A recipe book is deceptive. It looks so simple: you put together all the recipes you’ve created, add a cover with a delicious photo, and voila! Move over Nigela Lawson! Yes, it’s undeniable that recipe books take less to put together than some other genres, but they still need structure, consistency, and pace.
To achieve this, it’s important to look at what will tie your recipes together, and once you’ve created that framework, focus on the detail of how each recipe is written. Readers have subconscious expectations on how the material in each genre is put together; how it flows, and along which route.
Like a vital ingredient, putting your finger on exactly what is creating the right mix can be difficult, but you will know quickly if it is missing. It’s the same with recipes. They have an unspoken order that allows the reader to flow along, enjoying the creativity, rather than searching frantically through the cupboard for extra ingredients halfway through the flambé.
Knowing these eight little tricks can help you look at your recipes through your reader’s eyes, and fill in the hard-to-spot holes that might be lurking.
Some of the best books in the world are there, pretty much fully formed, inside the author’s head. And there they stay, keeping you up at night while you think of more fabulous ways to explain your concept, rewriting it all inside your head. At some point though, you realise that it’s been rather a long time, and nothing has actually come out. There are so many ideas, but you don’t know where to start with writing it all down.
Or, you have written and written and written; you have notebooks full of everything you know, hundreds of pages tapped out on the keyboard in a frenzy of excitement. And then, nothing. You realise that a lot of writing is not actually a book. It’s a valuable brain dump, it’s golden research, it’s many things, but it isn’t actually a book.
A book coach is the person you call in at this point, when your family and friends are sick of hearing about your book that never seems quite finished. Make sure you find one who gets you, who works in your genre and has good feedback from other authors. It’s quite an intense relationship, so find a coach you really like.
The introduction may appear at the start of your book, but don’t get caught up trying to perfect it before you write the rest of the manuscript. Many new authors are surprised and relieved to find that it’s usually the last chapter to be finalised!
Trying to write the introduction before you start the book is like trying to describe the taste of a cake you haven’t baked yet. How do you know how your cake tastes if it doesn’t exist yet?
Your introduction is really a wrap-up of what you have created; a rundown on what the reader should expect in the book you have written. That’s why it is hard to write before you start, because you don’t yet know how the book turned out. Books change and grow as you write them, and often don’t reveal the nuances of their flavour until the end.
I know many authors want to start at the beginning and have a go at their introduction. If that’s you, go ahead and put together the frame of your intro. Get some points down; talk about what you are planning in the book. Let the reader know what’s going to happen. How is the book structured? How do they need to prepare before they jump in? Will they be asked to participate with thoughts or actions, or can they sit back and relax while you take them on a rollicking good ride from start to finish? What are the concepts you want to share, and how will this affect your reader? How do they feel when they start, and how will they feel when they finish?
Getting your thoughts on the introduction down can help crystallise what it is you are trying to achieve. Then when you have finished your manuscript, come back and take another look at the introduction. Like a diary from a few years ago, it can be fascinating to compare what you thought then to where you are now.
When your Word document arrives back from the editor (that’s me) covered in Track Changes marks, and you’ve recovered from the delight/shock/overwhelm of all the changes and suggestions, the next step is to review the changes and work out what you want to keep. This extremely brief and non-comprehensive starter’s guide might help you avoid some of the pitfalls I see regularly…
• Go into your Word document and make sure the ‘review’ panel is open at the top of the page
• Some people like to click on ‘reviewing pane’ so a catalogue of all the changes appears on the left side of the screen
• If the reviewing pane adds to your overwhelm skip that step – it’s not vital
• Now put your cursor at the beginning of the first line of text in your document
• Press ‘next’ on the review panel. This will take you to the next change I’ve made
• Consider my suggestion, then press ‘accept’ if you agree with the change, or ‘reject’ if you don’t
• Use ‘previous’ or ‘next’ to move from one change to another
• The bubbles on the right side of the page are my comments directly to you. You can write back to me in the bubble if you want – that’s our chat room
• If you don’t know why I’ve changed something (such as when you see a word crossed out and written again), it’s because there was something wrong – usually too many spaces between the words or some little thing like that that is hard to see unless you are pedantic like me. Rather than ponder the true meaning of my correction, honestly it’s easier just to press ‘accept’ and then see if it looks right.
