Because most people struggle to write one book, I am often asked how I managed to complete and publish 17 books on a diverse variety of subjects. The simple answer in three short words is: sheer hard work. But for those who are interested in knowing more about my specific strategies in achieving this accomplishment, here is a detailed history of my writing career.
THE “I REALLY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING” YEARS
1993-2002 (ages 18-27)
BOOK 1: UNTIL I FALL AGAIN
From an early age I knew I loved to write but it wasn’t until college that I first dared to take on the scary task of writing a book. Back then I had an Apple Computer and I’m pretty sure the monitor weighed around fifty kilos. I started this book with no vision, no concrete ideas and no direction hence the reason it took forever to complete. In the early years, even I had to admit, I had no idea what I was doing and there was a good chance this book would never be an instant bestseller.
Still I managed to complete around 100,000 words and every year I would enter this book into Australian Vogel’s Literary Competition (a competition open to Australian writers aged 35 years, with a grand price of $20000). Secretly I held onto the thin veil of hope that I would win. Maybe this year my book would be the best entry? Maybe it would finally catch the publisher’s eye? Did it ever win during the ten years that I sent it in? Nope, of course it didn’t.
In the end UNTIL THE FALL AGAIN sat in my vault of unpublished works until it was eventually published in late 2016, after 23 years of revisions and rewrites. By then I had written hundreds of thousands of words and I knew exactly what needed to come out and what needed to go in. It felt so strange releasing it into the wild, after I had nurtured this book for so long. It was my firstborn, my much-loved and much-treasured secret baby and to be honest, I almost didn’t want to share it with the world. A part of me wanted to keep it just mine forever, because it felt so personal, raw and real. Then one day this feeling of desperate attachment mysteriously disappeared and I knew it was time to let it go…so I did.
THE CHICK-LIT YEARS
2003-2004 (ages 28-29)
BOOK 2: MANSNATCHERS
BOOK 3: JUST A LITTLE BREAK
BOOK 4: BEFORE I DIE
After taking ABSOLUTELY FOREVER to get my first book written (see above: ten years!), I knew that I needed to do something drastically different with my next book so I came up with a fantastic plan. My goal was to complete a chick-lit fiction book of 100,000 words so I worked out that if I wrote 1,000 words a day every weekday (with view to having the weekends off) I could complete 5,000 words a week and 20,000 words every month. The grand plan was to complete a final draft of 100,000 words within five months and then revise the book by the end of the sixth month.
So I set to work and stuck to my plan. Because I made a solemn vow to absolutely NEVER, EVER go to bed without first completing my 1000 words, no matter how crazy my work day was (back then I was still working at an advertising agency and also running a life coaching business before and after my work hours). I would do whatever I could to make this happen, whether it meant staying up late, waking up early or scribbling down notes during the day.
During this writing phase, I discovered that by writing every day like clockwork, I could tap into some weird inner reservoir of material. After a while, the words started to flow out of me with little effort or pain. I would often start the day having no idea what I was going to write next but the moment I sat down by the computer the ideas would just pour out of me.
I worked like a machine for five straight months, rain, hail or shine and I relished every weekend and especially the months that had 31 days in it because I knew it meant I could have a little break before I went on to complete the next 20,000 words the following month.
After five months I would finally wrap each book up at around 100,000 words (sometimes more and sometimes less, depending on my own good judgement) and during the sixth month I would go back and revise everything. I did this three times in 18 months and completed PRETTY MANSNATCHERS, JUST A LITTLE BREAK and BEFORE I DIE during this time.
I should point out that these books were not published until 2012 so all three underwent multiple revisions in the following 8 years in order to get them just right.
THE COACHING YEAR
2004 (Age: 29)
BOOK 5: CREATE A LIFE YOU LOVE
This book was written more out of need than anything else. At the time I was running a successful life coaching business and wanted to devise a tool that would help my more confused clients work out what it was that they wanted to achieve in life. I wrote a series of 75 exercises with detailed advice and the aim of helping any client clarify their passion, purpose and plan (surprise, surprise, the book was originally called THE PASSION PURPOSE PLAN).
