Hack your Bucket List – How to Write and Publish a Book (Part 1)

I’ve always loved writing. For me, words were the perfect medium to express my thoughts. However never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be publishing a book, with readers around the world, before the age of 25. That was until July 2014.

On a sunny day like any other – as I’m sure so many stories begin – one meeting would change the course of my being. Let me preface this, writing a book is a lot of work, like a lot – like way, way, more work than I thought. But it has been one of the most rewarding and gratifying experiences in my life. What I realized during the entire process was that some things could have been stream lined if there was a sort of guide out there – a manual to hack writing and publishing a book. 

 

PS Check out Do Epic Sh*t now available on Amazon! 

Since the entire experience is still very, very fresh in my mind, I though I’d write said guide. Writing this guide has been a challenge too, there was so much I want to share about the process, that I just hope I’m able to give an accurate portrayal of what it’s actually like. This post includes my exact process from conception to reality of how to write a book, the tools I used, and how you can create a long lasting legacy, because there’s nothing quite like the first time you hold your first book. A moment I will remember forever. The first time you open the pages of a physical book, must be what it’s like to hold your baby for the first time. It’s the product of a labor of passion and honestly feels like a part of you is out in the world like never before – rewarding yet all too terrifying all at once.

The Background

Writing isn’t for everyone. Before you embark on this journey, and yes it is a journey, make sure you’re prepared for the obstacles to come. It sucks at some points to keep writing – there were a lot of moments when writing was literally the last thing I wanted to do. Inspiration isn’t always going to be your driving force, sometimes it’s down to a sheer will to share your story. So before you seriously decide to take on a book, make sure that writing is something you adore. It’s definitely a skill that you develop, but if the natural inclination to write isn’t there, writing & publishing a book will be a greater challenge.

In saying that, writing has been something I love to do, and I honestly think it’s something in my genes. From an early age, I remember finding great joy in creating stories and worlds that never existed before. So naturally I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, however the practical side of me made it a double major in Economics and the Humanities. After University, a natural progression for my career was in Marketing. It was in my first ‘official’ job where I realized that writing was not only something I enjoyed, but potentially something I could transition into a career. Fast forward a few months, and I started my position with Bucketlist. If you don’t know, Bucketlist is a platform where you can –for free – create, track, and achieve your greatest goals in life. From travelling, to skydiving and everything in between it is a great source of inspiration for thousands around the web.

My role at Bucketlist was to create compelling and engaging content to help our community to achieve their goals, meaning I literally get paid to help people achieve their biggest life goals – pretty cool, I think! Slowly, writing about bucket lists became ‘my thing.’ I love talking about exotic locations, or tips on achieving goals, and even my own experiences accomplishing goals. What I noticed was  that there were a lot of books on self-help or travel, but nothing that truly encompassed bucket lists, and the dedication needed to tackle your list. And so the seed was sown.

One meeting in late July, Bart (aka the chairman of radness) and I were brainstorming, and before I knew what I was saying, it was agreed that I would embark upon the journey of writing a book.

The Outline

Step one for writing a book: have the best outline in the world, reallyIt may seem like an odd/obvious first step, but when you’ve committed to writing a book having a strong outline will save your life. What I first did was estimate/set a goal of pages that I wanted to write. Most book lengths that I enjoy reading hail in the 200 page range. I’m going to be honest here, since this was my first experience writing a book, I kind of took a shot in the dark, and agreed I’d be happy if I hit over 200 pages of quality content.

Remember, do not even bother starting your outline before you have a clear topic for your book in mind.

With a general number of pages in my head, I set out to write down the areas I wanted to cover: 1. goal setting 2. travel 3. adventure 4. top bucket list ideas etc. Narrowing down a top 4 or 5 sections is a great way to start mapping out the direction that you want your book to go. Break each of the overarching topics into chapter titles, and voila your outline is starting to take shape.

You should even go one step further breaking down each proposed chapter into main points you plan to make. The outline phase is one of the most important steps in writing a book. Not only is it a guide to what your book will become, but it is also a way to see if your arguments are going to pan out and make sense to your audience. It’s in this phase where you can reorder and adjust the direction of your book to make sure it flows. Take your time when crafting your outline.

Steps to take when building your outline:

  1. Approximate the length of your book
  2. Lay out the sections (topics) you want to cover
  3. Break each section into manageable chapters
  4. Break each chapter into 1-2 main points

The Title

Some people prefer to write their titles at the end of their piece, however, I like to do it right off the bat. I think it really helped me visualize the direction I hoped to book would take. However, coming up with a title is not an easy feat, especially finding something catchy, engaging, and representative of the content inside – that hasn’t been done before.

There’s a fine balance between choosing something catchy and choosing something abrasive. And to be honest I think Do Epic Sh*t walks the fine line. Be warned, even though I strategically chose a swear word (with asterisk) it wasn’t an easy choice. I knew that some people were going to be turned off, but that’s the nature of creating anything – some people just won’t like it.

Choosing a name was difficult. The book was so close to being called Get Sh*t Done, but ultimately was scrapped. Start with a pen, paper and some time. Sit down and start writing all the names that come to your head, even if you think they’re stupid. When you’re out of names (or time) take a step back go on with your day, then come back and reread your list. Cross out the ones you hate, circle the ones you love and then leave your list alone again. Next get someone else’s opinion, and talk things through. Having a second opinion of this type of thing is invaluable. You don’t necessarily have to have a single name nailed down, but having a couple of viable options help craft the direction of your book.

Steps in choosing a name:

  1. Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm
  2. Set aside a time to write down a list of names you like
  3. Narrow in on 2-3
  4. Talk through them with a friend and find ‘the one’

The Draft

You’ve got an outline, your got your title (ish) it’s time to actually start writing! The reason I harked on earlier, about the importance of a strong outline was for now. If you have a strong outline, this process doesn’t have to be so bad. So what’s next? You really just have to sit down and write. With your outline, you can really start at any point in the book, and if you get bored of writing a section you can skip ahead to another. The biggest advice I can share when writing your first draft is to set deadlines or targets to hit. If not the process can take a lot longer than expected. I was caught in that trap sometimes wasting time or putting off writing another page. It’s amazing sometimes how the procrastination trap can catch you when 200+ pages is staring at you. And especially if you’re self-publishing, holding yourself accountable is a difficult task to accomplish.

Be warned, you’re first draft probably isn’t even that good. I know mine wasn’t. It was full of spelling errors, inconsistencies and overall suckage. But that’s what draft are for. It’s like the foundation of your book ready to be built upon.

Alright… there’s a lot more to publishing a book that I want to share. So stay tuned for part 2 next week covering:

  • Design
  • Tools
  • Editors
  • Publisher
  • Marketing
  • Amazon

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Sara Ruthnum

Sara is the marketing and community outreach coordinator for Bucketlist.org. She is passionate about all things travel, culture and sports, and is excited to start knocking off some of her bucket list dreams in the near future. Connect with Sara by emailing sara@bucketlist.org or linkedin.com/in/sararuthnum.

Check out Sara’s bucket list here http://bucketlist.org/list/sara.ruthnum/