When you think of a “Writer,” you probably think of a solitary person writing a book alone without much help. Somehow, you think, real writers are born to write. “It’s easy for them,” you say to yourself. “They read tons of books and always earned A’s in English.”
In your mind’s eye, you see them happily typing away at their computer, hour after hour, with nothing to distract them from writing the brilliant book that few people are able or willing to write. Wrong!
Just read the Acknowledgments page of any good book. You’ll see a long list of people who researched, provided guidance, gave feedback, edited, and otherwise supported an author’s success.
While there might be an occasional genius that miraculously channels words onto a page without any angst or revision, the majority of writers, myself included, get our articles, our blogs, and our books written by working with others, especially when the going gets tough. And any time you write a book, the going will get tough.
Good book writing is not a sprint. It’s at least a half marathon that takes time and requires skillful planning. You deserve a good coach and a team of supporters who have run and won this kind of race before. They’ll be cheering you on, handing you Gatorade, and helping you pace yourself all along the way.
In other words, collaborating with professionals and non-professionals alike is how books actually get written, finished, polished, and published.
Here are 5 possible ways to get help writing your book:
1. Find a writing partner.
This person should be someone you can trust to give you frank but supportive feedback, especially during the development and drafting phases of your writing. A writing partner can also serve double duty as an accountability partner.
My twin sister, Sarah, is my writing partner. I call her my “secret weapon” because after I’ve written a first draft of anything (like this blog, for example), I become too close to my writing. I no longer see it as well from my reader’s perspective. Conscientious writers will always try to anticipate what is unclear or missing for their audience, but having an actual reader give you specific feedback is invaluable. After Sarah reads one of my drafts, I ask her to tell me what she likes about it first. Then I’m better able to listen to what she says is confusing, underdeveloped, or poorly worded.
2. Join a writing group.
A writing group works much like a writing partner. The advantage is you gain two or more people’s constructive and sometimes differing feedback. Although you as the author have the final say about your writing, when you hear similar comments from several readers, you should take their perspective into account and be grateful they’re giving you access to your blind spots.
The easiest way to find a writing group is by searching for a Meetup or checking bulletin boards at local coffee shops, colleges, and libraries. If you can’t find a group that fits your needs, consider forming one of your own with friends, colleagues, or family members interested in writing books themselves.
You can meet regularly in person or online using technology tools such as Google Docs, a private Facebook group, Skype, or Zoom (my favorite group conferencing software). You can also search for cost-effective group writing programs online. Webinars and short online courses can be a relatively economical way of joining a type of writing group where members are financially invested in each writer’s success and where a qualified writing professional facilitates the group’s meetings.
3. Hire a writing coach.
When I wanted to take my tennis game to the next level, I hired a tennis coach. Working with her on the court every week—first in small group classes and then privately—improved my technique, expanded the number of ways I could hit the ball, and gave me new strategies for competing. My confidence soared! Similarly, a writing coach can help you develop and organize your ideas while keeping you energized and excited as you improve your writing and see your book unfold. A writing coach will also pace you through the challenging phases of your book writing process, holding you accountable for achieving your ultimate book-writing goal.
4. Hire a ghostwriter.
If you want to author a book, but you don’t have enough time or motivation to write it yourself, you can hire a ghostwriter to do the writing for you. Generally, a ghostwriter will record and then transcribe interviews with you to capture your distinct voice, experience, and expertise. You can also provide your ghostwriter with anything you may have written yourself already. Then you’ll respond to drafts of the manuscript to ensure the writing accurately represents you and your message.
5. Assume you’ll need an editor.
Everyone who writes a quality book needs a copy editor and a proofreader. A copy editor checks sources, makes sure your manuscript flows logically, and corrects any mistakes in grammar, spelling, punctuation, citations, or typos. When your text goes through the book formatting process, a proofreader catches any final errors in your manuscript. Even a professional writer like me uses an editor for proofreading and quality control.
In addition to these five ways to get help writing your book, authors who want people to actually read their book will seek feedback and testimonials from other experts in their field. This is an important part of nurturing key relationships and building an audience of people interested in reading your book when it’s launched.
So, if you thought you had to write a book alone, you don’t. In fact, every successful author collaborates. I urge you to do the same!