If you manually change everything, the chances are you’ll delete the work you’ve paid me to do and I’ll end up doing it again (and charging you again) in the next round of editing. So try doing it this way and see if it works for you.
It’s an automatic system that is meant to make life easier, but I know it takes a bit of getting used to. These instructions are just the basics; you can use Track Changes to do all kinds of funky things. If you aren’t confident with it or have better things to fill your day with, once you’ve addressed anything in the bubbles don’t hesitate to say ‘Alex, it looks fine, can you accept everything’. I can whizz through and get it finished, so don’t stress!
Good luck, and remember it’s always up to you what is changed – you are the author and these are your words!
In writing her book Healing the Heart of Your Business, Lisa Fitzpatrick has had to push through a serious bout of writer’s block, a chronic case of not good enough and recurring rounds of it’s impossible to finish. Yes, like many of life’s challenges, in writing we are often our own worst enemy. And yet she did it – she finished her book and it’s fabulous. I am in awe of the power of this woman’s commitment to keep writing, no matter what. First published at www.LisaFitzpatrick.com.au, here is Lisa’s story…
When I was growing up, I was called to the principal’s office to be commended for a short story that I’d written about narrowly avoiding a dugite snake bite whilst swinging on a swing set at the local park. It had been a close shave, having a deadly snake brushing past my feet. Apparently, my story had captured the moment well. The principal said that my story was going to be sent away to a writing competition to be judged and that it might even win a prize as it was a very fine effort. I was around nine years old and it was at a time when Enid Blyton books had consumed every waking moment for me and many other girls. I waited and waited to hear the results of the competition. Nothing ever came back. I never heard who the winners were either and I never asked. I was too shy. In addition, I was too embarrassed that I hadn’t won anything. Defining moment number one: I am not a good enough writer.
In early high school I heard about a girl my age (13) who had published her first book of fiction. I started to write my own. It was an elaborate story about a mokey pokey, some kind of strange hybrid creature that really didn’t have much purpose. I spent an entire Christmas holiday break slaving away at a book that felt directionless because I couldn’t find an ending to the story. Eventually I just gave up and put all my hard efforts in the bin. Defining moment number two added to defining moment number one: Not only am I not a good enough writer, but it’s impossible to finish a book.
My second degree at university I majored in Arts and Creative Writing. As soon as I finished uni, I wrote a manuscript based on my dad’s life. It was historical literary fiction. It was picked for a mentorship along with the prestigious prize opportunity of being introduced to the publishers at one of Australia’s top publishing houses Allen and Unwin. They read my sample chapters and told me to polish up the manuscript and resubmit it to them with the view to it being published. It was a huge opportunity only reserved for a chosen few at the time. I completely lost my nerve. I never finished it. My painful divorce at the time had broken my self-esteem so much that I didn’t have the self-belief to push through with the dream. However, I can’t really blame divorce although I did at the time. The earlier beliefs that I’d formed meant that not only did I believe that I was not a good enough writer but also that it was impossible to finish a book. Defining moment number three: Writing a book is not realistic for me with all my issues, only for other people (who don’t have issues like mine).
By now, I have realised that what you seek is always seeking you. I have never stopped seeking ways to scratch the writer’s itch that has always been there. Despite being chronically blocked, a soul purpose is a soul purpose and will persist despite our best attempts to block it. Amidst the much loved work I was doing as a coach, therapist and yoga teacher, I knew I needed and wanted to write. Even if it wasn’t good enough, even if I couldn’t finish things and even if it wasn’t realistic for me to be a writer, none of those stopped the fact that I still had a desire to write. By now I was starting to see where I had formed unhelpful beliefs about myself that weren’t true and decided to honour the desire itself.
So I started small and committed to my blog. Just once a week on a Monday, all I had to do was write around 350 words. That’s all – not an entire chapter. Just nuggets and they didn’t even have to be perfect, I decided. I made a commitment to scratch the itch on my writer’s block and see where it took me. Then I did the one epic thing that’s guaranteed to cure writer’s block. I told my virtual assistant Kari that I’d have my piece of writing for my ezine and blog ready every Monday to send to her in South Carolina. I set myself up for accountability. I might not have been able to be accountable to myself but when someone else was relying on me, I was on top of my game. It’s one of my strengths and I needed all the strength I could muster.
