10 Tips (+ 18 Tools) to Make Writing a Book Easier

Book Ninja 101: 5-Day Live Series

“Writing a book is hard.”

In the last three years of working on Pivot — from the book proposal that my agent first rejected, to re-submitting one a year later, to the book deal with Penguin Random House in 2014, to turning in the final draft — that was the one phrase I wouldn’t let myself say.

Writing a book is a privilege, and complaining about how hard it was throughout would not make the process any easier.

Writing a book is complex, don’t get me wrong, but I adopted the motto, “Let it be easy, let it be fun” instead. Stress is a systems problem; an opportunity to get even more organized.

The tips and tools I share in today’s post helped keep me sane throughout the book outlining, writing, and editing process. But first . . .

Check out BOOK NINJA 101

Been itching to write a book but not sure where to start? Or in the middle of one but stuck on what’s next? Check out the week-long Book Ninja course with soup-to-nuts tactical tips for generating momentum and getting published.

Get the course for free when you join Momentum, which includes every course and template I have ever created ($700 value), live monthly workshops, and optional private office hours calls with me.

Book Ninja 101: 5-Day Live Series

10 Tips (+ 18 Tools) to Make Book Writing Easier

1. Setup

Create three collection buckets (notes) in Evernote: Articles, stories, and ideas. As you go, even before you have the book outline, you can save relevant notes to each category.

I highly recommend the Evernote web clipper for saving content; you can also forward emails directly to your Evernote email address.

2. Outlining

I started my outline with Post-it Notes on the back of my front door. I first put a bunch of blank Post-its under the following categories: Inspiration books, core skills, process, personal stories, and quotes.

Every time I had an idea I would add it to the wall, or sometimes when I was taking a break from other work I would stand by the door and just stare until ideas came up — and they always did!

The Post-it app allows you to take pictures of Post-Its (or a whole wall), then move them around digitally in the app.

3. Research

Save all citations early as footnotes, including page numbers from the books you reference!

This will save a ton of hassle down the road. Even if you don’t know (or don’t want to take the time to do) proper citations, at least save the book and page numbers — or article name and link — as a footnote as you go.

Otherwise, it’s a huge pain to remember where you found everything. To make the research process easier, check-out Ask Wonder — they’ll do research for you with a quick turnaround and comprehensive list of links for any question you pose.

4. Structure

Thanks to a tip from Shane Snow, author of Smartcuts, I created Google Drive folders for each of the book’s parts, then a Google doc for each chapter within each part.

At one point I had seperate Google docs just for essays that would go in each chapter, but it started to get unwieldy. It was helpful in the beginning, though, for feeling like I could write in manageable chunks.

5. Writing

With all the tools available, one of the most enjoyable apps to write in was OmmWriter: peaceful music, blank background, and those glorious typewriter sounds!

6. Editing

I didn’t do this nearly as much as I could have, but after I wrote an essay in OmmWriter, I would sometimes do a quick grammar check in Hemingway Editor, a super-helpful automatic text editor. You’ll have to try it out to see what I mean!

7. Curating

I sent out a Google form for written story submissions to include as anecdotes throughout the book.

Once those responses were in, I combined all the results into a Google doc. From there, I printed the doc so I could highlight key quotes and mark potential chapters for where to insert them.

You can also use Typeform for this, which is really beautiful and easy for the respondent to use.

8. Interviewing

I asked for permission up front to record interviews, letting people know I might release them for a podcast near the time of the book launch.

I’m so glad I did this! I record calls with Skype + eCam Call Recorder. For a conference-call service, I love Uber Conference (no dial-in passcodes, and it texts you when a person is waiting on the line).

9. Transcribing

CastingWords provides audio transcription at $1 per minute. For long interviews, I printed these notes and highlighted by hand.

When it was time to check the quotes for the final versions of the book, I copied and pasted their section into a Google doc with permissions set at “suggest edits only.”

10. Clearing space in your schedule

Copy and set-up this editorial calendar template.

This is the format I use to plan posts and newsletters. Tt’s particularly helpful if you have multiple contributors, sites or guest posts. It helps keep things running smoothly while working on a project as complex as a book!

You might also appreciate my systems and strategy for working with a virtual assistant: A detailed look at what to delegate, how to efficiently set up your systems, and what pitfalls to avoid as you clear up space to work on your big book project.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments:What bite-sized chunk of your book project can you commit to this week? 

This was originally posted on The Write Life. Sign-up for Book Ninja by Sunday, May 15; it kicks off on Monday! 

