10 Authors on Easily Going from Blank Page to Final Draft [PART 2 OF 3]

Of all the aspiring non-fiction authors I speak to, the overwhelming struggle is not the publishing process or the marketing. It’s the writing. It’s going from saying, “I want to write a book,” to having a finished, polished manuscript in their hands. One of the beauties of the self-publishing industry is the accessibility, but in […]

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Of all the aspiring non-fiction authors I speak to, the overwhelming struggle is not the publishing process or the marketing.

It’s the writing.

It’s going from saying, “I want to write a book,” to having a finished, polished manuscript in their hands.

One of the beauties of the self-publishing industry is the accessibility, but in order to take advantage of that, aspiring authors must, ya know, actually finish writing their books.

I recently had the pleasure to speak to dozens of non-fiction authors on the mindsets and strategies they used to take their books from blank page to final draft, and the advice they shared is sure to make the process of writing your first book easier.

It was hard to turn down the expertise and stories shared by these authors, so this feature will be split into a series of three articles, as not to overwhelm you with close to thirty video interviews in one swing. This is part two of three, and you can watch the first ten interviews here!

Without further ado, let’s kick off Part 2 by learning from Steven Howard.

Steven Howard, 21X Author

Steven Howard is a leadership development facilitator, speaker, and 21-time author. In this interview, he discusses how you should:

  • Start your outline with your four major messages. Under those will be four supporting messages for each so you end up with sixteen ideas (which will turn into chapters). This is the way to focus on and reinforce your key messages.
  • Adjust your deadlines if you can to give yourself more time to edit your work. Don’t rush it. 
  • Hold off on editing until your draft is done. Prioritize getting everything on paper or on the computer. Your first job is to write, and then your next job is to edit or hire an editor.
  • Don’t show your first draft to people until it is truly finished. You can bounce ideas off of other people, but the only person who should be reading the first draft is your editor.

You can connect with Steven on his website or on LinkedIn.

Sheena Yap Chan, Author of Asian Women Who Boss Up

Sheena Yap Chan is a keynote speaker, coach, podcaster, consultant, and author on building self-confidence. In this interview, she discusses how you should:

  • Not be afraid to ask for help. It’s only when you have the right resources that you can produce a book. Find someone who already knows how to work through the process and learn from them.
  • Use transcribing tools to get your ideas onto paper if you’re not a confident writer.

You can connect with Sheena on her website or on Instagram.

Heather Sallee, Co-Author of Make Your Non-Profit Social

Heather Sallee is a content creator, graphic designer, co-author, and the CEO of Sales Boxer. In this interview, she discusses how you should:

  • Stick to deadlines. Set a time to work on your book and stick to it. If you encounter a block, step away and do something else. 
  • In co-writing, divide the entire work and do the parts that cover your areas of expertise. Comment on each other’s work. Having someone else also work on the same thing makes the process faster. 
  • Read your manuscript backwards to double-check it. That way you won’t be able to immediately anticipate the next thing that’s coming up. 
  • Start writing wherever you are comfortable or confident at that moment. You don’t have to write the chapters in order. Enjoy the process of writing.   

You can connect with Heather on her website or on Instagram.

David Schein, Author of The Decline of America

Dr. David Schein is a public speaker, professor, and business consultant. In this interview, he discusses how you should:

  • Create an outline before you start researching. You can begin with a concept that you convert to an outline. You will not be able to produce a substantial number of pages and your work will not have credibility and much readership without a lot of research.
  • Keep copies of your research (e.g. Tweets, blog posts) just in case the hyperlinks don’t work later. That way you still have proof that you didn’t make up the resource.
  • Use research appropriate for the time period you’re writing about. When writing about something that is current and can’t be found in history books yet, you will have to rely on newspaper reports, internet articles, social media, and the like. 
  • Take advantage of university databases if you have access to them. You may enlist people to do the research for you, but only use the resources when you’ve read them yourself.
  • Find a different spin if you’re writing about a topic that’s been talked about a lot already. Figure out where your book is going to fit into the existing collection. 

You can connect with David on his website or on LinkedIn.