Back in those days there was no such thing as eBooks so the book was sold as a PDF file on a CD ROM for $150, in conjunction with a life coaching session. And what started off as a life coaching tool became a 185 page book that could be used to help anyone wanting to take action and clarify their dreams. CREATE A LIFE YOU LOVE took approximately six months to write, after I completed my third and final chick-lit fiction book.
THE BABY BRAIN YEARS
2007-2009 (Ages: 32-34)
BOOK 6: ENCHANTED ISLAND
BOOK 7: CROATIAN PRINCESS
I have always secretly loved books aimed at middle-school readers (my two favorite books are THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho and WONDER by R.J Palacio) so it was no surprise to me that I eventually wanted to give this genre a go. Perhaps you picked up on the fact that I had a tiny hiatus from writing after completing my first four books (if you could call three years tiny). During that time I gave birth to two children and was immersed in the life of being a mommy with babies and toddlers. Writing was the FURTHEST thing from my mind… at that point I was just praying for a night of unbroken sleep. As Maslow said, primary needs and survival needs come first!
Then one day I got this fabulous idea which planted itself inside my brain and wouldn’t move out and that is how my book ENCHANTED ISLAND was born. Around the same time I was regularly visiting my cousin, who had a baby the same age as my young son and one day I casually showed her the first chapter I had printed out. Instantly she was hooked – in fact she was more in love with the idea than I initially was but she saw its beauty and every week she would demand to read the next installment. And that is how I was forced back into the world of writing. The book ended up quite long (around 95,000 words) so it took me many years to complete but somehow I did it, while trying to keep my sanity as a mom.
During this period I also scored a casual position as a special features writer for the Australian Croatian Herald. I would write one article a week, after the kids had gone to bed and these articles were later compiled to become my sixth book CROATIAN PRINCESS.
THE LOST YEARS
2010-2014 (Ages: 35-39)
BOOK 8: WHAT TO DO WHEN HE’S A KEEPER (But You Feel Like Throwing Him Away)
I call these the lost years because I sort of forgot I was even a writer by then. Sure I had written a few books but they sat ignored in some dark corner, without any attention or care. My days were filled with kid stuff and mother’s groups and it was during the latter that I got my next great idea. During our regular coffee dates, I would often listen to women whine and moan about their husbands. Okay let’s be honest – I too joined in. The ironic thing was everyone’s partner was in fact great – as far as I could tell they were all honest, respectful and hardworking men, what we all deemed to be “a “keeper.”
Still the ladies complained about how their husbands would drop their wet towels on the bedroom floor, never get up when their baby cried in the middle of the night and only took out the rubbish when they were specifically asked to. The idea of writing a relationship book seemed fitting at the time, especially when I knew my own partner was a keeper but there were days when I felt like throwing him off the edge of a cliff. Only some days I should note.
WHAT TO DO WHEN HE’S A KEEPER (But You Feel Like Throwing Him Away) took way too long to write because by now I had officially become a procrastinator, lost in a sea of school activities and other obligations. I wanted to write but I didn’t make it a priority and because I didn’t make it a priority it rarely happened.
I started keeping a writing journal around this time, just to track my progress, and seriously you wouldn’t believe the sort of excuses I came up with to explain why I wasn’t writing. In a nutshell I was WAY TOO BUSY doing other “more important stuff” every day, but of course none of these things were aligned with my greater dream or desire to be a writer.
THE “OKAY LET’S GET SERIOUS, I’M STARTING TO GET OLD” YEARS
2015 (Age: 40)
BOOK 9: THEY SAY I’M SPECIAL – 100 Tips for Raising A Happy and Resilient Child With Special Needs
When I was young I dreamed I would become a famous writer by the time I was 30. In fact I even promised my husband I would buy him a Harley Davidson with my massive earnings, if he behaved himself. I’m not joking – I really, really believed this would happen. But then my 30th birthday passed me by without any fanfare or impressive book contract and I started to doubt myself. Maybe, just maybe, I would never receive any recognition for my work one day. The fear of both failure and success started to engulf me until I realized it didn’t matter either way.
The truth was I wasn’t writing for the money, I was writing because it was something in me that I loved and needed to do. Being a writer is honestly both a curse and a blessing. It isn’t like some fancy dress you can just strip off and throw away forever when you are bored with wearing it. Instead this gift of mine is like a second skin, stuck to me, an integral part of my identity. The truth is I am addicted to the power and elegance of a word so I could never neglect it no matter how much I vowed to ditch its hold on me.
