Ep 480: How to Become a Great Writer with Bill Blankschaen

AJV (00:02):
Hey, everybody, and welcome to the Influential Personal Brand podcast, AJ Vaden here, and I’m so, so, so super excited to introduce you to a good friend today. But I’m equally as excited about this conversation. So before you decide whether or not this is the episode episode for you, let me tell you why you probably wanna stick around no matter where you’re at in terms of building your business and building your personal brand. Because today we’re gonna talk about the process of writing a book. And you might be in that process right now, or you dream of being in that process, or maybe you just left this process thinking, I’ll never do that again. And if you’re feeling that way, it’s probably because you went out of order. And today, we’re gonna just break it down into when should you start writing your book? What does it look like?
AJV (00:52):
How, how do you publish? What are the options for publishing? What makes a good writer? And how do you systematically do that? And if you know this about yourself and that you’re not a quote unquote good writer, which is your opinion only what are the other options out there for you, right? Because there are other options to help you get your message out into the world and your voice be heard. And that’s what we’re gonna talk about today with my good friend, bill Blanken Shane from Story Builders. And so, before I formally pass it over to him to share all of his expertise and his knowledge, I’m gonna give you just a little bit of a formal bio because it’s worth it, right? So Bill is the founder and chief story architect of Story Builders, which is the coolest company that we get to be affiliated with as well at Brain Builders Group.
AJV (01:40):
And Bill is actually helping Rory and I architect our next book for Brand Builders Group. So I can speak personally when I talk about how awesome him and his team is, but he is a New York Times bestselling writer. They have worked with very well known people like the John Maxwell team, Kevin Haring, Lewis Howes, Michael Hyatt as well as us, and not as well known as those other peoples but entrepreneurs, corporate leaders influencers, consultants, political figures. The list goes on and on. And I share that because writing a book is not some for someone who just is a influencer. And if you can’t see me, I’m doing bunny quotes right now or just someone who is famous. It is for anyone who has a message that deserves to be heard. And that’s what we’re gonna talk about right now. So, bill, welcome to the show.
BB (02:33):
Well, thank you, aj. My goodness, I’m so excited to be here. You and Rory are some of my favorite people, and we’re talking about storytelling. I mean, what, what could be better than this? I’m excited to be here.
AJV (02:43):
Yes. Well, the first thing I want to talk about and help our audience get to know you a little bit is how’d you get into this? Like, how did you get into the business of writing books for other people and helping get their stories out there?
BB (02:57):
That’s a great question. And I’m gonna, I’m gonna go on the way back machine here to, to my early days even. You know, I think a lot of us have these dreams inside of us when we’re children and, and we kind of have a sense of what we really are good at and what we love to do. And then somewhere along the way, we, we kind of, kind of lose our focus. We find other dreams. We, we, we end up with what Steven Pressfield calls the, our shadow calling, right? We’re, we’re doing something that’s kind of similar, but not exactly what we’re really called to do. And I ended up in I’ve always had a love for storytelling, right? So I majored in English and history, right. Stories and how to tell them. But I ended up going into education and helping start a private school and leading that for a dozen years.
BB (03:37):
And what I was really doing was helping other people learn how to write well and learn how to tell stories well, and that’s really what that was about. And learning a lot about leadership along the way. But it wasn’t until probably about 13 years ago now that I just had this stirring with NI felt like there was more that I was supposed to be doing on a wider scale in and around telling stories. And so I stepped out from the school. We had six kids stepped out from the school, went a year with no income as we navigated that place. But I, I’ve never worked harder in my life than during that year, actually, when we were going through that. And really just becoming a student of story, a student of storytelling, a student of writing, of publishing, of this whole process that you mentioned.
BB (04:22):
And, and then navigating those, you know, turns over the years building what became story builders, really one relationship at a time is how it happened, right? And that’s something I know you and Rory talk about a lot, right? The power of your reputation, which is about your relationships that you have. And, and so that’s really how it came to be, just me following my passions and my skills and where those came together at a place where there was a need, where people who had great messages, great ideas, they just struggled to tell them. Well for a lot of reasons. And I found I could come alongside and really help them to do that in an exceptional way, build a team around it to really truly tell stories that make the world a better place.
AJV (05:03):
You know, I think one of the things that I’m so curious about always, because we have so many people who are in our community and who listen to this podcast that are trying to figure out that next thing they’re going to do. And what I always love asking people is, how’d you get that first client? Right? So you’re transitioning out of something seemingly different, although lots of connectedness, but how did you pick up that very first client that’s like, yeah, bill I know you’ve never done this before, but I’m gonna trust you to get this book out into the world.
