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April 12, 2017

How To Write a Book!

Speaking of being both generous and ruthless with my time, I realized the third question (in addition to this one and this one) that I get asked all the time is this: “Hey, Maia, I’d love to write a book about school culture, data-driven instruction, math strategies, or [insert your own dream here!] How did you do it?”

Well, it’s been a combination of sweat, love, and luck. But here’s a bit of what I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Be really, really good at what you do AND ensure OTHER influential people know you are good at what you do. In my case, I had been running around the country conducting Together Trainings for almost three years when this person saw my work and said, “You should write a book.” This led me to a direct connection with my publisher who wanted to know if I could. . .
  1. Build a platform. In my limited experience, most publishers don’t want much to do with you these days unless you come to them with an already existing platform. This might include a blog, all aspects of social media, and prominent speaking or training engagements. Then the publisher asked me to . . .
  1. Write a proposal. This part is hard. I had to draft a table of contents, write a sample chapter, and make a case for why my book was needed in the world. I agonized over this stage, but eventually turned in something. Sidenote: I think many authors have agents who shop stuff around, but so far, I have been able to get away without using an agent and I work directly with my publisher. The next step was to…
  1. Refine my outline. Since I essentially write “technical” books with tons of examples, I need tight outlines of each chapter before I start writing. Too bad I didn’t learn this lesson until the second book. The impact of not having a super-tight outline was that I would often interrupt my writing process to email someone for a sample or quote. If and when there are more books, I will nail down all of my examples FIRST.
  1. Write, write, write, and write. Ummmm, yes—this is really, really hard for me. Some tricks I’ve learned over the years – that work for ME—are over here. But as an extrovert who has a business to run and a family to care for, time to just write can be hard to come by. I do it when I can on my mini Lenovo laptop and usually away from my desk, often listening to this.
  1. Find an accountability buddy. In my case, this was often a part-time member of my team whom I would beg to have breakfast on Sundays and force me to articulate my outline and word count for the week. I also had other people on standby to read sections throughout the entire process.
  1. Stay organized. Because my stuff is dense with graphics, examples, and quotations, I hired a book production coordinator who helped organize samples, obtain releases, and maintain word count per chapter. We used Trello to capture chapter ideas and shared several files via Dropbox to manage graphics, permissions, and so on.

So this is how I’ve written two books to date. Plus pistachios and Rolos!

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