Stephen Covey, an American educator, businessman, and motivational speaker died this week. He was perhaps one of the world’s most influential authorities on leadership. And of course, he was a bestselling author. His international bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People gave everyone something to think about and the business world something to rave about. Since its release in 1989, 25 million copies have been sold. His “7 Habits” were practical, applicable and, as the title implies, effective.
OK, so he was a popular motivational speaker and a leading authority on leadership. But what did he have to say to writers other than showing us how to cash in on a book or two to advance his speaking career?
Well, I believe Covey’s “second habit of highly effective people” is great advice for any writer.
Habit #2: Begin with the end in mind.
I wish I would have had this habit in mind when I wrote my first novel. And I don’t mean that I wish I knew the end of the novel before I wrote the beginning. No, I wish I knew what to do with a finished novel before I wrote it. I wish I knew what to anticipate from the publishing world before I sat down at the keyboard. I wish I gave more thought to my role in marketing the book. I wish I would have started building my platform before the book was finished. Finally, I wish I would have known just how important it is to write Book Two immediately after Book One. OK, so I knew I needed to start another novel soon after completing the first but immediately? Really? (I was too anxious to sell the first one. After all, I worked three years on it.)
Being a writer is hard work, sometimes seemingly impossible work. Think about it. Finding the right words, finding an agent, pleasing an editor, editing, editing, editing, getting the book published, selling the book, writing another book, and then another. The odds of success are stacked against us. So Covey was right. You can improve your odds if you start with the end in mind. Getting published today involves so much more than simply writing a good book. (But that helps!)
So, before you write your first novel or your next, take a lesson from Covey and begin with the end in mind. Think seriously about where you want to take your book and how prepared are you to get it there. Learn as much as you can about the publishing process first, and then put your passion on paper.
Stephen Covey certainly taught us how to become more effective leaders. What he didn’t know was he taught us how to become more effective writers too.
The Writer’s Refuge blog is a place for writers, like you, to break away from your daily routine and for just a few minutes find insight, inspiration or simply a word of encouragement.
Blog entries are posted on Thursday.
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- Stephen Covey, ‘7 Habits’ author, dies at 79 (columbian.com)