BB (05:37):
Sure, sure. Well, I think one of the first ones that we had actually was John Maxwell and working with his company. And it was because of both my leadership experience and my deep knowledge of John’s content and my education background. So we were, what, we’ve created a lot of a content for John’s company ever since then, and it’s really around instructional design and so forth. So, in other words, I think I leaned into the strengths that I had to develop those and began to realize they could transfer into other areas. On the book front, there were someone I encountered in the ministry space where I had written my own book, and I realized, well, actually, I’m pretty good at doing that , and then encountered this person who had a need, wanting to get a message out. And I said, let me help you. Right? We got in, we figured we didn’t do it perfectly, but we did it. Well, he’s actually still using that book as part of his ministries activities and began to learn and grow. But it, it kind of began with that on, on both fronts kind of, right? What, what’s, what proven skills do I have that I can lean into? And then where’s the need? And, and just finding that and genuinely seeking to serve in that way.
AJV (06:51):
Hmm. I love that. ’cause I think at the end of the day, it’s using relationships, leaning into what you’re good at, leaning into what you’re passionate about, solving a problem other people have, it’s not rocket science. Yeah.
BB (07:03):
Right. And, and if, actually, if I can add, now that you add mentioned that, that reminds me, I, I can point back to one instance in particular when I was still running the school, that I can trace just about every connection I have today. Even my connection with you and Rory, I can connect back to this one project that I tackled on the side. I didn’t get paid a dime for it. It was a passion project. I had worked with a book in the school and developed curriculum around it and so forth. And I encountered the author and I pitched him on the idea, Hey I really believe in your message. I’d be willing to do this to help republish the book with this thing included and so forth. And really make it even even more useful just to be of help. And so, you know, I worked late at night, worked, put in all the extra hours, and, and again, I did it from a place of mission-driven perspective of, I’m not getting paid for this, I just love to do it. Mm-Hmm. . And that one interaction ended up being what really opened the floodgate to so many relationships, even though that wasn’t my intent, I was just trying to serve and be of help. But just simply being generous in that way contributed to so much of the opportunity.
AJV (08:13):
Actually. I’m really glad that came to mind because I think, like, the biggest thing that sticks out to me is what are you willing to do just to be of service? Mm. It doesn’t matter if you get paid, you’re just like, I can help. Yeah. How, and here’s how I can help knowing that. And it’s like give, to give mindset, right? Right. Versus a give to get. And I love that. And I think that’s very representative of what we’re trying to be about and getting these messages out into the world. And so, you guys have been doing this for a long time, and you’ve helped get a lot of books out there and a lot of messages into the pages of those books. And so I would love to hear it from you for all of these people out there, regardless if they’re in the process or dream of being in the process of writing a book one day, what would you say is a good overarching process of when is it time for you to write a book? Like, how do you know this is the year or this is the time? But then also, how do you know when it’s time to start thinking about the publishing options? ’cause We’re in a world today where you can self-publish, hybrid publish, traditionally publish, and how much writing needs to be done before you start thinking about that thing.
BB (09:27):
Sure. Big questions. big, but let, let’s dive in and unpack them. So the first question of how do you know when it’s time to write a book to, to me, that, that that’s a much larger life and business question, right? So you, in order to answer that question, you first of all have to have to have clarity on where you want your life to go. You have to have some clarity around your goals, what the, the plan is for your life, essentially. So if you find that you’re feeling, I’m really kind of scattered, I’m not very intentional, that’s probably not the time to write a book, because a book requires a lot of support and strategic planning around it to be successful, right? So I’ve encountered many authors who’ve come to me and said, oh, I’ve been wanting to write a book for years.
BB (10:11):
I think now’s the time. Let me do it. I’ve got like 30 days. I can just crank this out. , right? And I told, well, you, I, you know, you might wanna take a few steps back and get a little more thought around what you’re doing. Think strategically. You know, I remember there was a, a, unfortunately when I was living in Ohio, there was a school shooting in our town, and it was a small town America feel. And the town really responded in a way that I was proud to be part of the town and how they responded. And, and I thought about writing a book about that, about the experience and the lessons from that, that and I had a good friend in the publishing space who said who actually was in the publishing space, took a close look at the book proposal and said, you know, if you’re gonna write this book, you need to plan on talking about school shootings for the next two years.
