What It’s Really Like to Write a Book


Hey friends,

Back in August 2020 I got a cold email from an editor at Penguin books, basically saying ‘fancy writing a book about productivity?’

I replied with “hell yeah”, and landed the book deal. Since then my amazing book agent has helped me get a bunch of book deals in other countries including the US, France, China, South Korea. Still working on North Korea lol.

Now we’re 3 whole book drafts later in March 2022 and I’ve learned a lot about writing a book for the first time. Here are some issues I’ve wrestled with:

🛗 1. The Elevator Pitch

Figuring out what my elevator pitch is. All great non-fiction books (Atomic HabitsShow Your WorkThe Black Swan) have one key takeaway message. I started writing my book based on the 5,000 word proposal I sent to Penguin (which they really liked). But while writing my first and second drafts, I realised that my proposal had MULTIPLE messages. Which is a problem because it dilutes the MAIN message that we’re trying to get across to the readers, and makes the elevator pitch less clear.

🏗 2. Structuring

The last few weeks I’ve been restructuring the book so that it really hones in on one strong idea. Structure, restructure, re-restructure… This is much harder than I thought. I’ve bounced from having a 3-part structure to a 4-part structure, back down to a 2-part structure… I’ve found that asking “what kind of structure would I prefer as a reader?” cuts through the brain fog.

👱 3. Identifying my Target Audience

Identifying who I’m writing for turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. I guess I sort of had an image of someone like my young self in mind. But it turns out I can and probably should write for a broader audience.

⚖️ 4. Unique vs Relatable

Finding the balance between what’s relatable and what’s unique is tricky. I want to write a book that readers can relate to. I also want to be able to share my actual journey from med student to entrepreneur. But sharing too much about my journey could make the message less relatable. Most people work in a normal 9-5 job, instead of earning a living making videos on the internet. So I’m trying to include unique interesting stuff and then underline the general lessons that anyone can learn from my situation.

🧱 5. Filling a Chapter with Ideas

It turns out that knowing what to write about is much harder than actually writing it. Hiring a freelance editor to work with me has been GAMECHANGING – Rachel helps me hammer out what I want to say over a 1-hour Zoom call, then sets me writing assignments each week. The ‘what do I write about’ bit is figured out, and I can get on with bashing out chapters. Putting “separate planning from doing” into action.

🗺️ So what next?

I’ve got a deadline of July 2022 for the complete draft of the manuscript. I’ve got a solid editing team at Penguin UK and Macmillan US to help shape it up, and a bunch of international publishers who’ll be translating the book as soon as it’s ready so that it can (in theory) launch simultaneously all around the world around mid-late-2023.

It’s all coming together.

🏔️ The Book Journey

If you’d like to hear more about book-writing and what’s actually in my book, I’m planning a monthly newsletter with updates on my thought process, research, and all the highs and lows… Click here to find out about / sign up to Book Journey, and I’ll slide into your inbox on a slightly more regular basis. 🥰

Have a great week!

Ali xx

🚀🎉 Last Chance for PTYA

Less than 24 hours left if you want to sign up to Cohort 5 of my Part Time YouTuber Academy, a 6-week live course where I teach you all the basics of starting, growing, and having fun with your YouTube channel 🤯🎉 Here’s the signup link → https://academy.aliabdaal.com

If that’s too in-depth for you at the moment, you could also check out my recent video on how to get started on YouTube. 😉

♥️ My Favourite Things

🎧 Audiobook – The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. The main point of the book is that we should be more intentional with how we ‘gather’. Whenever we bring 2+ people together, we should get our act together and give some structure to the event. Like standing up at the start of dinner and saying ‘guys, this dinner is to celebrate X doing so well in her exams – raise your drinks plz’. Adds purpose and makes things more fun.

📕 Book Summary – The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. I first read E-Myth in 2019, and it gave me a big push towards delegating and creating a bigger team. I just ‘re-read’ it on Shortform, my go-to for book summaries… 👉 cheeky affiliate link👈 😜

🎙️ Podcast – Rich Roll on The Tim Ferriss Show. Mostly about how Rich Roll basically reinvented his life in 30’s and 40s, going from addiction and weight struggles to being a vegan and pro athlete. Hearing these guys (Tim is 44, Rich is 55) talking about new projects and how things can change in just a few years reminded me that life isn’t a race. It’s something to enjoy at every stage. 🥲

🎬 Video – The Real Reason Putin is Invading Ukraine by Johnny Harris. I’ve been watching quite a lot of the Ukraine coverage. This video is great – goes fairly in-depth on Putin’s motivations (Ukraine’s political drift to the West, NATO issues, Russia’s historical control).

🖊️ Sharpies and 📃A2 pads. I feel way more creative when I have a sharpie and a big paper pad. Lots of technology makes you think linearly, but paper and sharpie has the perfect mix of freedom + simplicity. Here are photos from a PTYA livestream I did on Friday with loads of A2 notes.

✍️ Quote of the Week

I think there are probably too many smart people pursuing Internet stuff, finance, and law… that is part of the reason why we haven’t seen as much innovation. – Elon Musk

From Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance. Resurfaced using Readwise.

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