I just put the finishing touches on my first personal finance/investing book. I’m sure I’ll read it another three or four times and make even more changes, but it’ll officially be available, via Amazon, in the next few weeks.
The book is called Above Average Finance: Investment Strategies to Put You Ahead of the Rest.
When I first started this blog in October 2014, I never intended to write a book. I thought I would write a few posts here and there, using Personal Finance Genius as my own personal platform. Well, it’s over a year later and this site is still chugging along, with a nice group of dedicated readers and a pretty solid base of content. I want to say thank you to everyone who supports the site and shares the content. I truly appreciate you and my dedication to writing comes from you.
Although I never imagined I would be putting out a book, I am, and I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way. Here are some tips on how to write a book that will give you a peek into an author’s mind and help anyone who might want to write their own book.
I wanted to call the book Above Average Finance from Day 1. It was just a title that stuck in my mind and really resonated with me. I took my inspiration from the fact that people tend to conform to society’s behaviors. As I talk about in the book, conformity isn’t just limited to spending money and not having a budget – it impacts your health, your career, and your relationships as well. You have to strive to be above average, and I want the book to serve as your inspiration to become a better person.
Because the title stuck in my head, I thought I had to start covering finance topics. I got out a legal pad and wrote a big “personal finance” in the middle. I proceeded to mind map all the topics I could think of that were related to personal finance, so I could cover them in the book. I wrote down:
- Saving money
- Getting out of debt
- Credit cards
- Goal setting and planning
- Major life events
- Real estate
- Growing your income
- Stock market investing
- Retirement plans
Needless to say, I got overwhelmed pretty quickly. There’s no way I could go into depth with each of these topics without cranking out a multi-thousand page book. Instead, I decided to add Investment Strategies to Put You Ahead of the Rest and focus more on investing and the stock market.
One chapter of the book is called, “General Finance Talk”, and it gives a very brief overview of getting out of debt, handling your credit cards, saving money, etc. but the rest of the book is geared more towards retirement planning (which I call “hitting your number”) and stock market investing. I wanted to make this one of the best personal finance and investing books for beginners.
2. I couldn’t bore my readers to death.
Let’s be honest – a book about nothing but retirement planning and stock market investing can get boring, fast. I wrote this book in an easy-to-read fashion because I want it to do well; I want people to enjoy the book, understand what I’m talking about, and pass it on to their friends. I have a feeling that this book would be a great graduation gift – I wish personal finance was taught in school!
I inject my own style into every chapter and I pull no punches. I said things about college and retirement planning that will shock a lot of people. I tried my best to make the book a fun read while still discussing mutual funds and individual stock picking.
What makes the book different is that I have sections dedicated to the psychology of investing and the traits of successful investors. Rather than rote fundamentals or hardcore stock analysis, I think it’s important for the average person (no pun intended) to understand the emotionality behind the markets and why people make such irrational decisions with their hard-earned money. I’m actually a psychology major, so I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior behind market movements.
Writing a book involves a lot of moving parts. I had stacks of papers, a vision board, mind maps, and sticky notes all over my desk with ideas, quotes, and topics for the book. Every day new inspiration would strike and I’d scribble down a few sentences I wanted to add. Eventually, I had a big mess.
I confess in the beginning of the book that I ramble on at some parts, but I have good intentions. If you read the book from front to back, I promise you that a lot of pieces will come together and you’ll be a more informed investor.
The fifth chapter became the fourth chapter, and paragraphs were switched around so much I don’t even remember their original order. The book went through the proofreading/editing process several times and looks nothing like the first draft. Everything is in order now (until I make last minute changes) and it’s extremely gratifying to know that I have a finished project.
Throughout the entire process, I became more familiar with home and office organization tips and tricks, which allowed me to get more done. I started by purging my desk, getting rid of everything I didn’t need or want. Then, I put all my equipment (legal pads, pens, sticky notes, etc.) in close proximity to my work space. As soon as I was finished writing for the day, I would put them away – out of sight, out of mind! A clear desk is a happy desk; the only items that should be on your desk are the ones essential for daily use. One of the coolest office organization solutions I’ve found is this organizer caddy. You can easily store all your pens, staples, paper clips, notes, markers, etc. and clear them away with ease. For $10, it’s a steal.
4. I had to get started.
Now that I have the book under my belt, one of the most common questions I get is, “How do I get started writing a book?”
The answer is probably different for everyone, but what worked for me was starting small. Sure, I had been contributing to this blog (and a few others) for awhile, but a book is different. I remember reading that John Grisham would wake up every morning and write one page. I did the same thing, but with a word count. I wouldn’t let myself go to bed at night without writing at least 500 words, whether it be in sketch/rough draft form or in the actual book.
Another thing that helped me was the Pomodoro Technique. I would use a timer app or Google Chrome extension and shut off all distractions for 25 minutes. At the end of my session, I would have a quick five-minute break and then get back to work for another 25 minutes. Pomodoro Technique research has demonstrated that it helps to manage procrastination and increase task focus. The science behind the Pomodoro Technique is that uses a short work and reward cycle, theoretically increasing your incentives and reinforcement to keep working. Short work also decreases your internal resistance to getting started, making you more effective. It definitely worked for me, so give it a try.
5. I had to keep going.
The first mind map was realities check that, unless I wanted to pen a War and Peace type book, I would have to narrow my focus. Still, I had to start writing. The book ended up being between 165 and 210 pages, depending on how it will be formatted, and I thought that writing around 200 pages would be a breeze. Wrong! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get writer’s block – several times.
According to Wikipedia, writer’s block is “a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown. The condition ranges in difficulty from coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years.”
Thankfully my writers block didn’t last for years! I finished the book in a few months, but I had severe writer’s block along the way. I always knew how I wanted the general outline to be, but the specifics were a struggle for me. I learned that this was a fairly common problem; authors will have an outline but find it difficult to get through any one part of it. In fiction, they might have two cool moments but can’t figure out how to link them together. For me, it was more utilitarian. I wanted to boil down the information in such a way where it would help the most people in the best way.
Another big cause of writer’s block is perfectionism. A lot of writers want everything to be absolutely perfect before they publish their work. Sometimes they even want their outlines to be perfect, paralyzing them before they ever pick up a pen or touch a keyboard. If you’ve read even one post from me, you’ll know that I’m not a perfectionist – I make tons of mistakes, and I’m okay with that. I knew from the get-go that it would be hard and that I would mess up. Yet, I kept hearing Seth Godin’s voice screaming, “Just ship it!”
You can overcome writer’s block and cure it fast by changing your environment. Sometimes you just need to take a break. If you take a walk, get some coffee, or get your blood flowing, ideas will come rushing back to your brain. Some writers have told me that listening to music, like jazz, helps to overcome writer’s block. I never put on any Miles Davis while writing my book, but I found that some type of movement was critical for me to overcome writer’s block and cure it fast. You could just be a tough guy and keep writing, brutally persevering through any paralyzing fears and doubts you might have. Or you could throw on “Blue in Green” or “A Night in Tunisia” and jazzercise.
I’m so thankful to have written this book and I look forward to sharing it with the world. If you have any questions about the book-writing process or the book itself, let me know in the comments! I plan on answering everyone.