Are you struggling to finish your manuscript? Do you have so many ideas that you can’t focus on one? How do you get unstuck in the process of self-editing while writing your manuscript?
All these questions and more are answered in this Focus to Finish session with Paul Wallman.
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The Interview Session
Shelley: Welcome to Author Audience! Today is a Focus2Finish session, which means that I have one of my Author Audience Academy members here on the call with me – Paul Wallman! Welcome, Paul.
Paul: Hey there!
Shelley: I’m excited to work with you today! We’re going to really help you take those next steps, get clarity, and help you to move forward with your project.
Let me go over to screen share. I like to use a mind map, that way I can send you the notes afterward. It also helps me, and you, get clarity. Let me go over to share the screen, and can you see my mind map?
Paul: I can.
Shelley: Okay, great! I’m also going to start my timer because, sometimes, I lose track. So, what I have here is a few of the things you have sent me in advance to this call. So one of your goals is to finish the first draft of your book Moment Farmer, is that correct?
Paul: That is correct.
Shelley: And you already have 6200 words, but you said you were kind of stuck in the research mode.
Shelley: Then, you have another book you’d love to write which focuses on God’s amazing grace, different stories, and incidents that have happened over the years. You had mentioned about that as well.
To start off, I just want to ask you, what is your main goal right now? Is your main goal to be published? Is it just to enjoy the writing process, or to earn income? Just so I can kind of know what your focus is.
Paul: So I have all these creative ideas. I’ve always been that way, I’m always thinking – my mind never sleeps or rests. I’m constantly exploring these different ideas.
I’m 51 now and I want to start capturing some of these ideas that I’ve explored and felt laid on me to kind of flesh out. Some of them are me trying to understand how life works. There are lots of areas in my life where I’m always striving for improvement and I stumble upon these ideas and I see growth and change in me.
So, I want to be able to share that with others. I want to do this in a way that could get people to make their lives matter, make their lives count, and make a difference not only for them personally, or for their relationships, but ultimately for God’s glory. That’s what I’d love to do.
If I make an income out of it that’d be wonderful. Matter of fact that’s one of my goals, but it’s not kind of the driver. The driver is for these ideas I have to be used.
Sometimes people come back to me and say, “You know what you said the other day, that just totally changed how I was thinking about it. I’m really glad you shared that with me.” That vitalizes me in such a wonderful way I want to continue to do that and reach people without pushing my ideas on people. So that’s my big focus.
Shelley: Okay. So, I heard, capturing some of your creative ideas, sharing those personal growth experience, and ultimately, making a difference in other people’s lives.
The secondary goal is income. So would you say your book The Moment Farmer encapsulates some of that? Would finishing your book Moment Farmer do some of those things for you?
Paul: I think so. I think that is the thing. I’ve always been kind of a daydreamer. I was always thinking about the future and I’m always drawing on the past. But I’ve been striving to be in the moment, actually enjoying the moment God has given me while it’s happening rather than always thinking about what is happening next or what I should have done before. I just want to try to enjoy life as it comes at me.
Then, the premise of the book is also using moments to craft your future. It’s about making good choices. The big thing is, what can I do in this moment that makes future moments better? What do you see in the moment that you can actually, tangibly change, or learn from, that helps you to be a better person?
There are lots of ideas around that. But how do I get from those initial ideas that I can say in a simple paragraph? And how do I expand that to an entire book that somebody actually wants to read? That’s my struggle.
Knowing our Focus – Our Goal
Shelley: So, it sounds like that book would encapsulate some of your goals. You asked me before this session. You said, “I’m kind of stuck in the research, and I’m stuck at 6200 words, of this book. Should I start this other book, God’s Amazing Grace?”
I think that’s always the struggle with creatives, and with entrepreneurs; we like to start things but it’s a little bit harder to press through and finish. My initial thought would be, you’ve already put this work into Moment Farmer, why not finish that first before starting on a second project? How does that seem to you?
Paul: Yeah, and that’s why I signed up for Author Audience. And I’m striving for this, because I tend to do this where I kind of get to this 6200 mark idea, and then I get, “Well, you know, I could do something else.” Then I start over and I never get done. So, that’s my life.
Shelley: You know what, people who are listening right now can totally relate. I hear this a lot. I struggle with it a lot and it’s something I’ve had to learn. It’s not always my nature just to want to stay focused on one thing because I love doing a million things.
But when you do a million things, you’re doing it just a little bit, whereas if you do one or two things really well, you can really have a lot more impact. So, it does take pulling back the reins, and I love having a creative idea journal, or someplace like Trello where you can capture those ideas.
