Tag Archives: writing

Writing Your First Book: Lessons From The Lean Startup

Guest Post by Jacqueline Jensen, author of Travel Isn’t the Answer: Live With a Sense of Curiosity, Passion, and Awe Anywhere and Everywhere.

*This post originally appeared on DeirdreBreakenridge.com 

“What is the hardest part about writing a book?”

As I’ve read interviews and talked to writers, their answers range from challenges landing a publishing deal and feeling overwhelmed as a slow writer, to fears around vulnerability and the struggle to shed self-doubt. Will people read the book? Will my ideas resonate with anyone?

Most writers I have come across tell me writing a book is both extremely rewarding and at the same time one of the biggest challenges they have ever taken on.

When I decided to write my first book, I came across an ideation framework that made perfect sense to me as a former venture-backed startup founder. Even better, many of challenges I heard from experienced authors seemed to be helped along with a new approach, too.

The idea is simple, but powerful: Test your idea for a book before investing too much of your time actually writing the book.

In the startup world, we call this The Lean Startup methodology. Tech entrepreneurs around the globe have followed principles introduced by Eric Ries, an entrepreneur and author of the New York Times bestseller The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Business.

Rather than create a product – or write a book – in isolation, Ries says that by getting ideas out into the world as quickly as possible, we rapidly see what works and can discard what doesn’t without too much invested effort.

While it may make sense to some of us to start with an idea for something we think people may want and then spend time building it, there’s a better way. What if we publicly shared the idea in its most basic form to hear what people think? What if we chose to create smarter, not work harder?

This rudimentary form of an idea is called an MVP. In the tech world, a “minimum viable product” is a version of a new product that is used to collect the maximum amount of validated learning with the least effort. In this new world of writing my first book, my book’s MVP would take the form of a 30-day pre-order campaign to gather feedback about the idea.

I connected with the team at Publishizer to get started on creating the campaign. We explored how we could move fast and embrace the idea of failing quickly, which for someone new to publishing like me felt both a little scary and incredibly bold.

“We are a NYC-based startup and crowdfunding platform that has helped hundreds of authors get published,” said Lee Constantine, Head of Growth at Publishizer. “Authors have used Publishizer to earn over $1 million in funds. Our goal is to enable exciting new book ideas and help authors land an advance-paying publisher. We launched in 2014 and graduated from 500 Startups Batch 13 in Mountain View, CA. We pride ourselves on working with world-class thought leaders, speakers, coaches, investors, and people doing interesting things.”

Within weeks, I had a Publishizer campaign page ready for the pre-order launch on September 15, 2017. I filmed a video explaining a bit more about the book idea, worked with a designer to create a book cover, and conducted research on the potential market. I even asked a creative I admire to partner with me. Carl Richards, New York Times Sketch Guy columnist, agreed to write the foreword and produce original sketches for the book!

During this process, I have felt the same fears, doubts, and challenges as the experienced authors I look up to. I realized my initial urge to plan every step before unveiling a finished book was because I was stepping into the unknown. I wanted to avoid failure. However, the secret key to creating something awesome is to get the feedback necessary early on to make it great!

During the creation of the campaign, I reminded myself over and over that the goal wasn’t to create a final product. My focus was to share budding ideas, create a space for feedback, stretch my assumptions, and show up with a learner’s eye. Bringing the “experimentation-first” mindset I cultivated at tech startups has been just what I needed jump start momentum in this new adventure.

How have you tackled new creative projects? What have you learned by sharing ideas before they are fully baked? I’d love to hear from you!

Jacqueline Jensen
Jacqueline Jensen is a digital nomad, former venture-backed startup founder, speaker, and recognized community builder. Jacqueline’s next ambitious project ispublishing her first book. Watch her TEDx talk “Playing nicely with fellow entrepreneurs pays off.” Jacqueline’s interests include travel, yoga, entrepreneurism, startups, and learning to code. You can connect with her at@JackieMJensen or on LinkedIn.



