Kathi sits down with her friend, cohort, and co-author of the book Exhale, Cheri Gregory. They share their surprising Aha moment that will help you get your book from your brain to the page. Writing a book is not nearly as overwhelming as you think.
Kathi and Cheri’s conversation is rich with loving advice that will free you to be the writer you are meant to be!
In today’s episode, you will:
- Get all your questions answered about how to start writing your book.
- Learn the top three steps to take to get started on your book.
- Set yourself up for success!
This episode sponsored by:
Whether your negative thoughts taunt you only once in a while or every hour on the hour, grab your copy of The Truth About the Negative Lies Communicators Believe over at www.kendraburrows.com/communicators, and receive weekly reassurance and tips to help you minimize those negative thoughts.
If you want to learn the basics of mapping your book, join us at Writing at the Red House with today’s guest, Cheri Gregory. Cheri will give you a step by step guide and share her expertise with you during this unique writing retreat experience. Click here to claim your spot!
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Mentions and resources:
Amy Carroll, co-author of Exhale
Cheri Fletcher – the Writing At the Red House “Chelf.” She’s also a speaker and writer just like you!
Meet The Guest
Author, Speaker, Podcast Host
Transcript of this Episode
Read along with the podcast!
Communicator Academy Podcast #177
How to Map Your Book – Part One
The Number One Reason You’re Not Writing Your Book
(And How to Get Over It)
Kathi – Well, hey friends! Welcome to Communicator Academy, where our heart is to equip and encourage men and women to become the communicators God created them to be. I’m Kathi Lipp, by the way, and joining me today is my friend, my cohort, my writing partner on two books, a third book coming up. Guys it’s the author of Exhale, Cheri Gregory. The co-author! I know you would feel that was really important to say. Amy Carroll, we know you are the other co-author. I know Amy doesn’t care, but welcome, Cheri Gregory.
Cheri – Thanks so much for having me, Kathi. It’s great to be back.
Kathi – Not only are you back on Communicator Academy, you’re back in The Red House.
Cheri – Oh my goodness. You think you’re going to get rid of me? I am sitting here right now. The sun is shining and I’m looking at redwood trees. Oh my goodness. It has been so gorgeous and glorious. I am so incredibly well fed. I have not lifted a finger to do anything that resembles ordinary work. For days. It’s wonderful.
Kathi – It’s so funny, because when you come to Writing at The Red House, one of the things, ‘cause let’s be honest, primarily, it’s women coming to Writing at The Red House. They are so used to taking care of everybody around you. So, what we’ve done, for each Writing at The Red House, we have somebody called The Red House Elf, and this time it happens to be Cheri Fletcher and we had three Cheris.
Cheri – We were calling it The Cheritory.
Kathi – The Cheritory! So, the person I’m having to give directions to most, even though she almost needs no directions, is Cheri the Elf. So, we just call her “Ch-elf” now. Even I was like, “Oh my, gosh! This is so much easier than my normal life!” I went downstairs after a very long night tonight with a very sick puggle, and there were pancakes on the table. I just wanted to weep with a little bit of joy. I didn’t have to figure out anything. The only person I had to feed breakfast to was Jake the Puggle. That’s a beautiful thing. So, we are here at The Book Mapping Retreat. So, we have a lot of people here who have had a book idea for a while. Some have written a lot. Some have written almost nothing, but they’ve all had this idea. So, what was the purpose of The Book Mapping Retreat?
Cheri – They came with, not just an idea, but in most cases, they have a head swimming and swarming with ideas. For some of them, when they sit down to write, or try to tell someone, instead of becoming organized the way we would love for things to happen, it just starts growing and growing, and even more gets added. So, they’ve come to gain clarity and to figure out, “Okay, what is actually going to be put into this book? What needs to be left out?” and for the things that are going to go in, “What order? What goes first? And fifth? And twelfth?” One of the best questions from the first night is, “How do you know when you’re done?” Just because you write The End, doesn’t mean you’re done.
Kathi – It’s so true. It’s so interesting, because a lot of this, people think is about organization. Part of it is, but that’s not really the case. I love that you remember things I say. Tell them the story about the person who was worried about that.
Cheri – Oh my goodness. It was a few months ago. It was the last time I was at The Red House, actually. It was a couple months ago. We were talking about how you organize your notes and how you organize your manuscript and how you organize this that and the other thing. You finally….