You can tell your brain, “I’m not forgetting this idea. I’m just putting it over here, and I’m going to get to it later.” You capture it, and you write down those ideas, but then you stay focused on this idea first.
I was telling someone the other day – it’s so much like having several children and one child is getting ready to graduate. Guess who you’re going to probably be focusing on more that year? It has to be your child who’s going to graduate.
You have to figure out college, graduation, graduation parties, and all these things preparing them for the next step. So, it’s kind of like that with your creative ideas. Yes, you’re going to have a lot of creative ideas, but there needs to be somewhat of a focus. So right now, that’s the Moment Farmer and you have to really help the Moment Farmer graduate.
Perfectionism can be an Obstacle
Paul: The thing I struggle with is that I’m a perfectionist at heart, but I’ve changed that philosophy to a “successfulist”. So as long as I’m successful, it doesn’t have to be perfect. But I still fall back to the, “Well I can’t create a book unless it’s going to be the most amazing book that’s going to transcend time,” kind of thinking.
I know that’s not what I need to do, but that’s where my mind goes; it needs to be worth the effort.
Shelley: Yes, and I really believe in producing quality work. I think it’s important that’s why we do self-editing, have professional editors, and have beta groups. But, it’s interesting, because perfectionism is one of the biggest obstacles for most creatives.
I was reading the book The Artist’s Way. It’s not a Christian book but it’s a spiritual book. The writer talks about perfectionism in one of the chapters. I wish I had the book in front of me right now but in that chapter, she talks about how it’s like an endless cycle of correcting and editing and making it better. It’s never going to be good enough to publish out to the world, you know what I mean?
She actually said, “The root of perfectionism is pride.” I was like, “Oh, ouch. That kind of hurts.” But it kind of makes sense. We don’t want to look bad and we want to put our best foot forward. But there is a side where it’s a good thing.
I know some of my friends that have that perfectionist quality and they’ve produced such quality products they’re selling like gangbusters. So, there’s kind of that balance in that. But the biggest thing is the mindset of saying, “The first draft is not the final draft.”
Allow yourself to make all the mistakes. Allow yourself to get that first draft out, and realize you’re going to go through an editing process. That first draft is not the final draft. If you try to make it the final draft it will probably never be published. Does that make sense?
Paul: Yes, that does make sense.
Shelley: I totally get it, and I don’t have an easy answer, I wish I did. So many people struggle with that perfectionism. I really think it’s time to press through on the Moment Farmer though, so let’s talk about that. Where are you stuck in the research part?
Book Size Doesn’t Matter
Paul: I shared with you some of the content I tried to define so you would have a better idea. I’m a to the point kind of guy. I can provide a concept in my corporate world. I do a lot of summaries and I have to give simple ideas in a tangible way.
So, I don’t really expound upon things, like you’d see in a traditional book. I struggle with, “How do I expand on this idea without losing the reader or making the book way to short?” I think 70,000 words is the typical threshold, but I really don’t know when I would consider myself done. So, that’s the other thing I struggle with.
Shelley: There are different lengths of books. I think it’s actually really great that you’re able to get to the point and summarize. I think in our culture right now, and you can tell me if you agree, people are in information overload. They’re overwhelmed, and to be able to get a concept quick and easy, and to the point, would actually be a little bit of a relief. Wouldn’t you agree?
Paul: Yeah, sure.
Shelley: I think it’s actually an asset for you. So you should see that as an asset in our culture today. There’s no size of book you have to publish. I have my book Procrastination to Publication. It’s very short, and simple, to the point, like you said, but some of my clients have said it’s one of their favorite publishing books.
It’s only about 12,000 words, and it’s not 70,000 words, but it helps people get published. It solves their problem and it helps them do what they want to do. It’s a print book of about 76 pages, and I think it’s 8 1/2 by 5 1/2. It’s not a huge book, but it’s not a teeny tiny book either.
So, that’s the other thing. It doesn’t have to be a 70,000-word book unless that’s really what you want it to be.
Paul: I’d heard that a 70,000-word book was so the spine would be big enough to see the words and sell the book. I don’t know if that’s true or not. It was for publishing back in the day. In the electronic realm now, does it need to be that big? I don’t know.
Shelley: I think on that book I was able to put the title on the spine. I have some copies of that book, but it’s not right here where I can grab it. But, I have shorter books I’ve put in print where I don’t put the title on the spine because there’s no room. But people are still buying them and they’re still being impacted by them.
So, I wouldn’t let size deter you, and you can always get a proof of your book ahead of time. If you feel like, “Well, this is just not substantial enough for what I want,” then you can always edit. That’s the beauty of self-publishing or independently publishing – you don’t have to click the Publish button until you’re satisfied with it.