April Coffee Talk: Mind, Body, Business & Books (#39)

Greetings friends! I'm writing from Austin, where I'm hanging out for a 3-day Wayfinder Gathering with Martha Beck to celebrate the launch of her new book, Diana, Herself. Been itching to write a book but not sure where to start? Or in the middle of one but stuck on what’s next? Join me for a live week-long Book Ninja course in May with soup-to-nuts tactical tips for generating momentum and getting published. Get the course for free when you join Momentum, which includes every course and template I have ever created ($700 value), live monthly workshops, and optional private office hours calls with me.

Podcast Fun

I really enjoyed getting interviewed this month on Mike Michalowicz's hilarious and action-packed Profit First Podcast: Pivoting to Profitability with Jenny Blake and Derek Loudermilk's The Art of Adventure show.

On this week's Pivot Podcast, I talk with Penney Peirce about dreams as a doorway to 24-hour consciousness. It's a fascinating conversation about ways we work through personal growth issues in our sleep, and how you can better remember, interpret, and even program your dreams for things like problem-solving and creativity. Catch-up on the previous episode, Deep Work: Eliminating Cognitive Junk Food with Cal Newport.

I know it's a bit of a pain, but I would be oh-so-grateful if you could leave a rating and/or review in iTunes! It lets me know you're listening and what types of content you find most helpful. Just click here (or search for "Pivot Podcast Jenny Blake" on your iPhone), click on Ratings and Reviews, then leave yours. Thank you in advance!

Now onto our regular cawfee tawk programming!


"I was 16 when I heard through the grapevine that I had ruined my life. (My best friend delivered the message, which had apparently originated with another friend’s mother.) I decided to ignore the established route to success—I was no longer welcome on it anyway—and forge my own path."

—Julie Clow


"Back when segmented sleep was common, this period between “first” and “second” sleep inspired reverence. The French called it dorveille, or wakesleep, a hypnotic state. English speakers called it “the watch.”

I had usually approached the post-­midnight hours full-sail, by staying up. Waking into them is different, childlike. The time feels freer. The urge to be busy abates. Conversation has a conspiratorial intimacy, as if you’ve sneaked behind the tent to find the only other smoker at the wedding."


"As hoi polloi shamelessly promote themselves, bestow disingenuous praise upon colleagues in hopes of receiving it in return and peck out snarkily hashtagged jokes during awards shows, the person who remains offline accrues mystique and is viewed as nobly intentioned, an elusive object of fascination rather than an accessible subject of self-glorification. Who knows how they’re spending their time? Likely working hard for some transcendent and paradigm-shifting purpose, their online absence suggests.

But post a tweet, and everyone knows what you’re doing at that moment: idly looking at a screen, chasing after notice."


Just for Fun

That's it for now . . . have an amazing start to Spring, everyone!

Join us for Book Ninja 101: Live 5-Day Course Starts May 16

Book Ninja 101: 5-Day Live Series
Book Ninja 101: 5-Day Live Series

Been itching to write a book but not sure where to start? Or in the middle of one but stuck on what's next? Join me for the week-long Book Ninja course in May with soup-to-nuts practical, tactical tips for generating momentum and getting published.

As one of my book mentors Michael Larsen once said to me, "It is no longer a question of if you will get published, but when and how." This course includes five live workshops during the week of May 16 (at 3pm ET), with recordings if you can't make it.

Early birds: if you join Momentum by Sunday, April 17, this course is free and you will receive an advance copy of Pivot when the galleys are sent out in May!

Here is what we will cover:

  • Monday, May 16: Systems for Outlining, Researching, Writing, and Editing—Fresh off a three-year marathon of writing Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One, I will share my best tips and tools for every stage of the book writing process: how to organize ideas and research, outline the book, chunk writing into bite-sized essays, and how to get unstuck when you hit book block.
  • Tuesday, May 17: Craft a One-Page Book Pitch with Jennie Nash—Jennie will introduce her simple tool for harnessing your idea, framing your marketing strategy, and knowing how to answer when someone says, "What's your book about?"
  • Wednesday, May 18: Traditional Publishing Q&A with my editor at Portfolio/Penguin Random House, Natalie Horbachevsky—A conversation with my genius editor, Natalie, in which I get to ask everything I have always wanted to know too! We will dig into tips for landing a coveted “Big Five” book deal, what she looks for in terms of platform, what types of big ideas are most appealing to publishers, her role as editor throughout the process, what motivates her to proactively reach out to an author (scouting), and if self-publishing first helps or hurts. You can also submit questions too, and I'll be sure we cover them!
  • Thursday, May 19: Self-Publishing Success with Taylor Pearson—An in-depth conversation with Taylor Pearson about self-publishing his book The End of Jobs to smashing success—how he sold 5K copies in the first month, 12K to-date, made $35K in resulting revenue, and grew his list by 500%. For a sneak peek at what he will be sharing, check out his post Jesus Marketing.
  • Friday, May 20: Open Q&A with Jenny (+ Special Bonus): Map what's next for your book project, and ask me anything that is still on your mind. We'll also do a round-robin sharing (optional) for committing to next steps. All members of the course and the Momentum Community will receive access to my super secret work in progress, the 20+ page Behind-the-Book toolkit, including my proposal template that landed the Penguin deal, my writing tracker template, book tour planning process, and more.