Kelley Kitley, Author of MY Self

Kelley Kitley is a licensed clinical social worker, international women’s mental health expert, speaker, and author. In this interview, she discusses how you should:

  • Recognize that writing is a process and a journey. Don’t lose hope even when you are not feeling exceptionally motivated or inspired. Know that you’re always going to have setbacks. Be gentle with yourself.
  • Remember what inspired you to write in the first place and believe that there will be someone who will read your book. 
  • Never take criticism personally. People give you feedback to help you make your book that much greater.

You can connect with Kelley on her website or on Instagram.

Jodi Brandstetter, Author of Hire by Design

Jodi Brandstetter is a recruiter and the founder and chief talent strategist at LETS. In this interview, she discusses how you should:

  • Take time to create your reader persona, figure out your voice, and brainstorm topics and themes. Build an outline before starting to write, and research ahead of time. This way, when you’re writing, you are not looking for information at the same time.  
  • Avoid going back to chapters you’ve already written before the first draft is done. Even when you end up writing the chapters in order, there will be moments that more ideas for the previous chapters will pop up. Write these ideas down in a journal instead of going back to the chapters.
  • Reach out to your network. They will be ready to support you. Be motivated by people’s feedback about your work. 
  • Find your happy place when you write and enjoy your time writing.

You can connect with Jodi on her website or on Twitter.

Edward Akinyemi, Author of You Say Soccer, I Say Football and Community Heroes

Edward Akinyemi is an author, podcast host, non-profit professional, and freelance writer. In this interview, he discusses how you should:

  • Think about what you want the readers to emotionally remember, and then write that message in the simplest way possible. 
  • Write a little chunk of the book at a time.
  • For ideas that don’t necessarily fit in the book, put them somewhere else. Don’t just throw the ideas away. If you run a blog, you can use those ideas as blog posts and create buzz around your new book.

You can connect with Edward on his website or on LinkedIn.

Tracey Watts Cirino, Author of Beyond Common

Tracey Watts Cirino is an entrepreneur, writer, thought leader, and unshakable optimist. In this interview, she discusses how you should:

  • Start writing even if you know it will not be as good as you expect it to be. Just keep writing with the intention of helping people.  
  • Remember why you’re writing your book in the first place, and use that “why” to overcome criticism, doubt, and imposter syndrome. Don’t let yourself become the very obstacle that’s preventing your writing from getting done!
  • Set up your writing routine and stick to it.

You can connect with Tracey on her website or on Instagram.

Dawn James, Author of Unveiled

Dawn James is the managing director of Publish and Promote and the host of The Right Place to Write Costa Rica Writers’ Retreat. In this interview, she discusses how you should:

  • Find a team who can help edit and launch the book. Look into your circles of people who may have used a writing coach before. If you don’t have the skillset of a writer, it’s really good to have someone who can coach and support you to get there. 
  • Know who you will be writing the book for. Find your voice and make sure that you tell the story in a way that the reader will remember it. 
  • Focus on the rhythm and stick to your writing routine instead of having hard deadlines. 
  • Keep your body erect and make sure you’ve got good lighting when you’re writing. If you are too relaxed, no work will ever get done. 
  • Organize and go through your book chapters to come up with a 6- or 7-sentence summary for each. Define what you are talking about and why you are talking about it.

You can connect with Dawn on her website, at her retreat, or on Facebook.

Neil Morton, Author of What If You Could?

Neil Morton is a social media, marketing, and brand expert. In this interview, he discusses how you should:

  • Be disciplined to write at a certain time every day, and don’t worry about what you are writing. Once done, go back to your draft later and edit it along with the editor that you hired. Find the right crew who will guide you through the process of writing and shaping the book.
  • Build and use your connections before writing the book. These resources will be key in coming up with a beautifully designed book.
  • If you are co-writing a book, write the parts that you are an expert in.

You can connect with Neil on his website or on Twitter.


I’m of the belief that writing a book is one of the hardest yet most rewarding things you’ll ever do, especially if you’re the type of author that pours their heart, soul, failures, and successes into their book. If you’re looking for more structure, guidance, and accountability while writing your non-fiction book, check out my Book Writing Blueprint.

For less than the cost of dinner and a movie, you’ll have access to my best writing tips, step-by-step outlines and workbooks, and the opportunity to get your writing personally reviewed by me each and every month. Can’t wait to see you inside!

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