I just wanted to put that seed in your mind that longer is not necessarily better. It will work as long as you’re able to give some good quality content, and solve a problem for someone, or help them have an “ah-ha” moment. As long as you help them change something for the better, and accomplish something they’ve wanted to accomplish, that’s good enough.
And with the Moment Farmer, living in the moment, I think it would bring peace. It would bring a lot of peace from those regrets of the past and the fears of the future. So, if you can help someone live in the moment and have peace, you can’t put a price tag on that, can you?
Paul: No, and the book helps people to come to peace with past moments they can’t change because the only thing that’s real in our lives, is this moment. This moment is the only thing that’s real. Everything else is either in the future or in the past, which you can’t change.
So, there are some good ideas that I think some people can resonate with. I just struggle because I’m not an author. I author emails and I author free things here and there, but I don’t have that skill set. So, I still struggle.
Shelley: Let’s just talk about a few ideas. What kind of personal stories have you put into the book so far as to how this concept has changed your life?
Paul: So, in the book, most of what I’ve written is more conceptual and I shared with you a few snippets of my stories. I think I have the “Hilltop story” where I had that encounter – I don’t know if you read that or not.
Shelley: I didn’t have a chance. I’m sorry.
Paul: It’s a story where I went up on top of a hill to spend time with God and it was an overcast, dark night and I had a flashlight. The ground started glowing around me and I had a wonderful experience with God. Then I turned around and the clouds had parted and there was the moon.
So, it was kind of humorous that I had a nice laugh with God. It was a moment that was special between me and God, but it wasn’t that amazing thing that my mind was producing at the time. So, it was kind of a funny story.
I try and capture some of the moments in my life that have been unique, but don’t know that all my moments relate to everyone, so how do I?
Shelley: So, the other thing is, just look and see if there are any other places where maybe a personal story, an example, or other people’s stories would be effective. You could do a little bit of research, or maybe even ask some of your close friends, family, and colleagues. You can even do some research on people that have been written about in the past, Biblical stories and things like that, which you could add to also back up.
When we go to a movie, we go to a movie to hear the story, right? Stories help us solidify concepts. So, give the conceptual framework, but then help solidify it with real-life examples, with, “This is how I did this in this situation” idea.
I think of Brother Andrew, who was a, I think he washed dishes or something, and he has a book written about him. He was able to learn to be in the present moment with his prayers and things like that. I’m not saying he would be someone in your book but look for different examples.
I remember when I was teaching the Author Automation System recently to Author Audience Academy, it’s a very complex system. But it wasn’t until I gave very specific examples, did case studies and took people step by step that it made sense to them. I said, “This is what I did with this book, this is how I did the lead magnet, this is how I did the perma-free book, and the trip wire,” then all the sudden people were like, “oh! I get it!”
Just dig deeper and think, “What are other ways I can help them get it? Maybe with either my own stories or other people’s stories?” Those are great ways to add value to a book.
Another idea is an application or some sort of interaction point. So, like in my Broken Crayons Still Color book, I have personal reflection questions with every chapter. So, you could have something like that.
I have created that book to be a group study guide. So, would your book be good for a group study guide or group study?
Find What Works Best for You
Paul: That’s just where my struggle is. I don’t know. Through your information, I have been able to find who I think my audience is, and so that’s been since I wrote it. Now I’m like, “Do I need to go back through and look at it through those eyes of who my reader is?”
Paul: I tend to write it and then rewrite it a couple of times. I waste all this time because I’m not a great writer. I’m like, “Well, that doesn’t really make sense,” so I rewrite it to make sense. Or, “That doesn’t sound as compelling,” so I’ll reformat it.
Then, after several iterations, I can read it and like, “Oh, well that reads like something I would read in a traditional book.” So, I don’t know if that’s just a unique way to do that.
Shelley: Yeah, you just basically have to do what works best for you. I tend to recommend turning off the internal editor when you’re doing the first draft. Your goal is to get the first draft done and out of your brain and onto paper. Then go back and do what you’re saying there.
I recommend in the member area doing at least 4 different self-edits where you’re going through and looking for different things, using different tools for the self-editing, and different ways to do that.
But, if that’s working for you, and that’s going well for you, you can use whatever works best for you. I just find that when people get into that internal editor mode, it tends to shut them down on the creativity mode. So, I like to batch tasks.
Batching is basically just having a section of time where you’re doing one particular thing. So, doing the first draft – just writing out the first draft, and rewriting it, getting it out on paper – that would be one batch of time. Then, going back and doing research is another batch of time.
