Writer's note: This marks my 1,000th column.
At every seminar I give, I ask my audience, "How many of you would like to write a book?" The majority of the audience raises their hand.
And I follow on by stating, "Keep your hand up if you already have the first chapter written." Almost every hand goes down. One or two hands out of a thousand will remain up.
Seems as though there's a big difference between wanting and doing.
I never "wanted" to write a book. I just began writing this weekly column. But the minute I finished my first column in March 1992, I said to myself, "Hey, if I just finish 100 columns, I'll have enough content for a book." I never actually said, "Write a book." I just said, "Write 100 columns."
My weekly column comes from ideas that I collect. It's easy to write the column when you have the idea. The key is getting the idea, and capturing it immediately.
Growing up, I was a fan of the political satirist Art Buchwald. I would always buy his newest book, which was simply a compilation of the weekly columns he had written for syndication. Sometimes I agreed with his politics, sometimes I did not. But his writing was always engaging, funny, opinionated, to the point, and exceptionally well written.
Interesting that you never realize how much of an impact someone else can make on your future, because at the time I was reading his work, I didn't realize how much my future played a part in the present.
Now back to you. You want to write a book?
If you're like most people, your book will fall in one of three categories:
1. How To;
3. The story of your life, or the story of someone in your life.
Whatever the type of book or subject, I'd like to throw a few ideas and challenges at you that may change your response to "How many of you want to write a book? How many of you have the first chapter written?" from hand up, hand down to hand up, hand up.
Whatever you want to write about, the first thing you have to do is determine the overall content -- the big picture of what the book is about -- in a paragraph or two. The second thing you have to do is create a title (even if it's not the final title) and a subtitle. The subtitle more clearly defines the title and the content. You need a solid, descriptive subtitle so that if your book is entitled, Who Moved My Cheese, it won't find its way into the cooking section.
The next thing you need to do is create a table of contents. Whether your book is fiction or non-fiction, it needs to go from beginning to end in some kind of sequential order. A table of contents helps determine flow as well as structure. A table of contents also helps to define the book in your mind. It coagulates your ideas, taking them from jelly to Jell-o.
Note: If you get ideas to expand upon as you're creating the table of contents, write them down immediately.
Those are the steps of the book writing process that I have used over the past 20 years. It works. I write non-fiction, how-to books on selling, customer service, customer loyalty, business success, positive attitude, trust, business social media, networking, leadership, and personal development.
I wrote 11 books in my first 20 years of writing, and I have the outline of content, title, subtitle and table of contents for the next 10.
After my first book, "The Sales Bible," I realized I had written a beginning volume, that "The Sales Bible" would be a stepping-stone to future books. And as I write my 12th book, I'm living my prophecy at the same time I'm leaving my legacy.
Here's how you can start: Allocate 30 minutes a day to writing down random thoughts, ideas, experiences, stories, and other winning words.
Stay tuned: Next column will describe my personal writing habits and strategies. I'll share them with you in hopes you might adopt them, or adapt them, for yourself. I want you to understand what it takes to start and finish a book.
If you're serious about writing, keep this column (and next week's) by your writing table or on your desktop to use as a reference when you begin to complete what will become your legacy.
Gitomer is the author of "The Sales Bible" and "The Little Red Book of Selling." President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts Internet training programs on selling and customer service at trainone.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.