Enroll in Book Ninja here ($125), or get the course for free when you join Momentum($97/quarter), which includes every course and template I have ever created ($700 value), live monthly workshops, and optional private office hours calls with me. Looking forward to seeing many of you soon!

Intuition and Frequency with Penney Peirce


Be sure to check out the full Pivot Podcast archive here.

Intuition is an innate gift, one available to all of us, and a skill—a muscle that you can build with practice and attention. I am thrilled to bring you today's podcast, an interview with intuition expert Penney Peirce, whose books have had an enormous impact on my life. Reading The Intuitive Way kicked off two years of coincidence tracking, intuition studying, and surrendering to serendipity—and completely transformed the way I go about my day-to-day life. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did, and stay tuned: we'll be doing a follow-up on dream interpretation in a future episode!


About Penney Peirce

Penney Peirce

Penney Peirce is a gifted intuitive empath and visionary, and one of the pioneers in the intuition development movement. She is a popular author, lecturer, counselor, and trainer specializing in intuition development, "skillful perception," transformation, and dreamwork. She is the author of The Intuitive WayFrequencyLeap of Perception, Dream Dictionary for Dummies, Dreams for Dummies, and The Present Moment: A Daybook of Clarity and Intuition.

Penney has worked throughout the US, Japan, South Africa, and Europe since 1977 as a coach to business executives, coaches, psychologists, scientists, other trainers, and those on a spiritual path. Peirce's work is open-minded, practical, and sophisticated, synthesizing diverse cultural and spiritual world views with many years' experience in business as a corporate art director with such companies as Atlantic Richfield and American Hospital Supply Corporation. She is extraordinarily attuned to the intricacies of the mind and the dimensions of human awareness, blending a deep understanding of natural laws with a designer's skill in structural patterning.

Penney emphasizes the practical aspects of intuitive development and transformation, helping people apply "direct knowing" to increase natural efficiency and their enjoyment/participation level in life. Her work assists people and organizations in uncovering life purpose and action plan, understanding and easing transitions, alleviating burnout, and finding accurate answers to pressing questions. She believes that life functions according to innate natural principles, and when we live in alignment with these truths, things work smoothly and effectively.

Topics we cover

  • Intuition as a tool for accessing information through "direct knowing"
  • How to develop your intuition and learn to trust it
  • The difference between gut instinct and intuition
  • Question and answer come at the same moment
  • Intuitive writing and journaling; many creative projects get done with intuitive help
  • Moving from the Information Age into the Intuition Age; how to embrace transformation
  • Navigating change in relationships
  • The creation cycle: going from inspiration and vision in your right brain, to transferring it to the left brain for planning, to the physical work and manifestation
  • Placing attention rather than intention
  • How to avoid being an energy sponge, and shift back into your home frequency when you get off-balance
  • The importance of dream journals—even if you don't remember your dreams

Podcast: Intuition and Frequency with Penney Peirce

Press play on the embedded player below or listen on iTunes, SoundCloud, or Overcast:

Podcast: Dreams: A Guide to 24-Hour Consciousness with Penney Pierce

Podcast: Perception: Navigating Our Non-Linear Universe with Penney Pierce

March Coffee Talk: Mind, Body, Business & Books (#38)

I'm off to Austin, Texas for SXSW this weekend and will be on live video hosting the Comcast Social Media Lounge all day Saturday. I get to interview people like Guy Kawasaki and Nolan Bushnell — squee! Holler if you'll be there, and stop by the lounge on Saturday if you have a badge. :) Next up after that is Louisiana to give the closing keynote at Idea Village's New Orleans Entrepreneur Week Women's Business Summit. In other words . . . time to change out of my Winter book-writing-editing-hermit yoga gear, and actually spruce things up and leave the house! What a concept . . .