So, while you’re free writing if you think of something you need to look up, or reference, like a quote, or a certain thing, flag it, put a star on it, or highlight it to mark that area, then come back later in another batch of time and do your research.
In another batch of time come back and do your self-editing where you’re going back through and now you’re really polishing and updating, kind of like what you were saying. Then you’ll finally have that draft you can send to a professional editor.
That’s what I typically recommend. But it works differently for every single person. Everyone is different, so you have to find what works best for you.
Paul: Yeah, so what I did though is, as I got that semi-polished, I have a friend of mine who’s a school teacher and very well educated, and understands things. She’ll read it and say, “Hey you might think about this order change, or you could expand upon this.” So that’s helpful as I’m still learning this whole idea of getting my ideas on paper.
Shelley: Yeah, because the other idea I was going to give you is a beta group. Your friend is kind of acting like that for you. It’s basically having somebody, or a few people, that you’re sending your first draft to. They know that it’s not final and that there’s a lot of work to still be done, but they can give you feedback on it.
“What do you think is still missing? What would you like to see? Is this transformational?” We can give information, but what we really want is transformation.
So, one of the things I find that brings transformation is having those interactive parts of the book. You can have those in different ways, but it’s just something to think about. That interactive part of the book would also actually add content to your book as well, as you’re writing it.
Do you have any other questions about the research or about just expanding your book a little bit?
Paul: The fact that you published a book with 12,000 words gives me hope. It’s like, “Oh, I can reach that.” It doesn’t feel overwhelming, unlike if I’m going for a 70,000-word book and I’m not even at 10% yet. So, it’s like, “Well, what am I going to do? It will take me forever.”
So, that helps me to have that new goal, strive for that number. I know it’s not about the number necessarily, it’s about the content and about being a complete thought and process for the reader. But, it at least gives me that, I’m not as far behind as I thought I was.
Shelley: Yeah, it’s like, “Hey, you’re halfway there!” You could literally be halfway there. What do you think has been the biggest obstacle to really getting the book done, besides the research and the size of the book?
What do you think has been stopping you? I know you talked about perfectionism too, but is there anything else you think that’s stopping you?
Market Research and Developmental Editor
Paul: Yeah, the flow of the book. It is how one chapter builds on the next, or how I reference something early in the book and expound upon it later. The idea of how it is structured to take the reader from a place of not understanding the concept at all and to build on that. That’s what I don’t quite understand.
I’ve got some ideas and I’ve done several chapter summaries. Then I start over and do another chapter organization that maybe I should do this order. I just really don’t know what the best way is to take the reader through all the concepts.
So that’s one of the things I struggle with.
Shelley: Do you feel pretty comfortable with the outlining process? Or is that what you’re talking about when you talk about the structure?
Paul: Yeah, the outline of the book. I’ve got Scrivner and traditional word processing. I’ve done it different ways, and I also got Evernote. That’s another thing. I’ve got it in all these different places, so I’ve tried to get everything in Scrivner and stop putting it in 4 different places. That’s getting better.
Shelley: Good! There’s a couple of things to think about. The first thing is, what type of flow of book helps you to understand a concept? What types of books have really impacted you? Go back and look at them. Look at the flow of that book. It’s basically market research.
So, you’re looking at other well-known books and what they’ve done, and how they’ve done it. Basically, when we’re doing book cover design research, we can look at the best-selling books in our genre. We see what’s selling, and what’s capturing our target audience’s attention, but obviously never copy.
You can get very good ideas of the type of imagery that’s capturing your target audience. Well, the same thing is true with the flow. You could even look at the look inside feature of books that are best-selling similar to yours. See what their chapter titles are, look at the flow of their book, and see if you’re on the right track.
The other thing that can really help, and I had already mentioned this to you, is a developmental editor who will help you with the structure of your book. So, there are two different types of editors. There’s a copy editor which helps you with the punctuation, spelling, and grammar and really helps you give that final polish to it.
A good developmental editor, on the other hand, will actually give you opinions and ideas on flow. So, when I was doing Broken Crayons Still Color, I used Deb Hall and she did the developmental editing as well as copy editing for me. She gave me some really good insight into the flow for some of my chapters, and concepts that maybe I didn’t cover through enough.
With her feedback as well as the beta group I was working with, I was really able to get a lot of good information which then helped me produce the final outcome. The book is selling really well today, thank goodness. Thank you, Lord! Right?
That might be an option since this is your first book and I can hear the hesitancy in your voice. “I’m not an author, I’m not good at this,” and that’s the other thing.