I was turning 40 that year and it was time to do what I felt like I was destined to do my whole life. What was I waiting for and seriously how hard could it be? To write all I needed to do was pick up a pen and paper. I wrote my next book THEY SAY I’M SPECIAL because my son was diagnosed with a degenerative neuro-muscular disease at age 3 and being a mom of a special needs child presented me with a unique set of challenges that I needed advice on. When I discovered that no such book existed I decided to write it myself. This book of 50,000 words took 9 months to write.
THE “WONDER WOMAN (AKA I’M STARTING TO REALLY PANIC NOW)” YEARS
2016 (Age: 41)
Before I list the eight books I wrote during 2016, I thought I should preface this section with an explanation. In late 2015 and again in 2016 I attended an Anthony Robbins-type seminar with my friends which scared me into action and gave me the big, bad reality check I needed. “What do I want most in life?” the speakers would often ask the guests during their lectures. To be a successful writer, was my obvious response. And then the light-bulb went off. To be a writer, all I needed to do was write.
For some reason my greatest fear has always been not writing the books that I have dwelling inside of me. That year I made sure to make every moment count. I prioritized my time so that my writing came first and all leisure activities came second. Even though I still worked three days a week, I woke up every morning at 5 am to write for two hours before the children got up and after they went to bed at 9 pm I stayed up to work another two hours.
By this stage I was working as a marketing manager for three years, which involved a lot of writing for blogs and PR pieces. So I had the skills to write quickly and effectively. I knew how to research topics well and more importantly I knew what I wanted to achieve with each book. Writing non-fiction books became my passion and I worked towards completing books of approximately 20,000-30,000 words. Given that I was capable of writing around 2,000 words a day, you can see how the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t too far away with each book.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
BOOK 10: THE SMART KIDS GUIDE TO EVERYTHING
Started: October 2015
Published: April 6th 2016
BOOK 11: HAPPY THOUGHTS: 200 Inspiring Quotes Explained for Kids and Teens
Started: May 3rd 2016
Published: June 5th 2016
BOOK 12: INSPIRING TEENS: A Guide to Living Life Without Regret
Started: June 15th 2016
Published: July 7th 2016
BOOK 13: LIFE IS AN EXPERIMENT: 100 Experiments To Change Your Life
Started: July 12th 2016
Published: August 15th 2016
BOOK 14: LIGHT-BULB MOMENTS: 50 Aha! Insights That Will Transform Your Life
Started: August 18th 2016
Published: September 21st 2016
BOOK 15: LIFE SKILLS: 100 Things Every Kid Needs to Know Before Leaving Home
Started: October 1st 2016
Published: October 31st 2016
BOOK 16: LIFE HACKS: 1001 Clever Ideas to Save You Time, Money and Stress
Started: November 4th 2016
Published: November 23rd 2016
BOOK 17: SAVINGS HACKS: 505 Simple Ways To Keep More Money in Your Pocket
Started: November 29th 2016
Published: December 25th 2016
I have to admit – I never planned to write eight books last year. I look at the hard copies now and am still in awe of this achievement. I pushed myself to the ultimate limit where I lived and breathed writing, where I constantly set lofty goals and managed to achieve each one. I honestly don’t know how I survived that manic, crazy, sleepless period of my life. There were days when my head felt ready to explode and other days when writing felt like getting blood from a stone. I still had a life outside of writing too – I worked, traveled, spent time with family and friends and my son had major hospital stay that had him out of school for five weeks.
If you ask me now, if I could replicate this accomplishment again, I would say: absolutely not! I can’t even begin to describe the courage, effort, commitment and sheer hard work it took to work at full speed for one entire year. I felt as if I was almost possessed by a relentless writing demon that refused to let me sleep until my work was done. And I don’t expect anyone to even want to try to duplicate this result. The purpose of sharing this information is simply to share that writing books is doable. It isn’t achieved by wishful thinking but by putting pen to paper, day after day, until the job is done.
AMENDED TO ADD:
(Yes I know, I said I wouldn’t write another book just yet but I did!)
Book 18: DO SOMETHING! The No-BS Guide For Anyone Who Needs To Stop Wasting Their Time Today
Started: Early March 2017
Published: Late March 2017