Gotham Ghostwriters Craft Interviews highlight the extraordinary talent of our writer community. Each month, L. M. Archer interviews a member of our network about one of their books, delving into their inspiration and creative process.
This month, Archer asks writer Chris Smith all about his book with coauthor Bec Evans, Written.
You have a new book coming out. When is it releasing and what was the impetus for writing it?
We’re proud to say that the US edition of the book and ebook are out on April 18, 2023 published by Icon.
We’ve been helping people overcome the blocks and barriers to writing with our coaching business Prolifiko for years. While our courses and programs have helped many people, we always knew that a book would enable us to help many more. However, we wanted to avoid taking the kind of linear, one-size-fits-all approach that many books take. Central to our approach is that there is not just one way to become a more productive writer – there are many. Written shows you how to find the tactics that fit with you and your life – as it is, not in some perfect imagined future.
How long did the process of writing the book take, from start to finish?
When you’re writing something as long as a book, it’s rare that you can point to a neat start date. We started writing the book in 2019, but the tactics we give readers to use and the approach we suggest they adopt has been honed for well over ten years. So far, Written has undergone ten complete re-writes – some more extensive than others. At the beginning, we worked with the excellent folks at Story Grid who helped us structure the book. Their input was transformative in helping us apply the principles of storytelling to a work of non-fiction. While the book is “finished,” I’m sure the paperback will see us revising and tweaking again – as the saying goes, “a book is never finished; it’s abandoned.”
What were the biggest challenges you encountered while writing it?
We knew we wanted to write a book for many years. Bec started a blog on writing habits in 2013 – so it’s possible we could have written something then. However, if we had, it wouldn’t be the book we had now. It wouldn’t have the depth to it or the experience we’ve both gained by working with and speaking to struggling and successful writers every day. Knowing when you’re ready to write a book, and really have something to say is tough. There were many false starts and wrong turns too but as we outline in the book, it’s these elements that make the creative process what it is and so fulfilling in the long term.
Also, we certainly found co-authorship a challenge! Working out how to do this, stay married, build a business, and run a household at the same time wasn’t easy. Bec and I have worked together for years, but writing a book is a project of an entirely different order. There were disagreements we had to face, and ways of working we had to establish – but we both found a way to help and support each other to do this. There was also the tricky problem of producing something that for the reader, didn’t read as if two people had written it. We flip-flopped between writing the book in the first person and in the third, until we found a balance. The voice needed to be authentic, not some kind of fabrication, but it also needed to not distract or confuse the reader. We had to find our “we” and a voice that reflected us both – I could write an whole article on that one topic alone!
Any unexpected lessons learned while writing the book?
Aligned to the challenge above of knowing (or not knowing) when to push the start button on a writing project is finding the perseverance to keep going once you have started. We’re not the first writers who have struggled with persistence and resilience and we certainly won’t be the last. We’ve written through a pandemic, family bereavements, and business hardships. We’ve done no more than many other authors, but our experiences of writing the book while working with people who are also struggling to write theirs has, I hope, strengthened and deepened our understanding of the writing process, and made us more empathetic to the challenges writers face.
Any favorite chapter(s) and/or section(s)? If so, which one(s) and why?
Yes, for me, the introduction – because it brings back many fond memories. My co-author Bec Evans is also my wife, and in the introduction we go back ten years to find out why she (and then I) became obsessed with writing habits. We relocated from London to a beautiful rural part of England, and Bec landed her ideal job running a renowned writers’ center. While there, she started to wonder why some students picked up a writing routine quickly and with ease, while many more struggled – often for years. The book, and our whole business, is an attempt to answer this puzzle – and to develop the systems and tools that will help people find a writing habit that is uniquely theirs. The introduction also describes our countryside walks with our newly acquired puppy – who is now twelve years old. How times flies!
Where may readers obtain a copy of your book?
Amazon and in all good local bookshops.
Anything else I haven’t asked you that you think is important for GG readers to know about your new book?
Until you’ve written a book it’s very hard to appreciate the amount of work that goes into writing one. We know that writers compare themselves unfavorably to others – as do we. It’s easy to look at the end product of someone’s efforts and imagine it was produced quickly and easily – but it rarely is. One major thing I learned during the process of writing our book was to not compare our work in progress to the finished work of writers sitting on your bookshelves – or at least, try not to! The other thing that helped us during the writing process is finding the time and space to not write. We have a dog to walk, and we both like to exercise – both of these were critical in helping us clear away the cobwebs and work out problems when we were stuck. So, if you ever feel blocked with your writing, resist the urge to stay at your desk and sweat it out. Get up, get out, go do something different. Step away from the writing and I promise, you’ll come back feeling refreshed.