As a journalist, I learned a very important lesson: I couldn’t write a story if I hadn’t done the research. By ‘the research’ I mean that I had to do enough research to be sure of what I wanted to say. I might have a topic, like marketing to men. I’d start interviewing people on this topic, and gradually, the story would become clear. It might be that men are often overlooked by marketers, or that it’s pointless marketing to men because women do most of the buying. I had to keep on asking questions, checking out assumptions, until I was sure.
Have you done enough research to start writing today?
My clients can write a best-selling book in 90 days because they come to me with all their knowledge and research already done. They are thought leaders. Over the years, they have read many books and articles on their topic. They have worked with clients and seen their ideas work in practice. They have met and trained with other experts in their field. They have arrived at their own ideas based on this research and experience. Many have captured this intellectual property along the way in presentations, white papers, blogs, and training programs to name a few.
The biggest problem thought leaders bring to writing a book is knowing what to leave out! Their heads are jammed packed with ideas. I work with them to focus down on a very specific audience and specific ideas for a specific book. (We might have to plan a series.)
If you haven’t done the reading, formed your own ideas, and tested them on a market, you are not ready to write a book – in 90 days, a year or three years. That might seem a little harsh, but I know from my own experience what happens if I start trying to write the story with too little research: you get stuck. It’s like wading through treacle. So if you feel stuck, the chances are you need to do more research.
90 days is all it takes
Don’t use that as an excuse to put off writing your book, however. Ninety days is all it takes to get your research up to scratch. Here’s how:
Read books and articles
As the founder of Thought Leader Business School, Matt Church advises, you must read the best-seller on your topic, and the classic – the one that everyone who knows anything in your field has read (and would be embarrassed to admit they had not.) Church’s suggestion (I love this) is that you read with two notebooks to hand, one labelled AND and one labelled BUT. Each time to find a great idea, either add to it (AND) or dispute it (BUT) and you will build your thought leadership.
Also, research reputable publications, such as the Harvard Business Review (HBR), on your topic. Apply Matt’s formula as you read them, too.
Write a 500-word blog every day for 90 days and post it on social media and share it with your list. You will have written 45,000 words in 90 days, which might be your book. At the very least, it will be your research. Don’t spend more than one hour each day on your blog. Make sure it includes a story, and a key point and a benefit for your readers.
Talk and listen to other experts
Podcasts are going crazy these days. Listen to those by other experts and thought leaders in your field. If you write a blog or have your own podcast, interview the doyens of your industry. Later, when you write your book, you can ask them for reviews or testimonials.
Gather stories as you research
I’m going to suggest you add one more element to the AND and BUT notepads – a story that illustrates each point. Stories are everywhere – in the books and articles you read, in the newspaper and on the radio, in podcasts, from your family, friends and peers, and from your clients. Try to gather at least one story a day for 90 days and you will have plenty to choose from.
Data and metaphors
Find the studies, reports and research projects you need to support your ideas. Stories engage us emotionally, but we also have a sceptical side to our mind that wants data as evidence. Look for one “big number” – 97% of people who want to write a book, never do so. That said, numbers are easy to forget, so find a bunch of powerful metaphors to support your ideas. Metaphors are symbols of something else. For example, for most people, writing a book is like climbing Mt Everest. (I am the Sherpa).
I was a member of the Thought Leader Business School for a couple of years and learned the art of writing “Pink Sheets”. These are a powerful tool to capture and flesh out your ideas. Matt Church and Peter Cook just wrote a book about how to create Pink Sheets, and you can download the whole book here for free, which is very generous and super cool. Pink Sheets can form the basis of a book. I recommend you do one every day for 90 days. You can then choose the best nine pink sheets to be the basis of the nine chapters of your book.
You cannot write a book in 90 days if you haven’t done your research. But don’t let that stop you from writing a book. You can do all the research for a book in 90 days. You are doubling the time it takes to write your book, but it’s only six months. That’s pretty quick as far as book writing goes. So get to it and stick to it.
PS: want more? You may like: How to link all the ideas in your chapters to make a cohesive book