Start changing those. Our words have power, so say, “Thank You Lord for writing through me. You are the author, and I am the pen. You’re the one that’s going to give me the ideas. You’re the one that’s going to give me the structure. You’re the one that’s going to connect me with the right people – the right editor, the right beta readers, or whoever it is.”
Instead of saying, “Uh, I’m not an author, what am I doing? I don’t know what I’m doing.” You can say, “Thank You for giving me this ability. Thank You for helping me to improve in this.” Do you see the difference?
Paul: Yeah, I can write the second one better though. (Laughs)
Shelley: Can’t we all?
Paul: I need to do that. I do that, and I kind of get spurts where I’m doing really well and feeling really confident about myself. Then I get other ones where it’s like, “Yeah, well, no.”
But, I am a very optimistic person. I believe that everything is figure-out-able. So I strive to do whatever it takes. I’ll figure it out eventually. So why not just figure it out now?
The Power of Prayer
Shelley: Yeah, so that’s just a little thing I’ve heard a couple of times on this call. It may not normally be something that you’re verbalizing all the time, but that mindset can stop us in our tracks – every single time, myself included. I have to constantly be on my guard for it because the enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy our manuscripts, right?
That’s just something to consider. I don’t know if you listened to a recent podcast I did on. “If you need money, ask for this instead”, was the title. It’s all about God ideas, and I think when we’re writing we are connecting with the Creator, who is the author of all creativity. That is true most especially if we’re Christ followers, Christians, as you are, and I am.
So we have to feel like it’s not up to us to figure it all out. It’s not up to us to write this book, but we are to do our part. When we start connecting with him and asking for his ideas, I think it really makes a difference.
Asking questions like, “What is Your idea for this book? I’m stuck with this flow Lord, can You give me some insight? Can You show me what to do?” for me, can really make a difference.
I always recommend having a prayer team. Do you have a prayer team right now?
Paul: No. I pray a lot. I got a 1 prayer team right now, so I think I can improve on that, for sure.
Shelley: Yeah, just get at least a couple people. “Where 2 or 3 are gathered, He is there”, right? Get a couple people who you know believe in what you’re doing and would support you.
Just say, “Hey, would it be OK if I sent you an update each week on some things to pray about as I write this book? I’ve been feeling stuck and I just know I need that extra prayer support. And, I’d be willing to pray for you too so please send me your prayer requests as well.”
It’s a really simple way to get a little more support. Sometimes. Not always, but sometimes, it could be a spiritual battle, especially when we’re writing information that’s going to impact people for eternity or potentially impact them. Those moments where we just want to give up and go to the next project or something is happening.
I found when I was writing my Broken Crayons Still Color book, writing and sharing prayer requests every week with my prayer team made the biggest difference. I honestly do not feel that I would have finished that book without that.
I just saw prayer request after prayer request answered every week, and it was increasing my faith, but also the faith of those that were praying. So, I really encourage you to think about doing that as well.
Any final ideas or questions or thoughts?
Get the First Draft Done
Paul: I take the train now, so I have an hour each way that I’m not distracted by other things. I’m not calling that my power hour though. But I need to make sure I have a plan for how I spend that time.
Any ideas on how I focus on during that hour?
Shelley: Yeah, so what is it you feel like you need to do next? What’s the next step with all of these things?
Paul: I think I just need to get my format done, and just continue to flesh out the ideas so that I can complete the book.
Shelley: What I like to do is have you do the outline and the format first. Even if you just do it chapter by chapter, do some sort of outline and format. Then if you’re able to write while you’re on the train, then you can start writing out the content of that chapter.
The reason I like to outline is that you will never be stuck. You always know what you’re going to write next. You have the next story, the next id, a and the next thing. Then, you’re like, “OK, that’s what I’m going to work on next.”
Like I said, the first draft is never the final draft. Just keep repeating that to yourself and get that first draft done. Until you have the first draft done you don’t have anything. Once you have the first draft you can self-edit, you can send it to an editor, and you can have beta readers. You will have all sorts of options.
Right now, I think the goal is to get that first draft done. So I think that’s a great next step.
Shelley: Thank you so much for being here and sharing so honestly.
Paul: You’re welcome.
Shelley: I know that so many authors are going to be able to relate to that. I really pray that this helps you and that you’re able to finish your book and cross that finish line. Can’t wait to celebrate with you, Paul!
Paul: Awesome! Thanks so much for your help.
Shelley: Yes, and as always post any questions in the Facebook group. I’m in there regularly and I’m able to help you in any areas that you’re stuck. We’re always available for you there.
Paul: Great! Thanks again.
Shelley: Thank you all for listening today to this edition of Author Audience. I will see you next time! Bye, Bye!
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