Every week Kari would pretty it up and then send it out to my subscribers on Tuesday mornings. Every week for the past 88 weeks, it’s been put out there at least once and sometimes even twice, a week. Come rain, hail or shine, slippery snakes, sick kids and blocks as big as Everest I’ve written a blog. Believe me there’s been weeks where it’s a small miracle that it’s happened. I now firmly no longer believe that you should only write when inspiration strikes. You need to have discipline, it’s a practice and it’s something that gets easier the more regularly you engage with the page and find your real voice.
Miracles often start from small things that you think are insignificant. I’d been writing my blog for less than a year when I was approached by the fabulous Christine Marmoy to contribute to her anthology Manifesting in High Heels. I said yes – the book stood for all the values I ascribe to – collaboration with other amazing women and more power to women. I said yes to accountability and the book went on to become an Amazon best seller in over 5 categories. It was the one small piece of encouragement I needed to finally finish a manuscript I’d had ticking away in the background. Freaking. Awesome.
In the background, I’d decided that accountability was key and thanks to my blog writing, my writer’s block was slowly dissolving. So I engaged the services of a book coach Alex Fullerton from Author Support Services. Alex was assigned to help me be accountable to write the manuscript that was brewing and stirring as a result of all that blogging, coaching, speaking and chapter writing I’d been doing. The beautiful thing is, accountability bears witness. When we are being watched and witnessed, even though it is uncomfortable at first, it has the brilliant effect of diluting fear. I can honestly say, I would have been a lot more self-conscious about revealing my manuscript to anyone let alone the general public if I hadn’t first unleashed it to my book coach.
There’s actually plenty of book coaches out there but what drew me to Alex immediately was that she truly does understand what writing a book entails. How do I know? Because on the home page of her website, she has a video of how tricky it is to catch a wild snake and put it in a bag. Go watch it! It’s exactly how it feels to write a book (especially if you’re me). It’s slippery, it’s hard, it’s awkward, it’s even dangerous! After my earlier short story about the dugite and as well as an intense personal experience with kundalini-rising, the snake held significance
My commitment to Alex was sealed when I learnt that she had also braved the wild frontier of single parenthood to two children for many years. That totally sold me. I couldn’t care less whether she’d ever coached someone to complete their book or whether she’d even been to university. All I cared about was that she got it. For those of you in business who don’t think your personal story has any relevance to your clients, think again. For those of you who believe that your life experiences are not equally as important (if not more so) to your qualifications think again.
Alex held me accountable. Poor Alex had to brave my fear of snakes so many times in our accountability journey it’s hard to even fathom. She’s had to endure my tales of woe about how hard it’s been to find time to write the damn thing whilst juggling a business, blogs, three house moves and single parenthood. I’m forever grateful to her for loyally sticking by me while I wrote Healing the Heart of Your Business. Many times, I’ve fallen short of my deadlines and many times I’ve wondered if it will ever be done. Patient, graceful and ever wise, Alex stayed the course with me. She persisted and her persistence meant that I had every reason to stay the course. My Malaysian heritage has ingrained in me the importance of saving face. Whenever I failed on one of our set deadlines, I’d recalibrate, take some breaths and keep going. Accountability to Alex was as much about keeping and saving face as it was about the need to write.
Today, a cyclone hit my township and we were warned to stay indoors. I’m so pleased I got some unexpected spare time. I polished the final edit and sent it to Alex for the final proof-read. I’ve found my fabulous book cover designer and can’t wait to share her work with you on the cover of my book. I’m so relieved I don’t have a publisher to deal with and that the world has turned on its axis enough times to change things in my favour towards self-publishing. I feel excited about the fact that the snake is almost in the bag. I can see myself tying up the loose ends now on Healing the Heart of your Business and I have to say I’m proud of it. At the end of the day, the book’s not really about me but about the message it contains about running a sustainable business for heart-centred women….Actually, it’s hard admitting this but it is about me. It’s about how I learnt to wrestle a snake into a bag despite being petrified. But I know deep down that I never would have done it if I’d kept it to myself and neglected to engage with accountability – the one epic cure to writer’s block. Sharing is caring. I’m not sure words do justice to the gratitude I feel towards Alex and the fact that I’m on the home stretch tying up the bag. I think I’ve well and truly caught the snake! He’s in the bag and I’m bringing him home.
Lisa’s book is available at www.LisaFitzpatrick.com.au.
What is holding you back from writing? Please leave your comments below…..