3. Outlining and Organization (continued)
1. Create a Plan of Action.
To help you achieve your goals and stay focused on the objectives, you should have a well laid out action plan. This plan will cover the steps you need to take to get you from where you are currently, to the ultimate goal of where you want to be.
Many folks tell you to set high goals and try to get to them. Personally, I think that’s a recipe for discouragement. If you set ten goals and you only get to one of them, how do you feel? Like a failure. At least that’s how I feel.
On the other hand, if you have ten REACHABLE goals and you nail them all, how do you feel? Like a success. And that feeling fuels you on to accomplish more and more.
I like to do what I call “above and beyond goal setting.” I set myself realistic, reachable writing assignments and then I try to go “above and beyond” that goal. In other words, my goal for today might be to write 10 more tips for this eBook. And I’ll shoot for 15. If I get 15, then super-yippee! But, if I only get the 10 done (which is very realistic) then I still feel like I’ve accomplished something.
It’s all mental. And I like to keep my mind happy and feeling victorious. :o)
2. Use a Checklist.
Another thing I love to do to stay focused on my objectives is to use a checklist. I actually write down my entire action step gameplan for a project. And I do this in VERY DETAILED steps. Why? Because I get to check off completed tasks much more frequently…which again makes me feel like I’m accomplishing more.
I have checklists for everything. Part of that is to stay organized, because I have so many things going on at the same time. But, part of it is to MARK THROUGH the tasks I have completed. Nothing satisfies me more (well, there are a few things :o) than being able to see a sheet of paper with a whole page of tasks checked off as completed.
Use a checklist. I’m telling you straight, the more you are able to visualize that you’ve accomplished, the more you will stay focused and get your objectives accomplished.
3. Tackle One Goal at a Time.
Closely relating to that is HOW you tackle that checklist. While sometimes with writing it’s important and necessary to look at the big picture and not so much the little things, when goal setting and staying focused, you might try focusing on only a few goals at a time. If you start looking at everything at once, you can become confused and frustrated, and might lose sight of where you want to be.
Instead, concentrate your efforts on THE NEXT ENTRY ON THE CHECKLIST. Don’t look at the entire checklist, just what’s next.
When we travel (which is a LOT) we take a look at the full map to see where we will be going and to get an idea of which way we’ll be traveling. BUT, during the road trip itself, we focus on ONE ROAD AT A TIME. All we need to know is which way to turn NEXT. What’s important during the journey is the next step.
Same thing applies to writing an eBook — yes, take a look at the whole map and see where you are going — but focus on the next entry on the checklist. You can’t complete the journey until you take the next step in front of you.
4. Establish Support Systems.
Maintaining some type of support system will help you keep it all together. Writing, although incredibly rewarding, can also be very frustrating. Keeping a strong support or buddy system in place will keep you focused and on track.
Keep people around you who will help you be accountable for your writing, people who know how to encourage, but also challenge. When you want to celebrate a success, pull in your support system. When you need a shoulder to cry on when something didn’t go as well as you would have liked, again, use your support system. (Hey, we all need somebody to lean on!) Your support systems needs to consist of people whom love and care for you and share in your goal to succeed in writing.
But, you also want them to be HONEST with you. If a chapter stinks, it would be better to know about it NOW so you can fix it instead of publishing your eBook and letting the world be your critic. I tell my friends up front: “tell me the truth, but go easy on me.”
5. Celebrate the 1/4 Milestones.
Just as you will reward yourself for completing your eBook, you should also celebrate what I call “1/4 milestones.” They aren’t big enough to be considered a milestone, so they are like a quarter-milestone.
If you have twenty chapters of an eBook to write, after you’ve written five chapters, celebrate with something small. Then after the next five chapters, another small treat. This will keep you focused on your objectives and gear you toward that next milestone, and then on to the big finale.
For me, I like to treat myself to a nice big bowl of cheese dip and a bag of tortilla chips. And if you saw my picture, you’d see that I’ve passed a lot of 1/4 milestones in the past few years! :o)
But seriously, it’s important to staying focused that you take the time to celebrate your achievements. They may not be “Climbing Mount Everest” significant, but they are equally as monumental to getting your product completed.
How about a few more organization and outlining ideas that you can use?…
6. Use Color Codes.
As you start putting your ideas and thoughts together, try to separate them out using colored binders or color highlighters in notebooks. Keep all relative research for each chapter separate and devise a system to coordinate each section.
This will help you stay focused on one thing at a time and keep your thoughts organized. In addition, try a system using labels, in order to quickly and easily identify each section of the book. As you need to add or change something, you can very easily pull out the appropriate file and focus only on that.
7. Plan An Idea Family Tree.
If you have a general idea for a story, with this exercise, you will start writing your thoughts about how that story will branch out – pretty much like the layout of a family tree or business organization chart.
For example, let’s say you’ve decided to write about Movie Making. Make “Movie Making” the top of the tree. Then move down to “subordinates” and list those. These could include “Directing”, “Producing” and “Acting.” Then you move down again. Now you might have “Movie Locations”, “Era”, “Subject Matter.” This continues all the way down until the “tree” is complete and there are no more layers to add.
Once you’ve put everything out on paper, you may need to move a few things around but in general this will provide you with a good idea of how the story would flow, starting at the top and working all the way down to the bottom. You can do this exercise for no matter what subject matter you’re working on.
It’s a great way to plan the STRUCTURE of your eBook and perfect for getting organized for your outline. Once you complete it, it’s just a matter of “filling-in-the-blanks.”
8. Break it Up.
Rather than trying to cram all your outline ideas onto the pages, literally start at the top and work your way down. On your paper, jot down three ideas and call them Idea 1, Idea 2, and Idea 3. Place Idea 1 at the top of your paper, Idea 2 in the middle, and Idea 3 toward the bottom. Come up with two or three sub-ideas for each main idea and list them under the appropriate title. From these sub-ideas, you will start to build the sentences and paragraphs.
9. Design a Cover.
Don’t forget to get your own customized eBook cover art created to use on your webpage. Statistics show that by simply having an eBook cover art graphic on your sales letter you can actually increase your sales by up to 300%.
That’s selling THREE TIMES AS MANY copies of our eBook simply because you have a visual representation of your eBook on your site.
Do you see how a visual representation of your product can increase sales? It just looks more professional and more valuable.
Presentation of your offer is JUST as important as your offer itself.
10. Graphic Outlines.
Why not try capturing your thoughts in free-association diagrams, without giving much thought to how it will all fit together. The reason for this is that it helps you from worrying about keeping the thoughts in order. In a way, it’s a form of brainstorming. The actual name of this exercise is “idea-clustering” or “mind mapping.”
It helps you to (a) organize your ideas and (b) come up with new ideas to share.
In our next installment, we’ll talk about staying motivated during the ebook writing process…