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The Process of Writing a New York Times Bestseller in One Month (Part 2 of 2)

You've got the ingredients and recipe for writing.  Get cooking!


In my last post I told you the ingredients Mark Divine needed to cook up a New York Times Bestseller.  If you haven’t already, notice that none of those things have anything to do with actual writing.  Once he had hired me to be his writing coach, we had to produce an entire book from scratch in less than a month.  We needed a strategy and process.


Well, that’s a lie that it was completely from scratch.  He had the workout routines already planned out.  He’d written out the theory.  The content lived in his experience and memories.  But it was as dry and empty as a plate of fossilized steakbones.  My actual words to him were, “You’ve figured out how to make an interesting topic boring.”  We needed spices and meat and some expert cookin’ to make a succulent and flavorful dish worth serving the public…


1. Strategy

Mark had two things going for him that most fitness instructors don’t…


  1. He’d been a Navy SEAL with untold stories that would hook and inspire anyone who began reading his book.
  2. He retired as a Navy SEAL Commander after serving for 20 years.

No one chooses to read a book called 8 Weeks to SEALFit without dreaming that he or she can be as fit as a Navy SEAL.  Mark had some of the coolest stories to tell on the planet.  No one would be satisfied unless we told them.  Readers didn’t want to gut out some prescribed exercises.  We needed to plunge them into the Navy SEAL experience.  I looked at all the material Mark had sent me and decided that BUD/s training camp was where we would start.  By the end of the book they would have stepped through a doorway into the physical, mental and spiritual outlook of a Navy SEAL.


If you only think about what you want to write, you’ll never be more than a mediocre writer.  Get to know your audience.  What do they care about most?  What are their secret hopes and dreams?  What do they wish they could pry from your vulnerable insides?  Mark thought it was his workout regimen.  I knew it was the experience of life as a Navy SEAL.


2. The Writing Process

I just looked over at the number of revisions for this blog at the halfway point… six.  Yikes.  Even for an experienced writer that amount of editing before completing a rough draft stifles creativity.  Mark wasn’t an experienced writer.  He didn’t need to write perfectly.  I could smooth out all the rough edges as his editor.  He just needed to write quickly.


I divided up every writing assignment into manageable chapters with subheadings that usually followed the pattern of story, explanation, story, workout.  Then I gave him this writing process:


  1. Write these quickly.  Get them out onto the page.  Don’t worry about mistakes or edits.  Just let thoughts flow from your mind.  You should be able to do this in 30 minutes.  Since you’re still a learner, I’ll let you make it last up to an hour, but no more.  Once you’ve finished or gotten to the hour mark, take a break.  Do something else.  Let your mind play and rest for at least 2 hours.  If you didn’t finish, come back and write as quickly as you can, taking breaks as necessary, until you’re finished.  Never take more than an hour at any one time to write.   Don’t try to edit.  The less you edit now, the easier it will be to finish.  The goal is writing to completion, not writing perfectly.  Then let your mind rest overnight.
  2. When you wake in the morning, look over what you wrote the day before.  Edit it once using the 5 steps I gave you at the No One Told Me How to Write Workshop at Wizard Academy.  Use the same pattern of editing for an hour and doing something else for 2 hours.  Once you’ve finished editing it once, send it to me.  It won’t be perfect.  But it will be good.  I’ll look over it and edit it for you.  You’ll be amazed at the writing you’ve produced.

Every one of my writing workshop exercises requires students to write more than seems possible in a tiny time window.  When the left brain can’t process quickly enough, imagination takes over.  Creativity blossoms.  Too many of us stifle the imaginative right side of our brain with editing before we’re done.  We shoot down each idea it sends us and then say that we can’t think of anything.


If you want creativity in your writing, stop editing before you finish a draft.  You may write some clunker sentences in there.  You can take them out later.  But if you don’t write the clunkers, you’ll stop yourself before you discover the diamonds.


3. The Results

Nearly every other day, Mark sent me a written chapter edited once.  They had flaws, but they also tingled with the flavor of storytelling magic.  I didn’t let him rest before giving him his next assignment.  As soon as he completed a chapter, I gave him the next one.  While he was writing, I would edit and then send him the finished chapter, letting him know what he had done well, what I had changed and why.  Three days before our deadline, we finished.  My work was done.  He had an excellent book ready to become a bestseller and keep selling.


Most of you don’t have thousands of dollars to afford a writing coach like me to tell you what you need to do.  Don’t let that stop you.  Gather your research and organize your chapters and subheadings first. (Generate your chapters and subheadings in 37 minutes using bestselling author Keith Miller’s process.  It’s the same one I teach in my workshops, and it’s free.)  Then use the process I’ve given you above.  Once you’ve finished your book, let it rest for a couple weeks before going back and editing it all the way through.


If you’re really smart, you’ll publish each chapter or subchapter along the way as a blog post and build a following for your book.  By the time you’re ready to do a final edit of your book and offer it for sale, you’ll have followers eager to gobble up your first meal of words.


You’ve got the ingredients.  You’ve got a recipe.  All you need is some fire to stoke your ovens…




Start cookin’,



No One Told Me How to Write Workshop - Wizard AcademyPS: Get two days of writing inspiration, feedback and exercises at Wizard Academy this January in Austin.  They just posted the “No One Told Me How to Write Workshop“, the same course Mark Divine took.  3 people begged for it and have already signed up.  All food, wine and a room in 1 of 2 student mansions is included…


PPS: One of my students from last January just finished his first young adult novel.  I’m really proud of him.  Check out Thinkwave



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