Featured Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash


BOOK REVIEW: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

The instant #1 NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller

Named a Hot Fall Read by USA Today, Vanity Fair, Newsday, O Magazine, the Seattle Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Mashable, Pop Sugar, and the San Antonio Express-News

Named a Best Book of the Year by Brainpickings and Book Riot

“A must read for anyone hoping to live a creative life… I dare you not to be inspired to be brave, to be free, and to be curious.” —PopSugar

From the worldwide bestselling author of Eat Pray Love: the path to the vibrant, fulfilling life you’ve dreamed of.

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

MY REVIEW:I have participated three times in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where people set out to write a novel (or at least 50,000 words of one) within the thirty days of November. I successfully completed the challenge two of those years (last year I was close, but lost steam when I went on vacation the third week of the month).

Every year I do it, I think my writing is a little bit better than the year before — the characters are a little more developed, the story is more plotted out.  Also, every year I participate I ask myself a million times WHY am I doing this?  I have never considered myself a writer, but I have found that for some reason I enjoy the process of trying to write a book. There’s something within me that wants to do it even when everyone around me thinks I’m crazy. I would be horrified if anyone actually read the stories that I wrote during NaNoWriMo, but I keep thinking I might re-write them and maybe some day they’ll be presentable.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic was just the inspirational push I needed.  It has inspired me to finish (at least) one of the books I have already started. It also encouraged me to participate in NaNoWriMo again, despite the fact that I tell myself every year in December I will never do it again.  And it even motivated me to make writing more of a priority in my life, not just during NaNoWriMo. Why?  Because it is something I enjoy.  Will I ever publish anything I write? Maybe. Will it make me rich someday?  Probably not. But that is not why I do it.

If you are an artist in any sense of the word, this book is a must read. It isn’t just for writers; it is for anyone who enjoys creating something.  What is your art?  Is it painting, knitting, cooking?  Whatever it may be, Big Magic will inspire you to take a look inside yourself, to listen to your passion and to live a more creative life.

BOOK REVIEW: Writing Your Novel from Start to Finish by Joseph Bates


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Equip yourself for the novel-writing journey!

Starting a novel is exciting, but finishing it–that’s the real challenge. The journey from beginning to end is rife with forks in the road and dead ends that lead many writers off course. With Writing Your Novel from Start to Finish: A Guidebook for the Journey, you’ll navigate the intricacies of crafting a complex work of fiction and complete the journey with confidence and precision.

To maximize your creativity and forward momentum, each chapter offers:

  • Techniques to break down the elements of the novel–from character-building to plotting and pacing
  • Mile Markers to anticipate and overcome roadblocks like ineffective dialogue and “the unchanged protagonist”
  • Guidelines for Going Deeper to explore and implement more nuanced aspects of storytelling, such as finding your voice and the role of theme
  • Try-It-Out Exercises and 27 interactive worksheets that help elevate your writing.

No matter your level of experience or where you are in your project, Writing Your Novel from Start to Finish provides the instruction, inspiration, and guidance you need to complete your journey successfully.

MY REVIEW:I am surprised by the reviews for this book.  As of the date of this post there are only two reviews on Amazon and both of them are only 3 stars.  I feel like there must be some sort of secret about this book that I don’t happen to be in on. (If you know what that secret might be, please comment on this post and fill me in!)  Personally, I thought this book was excellent!

If you have ever tried to write a novel (or have that on your bucket list for “some day”), this book is a must-read!  I think Bates does a wonderful job of walking the reader through everything you need to know in order to put together a story that people will want to read.  It may all seem pretty obvious, but having attempted to write three novels myself over the last few years, I found the information in this book eye-opening.  If I participate in NaNoWriMo again in the future, I will definitely read through this book again before I begin and the worksheets in the back will be a fantastic resource.

I highly recommend this book if you write fiction and/or want to write a novel someday.