Podcast Fun

If you haven't already, take a listen to the latest Pivot Podcast: How long does it take to write a book? I share my process for writing Pivot, how I kept the drafts organized, exactly how many hours went into 10 drafts over the last 17 months, and what comes next as we prepare to launch on September 6. As always, if you enjoy the episode, I would be very grateful for a rating and/or review as I continue building momentum for the show. And big thanks to all of you who have provided feedback so far! It has been very helpful and encouraging — I am learning as I go, scrappy style, so I appreciate you being along for that ride! :)

I was also honored to be featured on Charlie Gilkey's podcast, The Creative Giant Show, on How to Embrace Change.

Pivot Book Tour

I'm starting to plan the book tour as we speak . . . if you would like to do a Pivot career development workshop at your organization, let's talk — I'm offering a reduced rate during the major book promotion months. You can see an overview of the topics I cover here, and get in touch here. I look forward to working with you!

Now, onward to our March cawfee tawking!


"We are in unprecedented times in terms of the global, always-on organization. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline not to check email at night or first thing in the morning, and not all office cultures (or managers) endorse or demonstrate that restraint themselves. Work comes in at all hours, and it can be hard to create boundaries that keep it contained and allow for proper rest and renewal.

For younger women in particular, it can be hard to say no, especially in competitive jobs or industries where there would be a (perceived) line out the door for their replacement."

—Yours Truly, Fast Company's Why Millennial Women Are Burning Out




Just for Fun

That's it for now . . . have an amazing weekend, everyone!

February Coffee Talk: Mind, Body, Business & Books (#37)

Hello My Gorgeous Valentine! That's right, I just roped all of you into being my virtual dates today. So whaddaya say, grab your favorite bevvy (most annoying abbreve or what?!) — okay, beverage — and get reading. For those of you who do have dates tonight, just think about how smart and well-read you'll sound! Speaking of sound, if you missed the most recent Pivot Podcast, take a listen here: Opt Out: Say No to the Good So You Can Say Yes to the Great.

Also, super exciting: me and Pivot are featured in the March issue of Real Simple, on stands now! How to Pull Off a Career Pivot—check out the cover blurb on the left side too :)



"Barron found that, contrary to conventional thought at the time, intelligence had only a modest role in creative thinking. IQ alone could not explain the creative spark.

Instead, the study showed that creativity is informed by a whole host of intellectual, emotional, motivational and moral characteristics. The common traits that people across all creative fields seemed to have in common were an openness to one’s inner life; a preference for complexity and ambiguity; an unusually high tolerance for disorder and disarray; the ability to extract order from chaos; independence; unconventionality; and a willingness to take risks.

Describing this hodgepodge of traits, Barron wrote that the creative genius was “both more primitive and more cultured, more destructive and more constructive, occasionally crazier and yet adamantly saner, than the average person.”

...Perhaps this is why creative people are so difficult to pin down. In both their creative processes and their brain processes, they bring seemingly contradictory elements together in unusual and unexpected ways."

Creative people's brains really do work differently


"Across the West, people are still choosing to walk. Nearly every journey in the UK involves a little walking, and nearly a quarter of all journeys are made entirely on foot, according to one survey. But the same study found that a mere 17% of trips were "just to walk". And that included dog-walking.

It is that "just to walk" category that is so beloved of creative thinkers.

"There is something about the pace of walking and the pace of thinking that goes together. Walking requires a certain amount of attention but it leaves great parts of the time open to thinking. I do believe once you get the blood flowing through the brain it does start working more creatively," says Geoff Nicholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking.

"Your senses are sharpened. As a writer, I also use it as a form of problem solving. I'm far more likely to find a solution by going for a walk than sitting at my desk and 'thinking'."

The Slow Death of Purposeless Walking



Just for Fun

  • My dad sent me this great piece from Byron Fry on reflections from his recent (reluctant) trip to New York, Newport Yankee Charlie. My favorite excerpt:

"But more than anything, New York is culture. Art, in New York or anywhere, is more than humankind’s saving grace: art is FUN. It just is. Its higher purpose is a sharing, among humans, of the best things humanity has to offer to humanity, to the future and to the cosmos. The collective experience, not just among artists but with the audience too, build the zeit and are all a part of the thing."

That's it for now . . . have an amazing February, everyone!