susan Orlean (The New Yorker, February 19, 2007)
- The Bank Job by Bethany McClean (Vanity Fair, January 2010)
- Just Keep My Sports The Same by Chuck Klosterman (ESPN Magazine, November 7, 2005)
- The Itch by Atul Gwande (New Yorker, June 30, 2008)
- Opening to Homeland Chapter in The Futurist: A Novel by James Othmer (p188-190)