If you already have material in the form of a blog, a journal, articles, newsletters, or anything else, and want to gather them into a book, this technique is for you.
The key to pulling existing writings into a book is to figure out what story you want to tell or what theme you want to explore, and then find the articles that fit that theme or story. You can approach this several different ways.
Below is the method I’ve found works best for most people. How you do this, and how long it takes, will be a little different for each of you depending on where you’re starting: Some of you may have 500 posts to go through, while others may have only 25. Therefore, take as long as each step takes. The more posts you have to go through, the more of your book is already written!
TECHNIQUE 4: Working From Writing You Already Have
First Session (30 minutes)
• Set your timer for 30 minutes.
• Find where all your blog posts, newsletters, or journals live, physically. In other words, find where your posts are online, or find the folder on your laptop where you keep all your blog posts/newsletters (if you have one), or pull out your boxes of journals. This might take the entire 30 minutes, and that’s okay!
• Next up is to make a list of the posts you might want to include in your book. This may take some time. There are two ways to do this.
OPTION 1: If you know what kind of book you want to write, you will be looking for writings that relate specifically to that. So, let’s say you are writing a book to help veterans who are struggling with PTSD. In that case, you would list only those writings that make sense in that kind of book.
OPTION 2: However, if you aren’t sure what you want to write, or you are writing a memoir-type book and aren’t sure what to include, then you are just going to be looking for any pieces of writing that call to you.
Here’s how to do this:
• If your writing is online: Open a new document. If you’re looking for something specific and you’ve tagged your blog posts with topics, you can use the tags to find the posts that relate. If not, just go through your posts one by one.
When you see a post you might want to include in your book, copy and paste the title and link (not the whole article, not yet) into your new document. If it doesn’t have a title, make one up that will remind you what the post is about. Then, under the title and link, add a word or two that reminds you why you love the post or what it is about. This will help when organizing your book. You can also make a spreadsheet for this, if you’re so inclined.
• If your writing is in a journal, this will take longer. Skim through entries and mark the ones you like and might want to include. You can use a sticky note, a folded page corner, or whatever else you can come back to easily. Try not to get sucked into reading everything (I know, this is nearly impossible!) Instead, read just enough to help you mark entries you like. There will be plenty of time later to read them more carefully.
- Do as much as you can in this first 30-minute session.
Second Session (30 minutes)
• Set your timer for 30 minutes.
• Continue making the list of posts you might want to include in your book.
• Also, know that this part, where you go through what you have, always takes time. You may find you need to add more 30-minute sessions to get this part done; if so, do that. When working from existing material, going through all of it is one of the most challenging parts. So, if this takes months, that’s fine! What you are doing right now is actually the bulk of writing your first draft.
Third Session (30 minutes)
• This session comes after you’ve gone through all your existing material, so stick with that as long as you need to.
• When you’re ready for the next step, set your timer for 30 minutes.
• If you’re not sure what the theme/story is you want to tell: Read through the list of all the posts you want to include in the book and start looking for patterns, and then start to group the articles/titles/links together in a way that makes sense to you. For example, you may want to divide blog posts into “How-tos” and “Inspiration.” Or you might want to divide them into themes, such as “Asana” and “Yamas.” Or, if you’ve gathered a bunch of personal stories, maybe it makes sense to group them chronologically or according to where you lived or traveled at the time.
• If you already know the theme/topic for your book: Start grouping them in a way that makes sense to you, so you are starting to form an outline.
• Take the rest of the 30 minutes to do this.
Fourth Session (30 minutes)
• Set your timer for 30 minutes.
• Take a look at the groupings you did in the last session. Do they still make sense? Continue grouping your writings into an outline or loose story arc.
• Then, look for what might be missing, things you still need to write. Maybe this is only an introduction or an afterword; maybe there are pieces of your personal story to fill in. Make a list of any new writings you think might be needed.
• When this 30 minutes is up, you will have a rough draft of your outline, with notes of what still needs to be added.
Guess what! You’ve started your book!
The next steps, now, to finish your book, are to read through each post, decide whether it’s in the right place in the outline, and get a real feel for the entire thing as a whole. Try to do this without too much editing or revising. Everything will go much faster if you let yourself get a feel for the whole book before you start any revising or rewriting! Once you’ve read everything, then you can start writing what still needs to be added or revising what’s already written.
Note: When you start the actual writing, I highly suggest cutting and pasting each article into its own document to keep in a folder titled “BOOK.” That way, you have each piece readily accessible in its own document so it can be easily moved around if and when you change the structure of your book. I highly recommend doing it this way, and NOT cutting and pasting into one huge document! Starting with one huge document makes it incredibly frustrating and time-consuming down the road when you decide to move one article fourteen different times.
How was this technique for you? Tell me your favorite thing or ask any questions about this technique in the comments below. I read and reply to every comment. And if you find this useful, feel free to share it with other yoga teachers.
Check out another technique to get you started writing your book:
Technique 1. Feel your way into it — good if you work from your intuition and are a non-linear thinker.
Technique 2. Plan your way into it — good if you like planning and structure and are good with details
Technique 3. Start at the end — good if you resonate with visualizations or affirmations