Kathi – Woo hoo! Okay, guys. We have to explain that. At The Red House, every single morning we task people with writing 500 words. When they do, there’s a dinner bell downstairs that they get to ring, and we all “Woo hoo!” So, I kept my Woo Hoo very tame, and I’ll have to Woo Hoo them again at lunch, ‘cause they just wrote five hundred words. So, we knew that would happen during the podcast, but how fun is that?
Cheri – Well, and so far, every single day, everybody’s done their five hundred words, because they’ve had two and a half uninterrupted hours to choose a place. Maybe go for a walk first. Maybe sit out in the sun. Maybe sit downstairs. Maybe pet Ashley the Muse Cat. Ashley is my writing muse. Anyways, back to what we were talking about. When you finally figured out, “Wait a second. This person who’s asking about all this organization, have they actually done any writing?” and I said, “Well, no, they’re waiting to write until they can…” And she’s like, “Why are they asking about how to organize writing that they haven’t even done?” And I went, “Oh. There’s another Kathi question. Ouch.”
Kathi – I’ve done it to. You can organize. You can Trello board. You can Post It Note to death.
Cheri – Let’s not get personal with the Post Its, Kathi.
Kathi – But until you actually write some words, you’re not finding your way through your book. So, that’s what we want to help people to do. So, we’ve had a lot of Aha Moments here at The Red House when it comes to book mapping. So, when I asked you what the number one thing that we have learned, the first Aha Moment, this is what you said, “The number one reason you’re not writing your book (and how to get over it).” So, what would you say is the number one reason that the people here at The Red House, before they came (they’re all working on it now and they all have a plan to go home and work on it)? Our friends, and us, what is the number one reason we’re not writing our book?
Cheri – The number one reason isn’t the number one reason, because it’s all the worries. All the questions. All the little decisions they think they have to make. So, it’s like hundreds of thousands of them. Just some of the ones we’ve heard this week, it’s like, “How or where do you save your documents, once you’ve done your writing? I feel like I can’t write it unless I title it the correct way and I save it in the correct folder.” Now, let’s be clear, we don’t want to lose any of our writing, okay?
Kathi – No. That’s devastating.
Cheri – But not knowing where to save it shouldn’t stop us from doing the writing.
Kathi – Or, “How big should my Trello card be?” Those are questions that we get.
Cheri – Semi colon vs using dashes. I actually looked at that person, and almost put their face in my hands and said, “You will never worry about that again. That’s why you pay a proofreader.” Or, “How long should it be?” Like, yes, in the big scheme of things, you should have some idea, but don’t worry about that right now. Just write.
Kathi – Yeah. So, as we’re talking about mapping, we’re using map illustrations.
Cheri – You came up with the best metaphor possible. You cracked me up yesterday.
Kathi – Well, okay. These tiny reasons that get in the way. “I can’t write my book because I don’t know what form to save it in.” This is not people here, but I’ve heard this, “I want to lose weight before I get published, for my photo.” And I’m like, “Oh my goodness. Of all the things you should not be worried about.” It’s like saying, “I can’t start my book because I don’t know what I’ll wear on my book tour.” First of all, you’re not going on a book tour. Let’s just be clear. Second of all, you don’t have to worry about that. You’ve got clothes. We live in San Jose most of the year, and it would be like us planning a trip to go down to Disneyland, but we say, “We can’t leave until we know all the bathrooms we’re going to stop at along the way.”
Cheri – When you put it that way, Kathi, it almost sounds like we’re trying to come up with excuses to not do our writing. Who would do that?
Kathi – Who would do that? It sounds ridiculous, but I see this all the time. Not just with writing, but with any big project that feels over whelming. What we do is we micro-focus. “I can’t take the acting class, ‘cause I don’t know what to wear to the Oscars.”
Cheri – And there’s a word for what we’re talking about here. We refer to it as The C Word on Grit and Grace. Control. We want control of the process. The truth about writing is that a lot of it isn’t under our control. In fact, some it we need to consciously surrender and realize that when we put ourselves through the obedient discipline and practice, and you can talk about what’s working here, for these women, it seems so simple. “How on earth can it be such a simple practice? It must take more work than that. I must need to do more things before I’m ready to even do this.” And what are you finding that works for everybody?
