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28 February 2019

Book Review: Write your book in a flash: Author: Dan Janal

The full name of the book is Write your book in a flash - The Paint-by-numbers system to write the book of your dreams - Fast!

Published by TCK Publishing. You can buy the book HERE

The short URL of this review is

(Background to this review. Ms.Maria Inot of TCK Publishing got in touch with me to review this book after she read my blog review of the book Triggers. Thanks a lot to TCK Publishing for giving me this opportunity to review this wonderful book.)

Many of us have been told at one time or other that 'there is a book in you waiting to come out'. We will be happily rambling about the funny incident that happened 20 years ago, generally smiling to ourselves, and out of the left flank comes this question, 'Why don't you write a book?'

Why don't I, you think. I have been doing Consulting for about 18 years now, and possess a lot of knowledge that can add value to other professionals in my field, you presume. How do I go about  writing a book, you wonder, I have never written a book in my life and I don't even know where to begin, you think. You wish you could get some guidance on the process of writing a non-fiction book.

Do not worry, help is at hand. Mr.Daniel Janal has written an excellent book titled 'Write your book in a flash' which explains the process of writing a book in a structured manner. In about 135 pages, the book is the one stop shop for anyone wishing to write a non-fiction book. Mr.Janal is an award winning journalist who has authored over a dozen books to help businesses build their brands.

The 21 chapters of the book is divided into four logical sections. The book provides the wannabe author with the tips, tools and exercises that will help them finish their book. It makes a bold promise that everything that one need to write her book is in this book. 

Section one, titled 'Overcoming the blank canvas syndrome' deals with initiating the book writing process. The author attempts to simplify the book writing process like children's game of 'Paint by Numbers'. In that game, pictures are divided into numbered blocks, with each number representing a colour. The child has just to fill each numbered block of the raw picture with the respective colour and the coloured picture is ready. The author provides step wise checklist to help you write your book.

Before you start writing a book you must know why you want to write a book. The author provides some externally focused reasons like to become famous, to spread influence etc. I think these are all extrinsic goals and will not help you write a book. Your reasons should be internal like ‘I can’t live without writing this book’ as Steven Pressfield says in his book Do the work.

Next step is to identify the kind of book you want to write. There are five kinds of books that progressively becomes complex to execute. It could be as simple as a book or tweets or as complex as a book of original ideas. As you go up the complexity level, the books will position you progressively higher states of thought leadership. The five kinds are shown in the diagram below.

Once you identify the kind of book that you want to write, there are 10 steps, to be followed in sequence, to write a book. These are, 

The first step is to decide the overall theme of the book. This is done by writing a 400 word executive summary on what the book is about. The summary should cover the critical point presented in the book, why you are suited to be the writer of the book and what is the benefit the reader of the book is expected to receive after reading the book. 

Next step is to create a working title of the book. A title should inspire the writer and instill curiosity in the reader. The book gives you many pointers to come up with the best title with a number of examples.

Now that theme and title of the book is ready, it is important to have a positioning statement for the book. A positioning statement consist of two lines. First line will tell the name of the book, the category and the objective. The second line will tell how it will benefit the reader.

Even after one is clear of what to write and how to go forward, there is another monster that the writer has to slay. It is the set of limiting beliefs. Even experienced authors go through these limiting beliefs. ‘No one will want to read my book’, ‘I don’t think this is good’, ‘I don’t know how to write’ etc are some of the limiting beliefs that a writer has to overcome. The book provides tips and guidelines to get over these beliefs. 

Having reached this far, the heavy lifting begins. You have to write the titles of all the ten chapters of the book. There are many suggestions and examples of how one should go about this. Each chapter should build on the previous one and expound the theme discussed in the executive summary. As you can see, you are gradually building your book, like you are constructing a building. 

First chapter of the book is very important. It should inform the reader of the challenges that you anticipate that made you interested in writing this book. It should also tell them why you are the best person to write this book and how it stands out from its competitors. At the end of this process, one should come out with a detailed outline to the chapter.

The next step is to outline chapters two to nine. These form the body of the book and progressively expound the theme mentioned in the executive summary. The outline should go as deep as possible and should be illustrated with stories and other embellishments where possible. Try to make the outline as detailed as possible.

The final chapter should do three things. One, summarize the key points in the book. Two, explain the benefits to the reader of following the suggestions given in the book. Three, explain how you are the best person to help the readers handle the potential challenges that they may be facing. Also ensure to include your contact details. Author suggests not to include your personal address. 

The next steps are to design the front and back covers of the book. Pay special attention to each element of these pages and ensure that they are suited to your requirements. The book provides the different elements that are mandatory to be available in these pages.

As you prepare the outline of each chapter, you will find that there are gaps in some parts of the story. Once you have outlined the chapters of the book, you have to do the research to fill the gaps. The book provides different sources and approaches that you can use to do the research.

The importance of writing the first draft cannot be stressed enough. People have a tendency to write and edit the first draft. It is a mistake. Just keep writing till you complete the first draft. It is going to be sub-optimal anyway and you will have to put in significant additional effort to refine it to a readable standard. So just dump all your points in the first draft and get it done ASAP.

Now that you have the first draft, you begin section three where you edit, refine and beautify your book. There are different types of editing and technology provides various ways in which you can review your work. Author says that ‘Text to Speech’ feature is a great way for you to listen and feel the book. I must try it for my book. 

There are also some great formatting techniques mentioned in the book. Author says to keep paragraphs short and simple. I don’t agree. For example, almost all paragraphs in this book are short and simple, each having maximum of two sentences. I found it cumbersome to read and found myself jumping to the next line as I was reading the previous line. In my opinion, a book should contain an optimum mix of small (one or two lines) and medium (more than 6 lines) paragraphs. That make the book more readable. This is second area where I disagree with the writer.   

You can also send the book for review. There are different types of reviews. Peer Review can be done by a friend, beta review can be done by a professional reviewer etc. Whatever be the review that you seek, ensure to formally seek the review and give a timeline within which to complete the review. Once the comments are back, you peruse them and decide whether to accept them or not.

That is it. Your book is done. Now pack and ship it to the publisher. Congratulations.

There are many great things about this book. One is the relevant examples given to illustrate each point. In addition there are links to many relevant additional material referred when discussing any point. The book also teaches how to do research for additional information, how to use various tools like Evernote, Scrivener etc and how to smartly edit your working. The various tips on editing were eye openers. For example, just by removing words like ‘That’, ‘which’ and ‘the’, you can make your document taut without losing any meaning. Use of different additional material like info-graphics, cartoons, bullet points etc will add a significant value to the book. 

While reading this book, I also realized that I have at least five book ideas with completed materials that I just needed to execute. I have written about 7000 tweets so far so a book of tweets is one such book. I can also write multiple books by collating my various blog posts. When I had thought about it initially, even before reading this book, I wondered if it was a practical idea. But after reading it, I found many references of people who have already accomplished that. 

Somewhere in the book it says, what you always wanted to do, someone has already done. So true.

The book also teaches some practical aspects like effectively using websites like Google and Amazon to do your research. Despite being a techie, I found the insights provided in the book are things that I never knew about. 

This is a great book and is a mandatory presence in every writer's library. Thank you Maria Inot of TCK Publishing for sharing this with me. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to read this book.

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