Kathi – Well, I think there’s been a lot of freedom in talking about Anne Lamott’s (and because I know sometime kids ride in the car with their parents I will not use the word that’s been bandied about here at The Red House) Poopy First Draft. One of our attendees, maybe it was Arabella, and they won’t mind us using their names, said, “Cheri said, ‘Don’t use your back space on your first draft.’” Just keep moving forward. If you make a mistake, just leave it there. Your first draft should look like poop. Maybe I need to stop with this metaphor, because I was “You can work with poop.” Okay, so that’s not what I’m trying to say. You can’t work with air. You just can’t.
Cheri – The only thing you can’t revise is a blank page. Everything else is revisable.
Kathi – Everything else is revisable. So, it’s really important to me that you’re okay with a poopy first draft, and that you’re giving yourself a word count. Now, I also understand. I write 500 words a day, most days. When Jake the Puggle has been up all night, not so happy, sometimes that doesn’t happen, but for the most part, I write 500 words a day. I know that not everybody who’s working full time, has a kid at home. But, could you be working 2000 words on a Saturday? I would rather find a way for you to get the joy of 500 words a day. It does become a joy. We’re an incubator here at The Red House. We are saying, “You don’t have distractions. Somebody else is cooking for you. I know we’ve set you up for success.” But I want people to even know that they can write 500 words.
Cheri – That’s the exciting thing. When they leave on Friday, they’re going to have muscle memories. They’re going to have gone, “Wow. I actually can do this.” They’re going to go home with whatever word count. In some cases, it’s higher, because once they hit 500, they didn’t quit writing. But day in and day out, they’ve actually done it. The permission for the draft to come out however it comes out, knowing that the only thing you don’t want is the blank page. Then, that consistency. What ends up happening, and you’ve talked about this, if you had a certain deadline, and you’re not writing x number of words a day, what ends up happening?
Kathi – Then you’re throwing your poopy first draft out for publish and it’s not okay.
Cheri – And you’re telling yourself, “Sure. If I just boundary this this weekend, I can surely write 15 000 words in a weekend. Never mind I haven’t been writing for weeks and weeks, but somehow, it’s going to magically come out.” And our brains just don’t work that way.
Kathi – Right. And, you have to live through those words. You just do. If you go into a book knowing you’re going to write the book at least three or four times.
Cheri – Minimum.
Kathi – For me, it’s probably three times, but I have help. I have somebody who does content editing and I have somebody else who does more finite editing. Then, I get it back from my editor who has also edited it, and then I have somebody to help me go through that. I have a lot of help because I just need a lot of help. You have to know. Most of us need some help. Some of us need a lot of help. So, here’s what I would say if you’re not writing. One, you need to set a minimum word count. Two, you need to lower your expectations. Three, you need accountability. So, let’s go through those again. One, set a word count. If you’re not used to writing every day, then let’s start off with 500 words a week. Let’s just do that. If you can only do that on Saturday at Starbucks when you’ve paid a babysitter, that’s what you do. I would love to see you get to 500 words six times a week. To at least know you can do that. Sometimes life comes up. You’re travelling. We’re going on a cruise next week. There will be zero words. Zero words. Number one, word count. Number two, lower your expectations for your draft. You have to write your way through your book. You just have to. A lot of if it won’t be used, but it could be used somewhere else, but you need to do that. So, you’ve got the words, you’ve got the lower expectations, and you’ve got the accountability.
Cheri – That’s the huge thing we’re already seeing here. This group, who has come together, they’re planning to stay together after they leave and hold each other accountable for their word count and the next steps that they know they need to take after they head home.
Kathi – Guys, this is so exciting for us, because we’ve done this retreat and it’s been a huge success. I’m so excited because Cheri has agreed to come back next year to do Book Mapping. So, if you need to figure out how to get your book from the pile to the page, or from your brain to the page, this is it. If you’re feeling stuck and overwhelmed, I always call it, “I’m in the bottom of a deep well and all the words are on the wall of the well, but there’s no light.” It’s just the worst feeling in the world. So, if you’re in one of those places, or you just need to get started, this is the retreat for you. June 28th, which is a Sunday, through Friday morning, July 3rd. You’ll be back with your family for July 4th celebrations. We would love for you to be here, and there are only six spots, so if this is something you’re interested in, go to WritingatTheRedHouse.com and check it out. These spots are going to fill up fast. Cheri, thanks so much for being here on Communicator Academy.
Cheri – Oh, thanks so much for having me. It’s been great.
Kathi – Friend, thank you for joining us. You’ve been listening to Communicator Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. You’ve been given the best message in the world. Now, go live it.
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