BB (10:57):
That needs to be your focus. That needs to be what you talk about. So make sure that this is where your heart is, this is where your passion is. And frankly, it wasn’t. I, I wasn’t, that wasn’t my calling to be, like, my calling was the story. It wasn’t that topic as important as that topic is. And so I, I decided not to pursue it at that time. And I think that’s the kind of, you have to know where you want to go in order to know what that timing is. But then I think you need to look at, from a business perspective as well, this is one of the first questions I ask someone when we start talking about putting a book together is, is where do you wanna go with this? What, what are you trying to do? What, what’s the big picture that you’re trying to accomplish?
BB (11:35):
Paint that vision for me. And if they can, and it makes sense to, I see how the book fits in. I see it feeds into your business model. I see how it helps open these doors. That makes sense. Let’s keep talking. If not, my advice to them is, again, take a few steps back, get clarity on that strategically. Otherwise, you’re just gonna, you’re gonna jump, jump in, you’re gonna get a lot of activity, and you, the author and anybody helping you is gonna get frustrated because we don’t have a clear end in mind. Right? So that’s a little bit from a timing standpoint on the process standpoint. You know, one of, one of the things that we really love as story builders is when authors come to us, having gone through your captivating content session with brand builders, with the brand, DNA and so forth, because they come to us with great clarity already around the main pillars that they want to talk about.
BB (12:27):
Mm-Hmm. What their behaviors are, are what their stories are. They, they have a lot of clarity around that. So I think the first place you need to start is get clarity on what exactly do you wanna talk about? What, what is it? And, and what is the uniqueness of that? What really makes it, makes it special and different from everybody else. And, and it’s not that the topic you want to talk about has to be completely different. It, it’s that what is it about your story, your unique approach to that that gives it an angle that maybe not everybody has. No book is gonna resonate with everyone, right? You’re looking to write a message that will resonate with the people you really want to connect with, right? So getting clarity on that, I think is huge on the front end from that, then, okay.
AJV (13:11):
Before you go on. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Because I think this is important. Like, how many people would you say come to you without even really knowing what they want to write about?
BB (13:24):
Not as many as you might think. There have been some, I’ve had some, I’ve had somebody, you know, text me from the beach kind of, Hey, here’s what I’m thinking of writing. And from that text, we build a whole book around it. But, you know, a lot of people have some thing that they thought about writing about. Maybe they haven’t done the work to really clarify it though. Mm-Hmm. and get it in the clarity that it needs. Some do. Some come to us with very well thought out plans and strategy that we can add value to and help make better and improve. You know, but I think everybody has an idea that the, the challenge comes when people think they have a well thought idea, and they really just have a half baked idea. Right? They really haven’t thought it through.
BB (14:09):
And that’s okay, as long as you’re open to being teachable and open to in, you know, in, in input on that and shape it and really make it exceptional. That’s what we’re about, is if we’re gonna do a project, we’re gonna do it with excellence, or we’re not gonna do it at all. And so, you know, we’re not, we’re not, we’re not, we’re just not motivated by helping people crank out some word widgets, you know? We want it to be a meaningful message, something that can actually impact the world, make it a better place. So yeah. I, I short answer. I would say not too often, and when they do, it’s really about, you need to get clarity on what that is. Yeah.
AJV (14:45):
Okay. Now, one of the other things that I hear a lot from just people in the Brand Builders Group community, and just even just in the larger audience at hand of, there’s just so many different ways to publish these days, and some people are cranking out self-published book that they did write in a 30 day period, and boom, here it is. Even though that is more rare. But I would love to know when it comes to writing and the relationship to publishing, like what are those timelines? Sure. Like, how much of the book needs to be started completed before you think about publishing?
BB (15:22):
Sure. Well, let me, let me answer that by filling that gap between clarity and publishing. I think that’ll help fill in that timeline a little bit. Because yes, there are people out there who said, oh, I did my book in 30 days. And, and you, you usually can tell that it was done in 30 days, quite candidly. But even if you can’t, my response is, well, imagine how good it could have been if you had brought expertise to the table if you’d really thought, thought it through. Ideas need time to percolate, right? They need time to develop and grow to really be maximized and unique. So that process, and once you get clarity, you need to build a, a story structure, a for the book, a, a a framework for the book of, of what, as you guys use the term pillar points.
BB (16:09):
So what, what is that structure gonna be? And then, you know, we use what we call the storytelling structure method. It’s, it’s a five point process that that really walks people through. It’s just proven storytelling structure that has been used for millennia in the human race, right? Of, and we follow that five point process, both to build the book itself, the framework, and then each chapter, each component, we, we componentize it, essentially break it down into small pieces that you can then write. If, if the author’s writing themselves and we’re coaching them, we, we, they go through that process. If we’re doing the writing for and with them, we go through that process. And, and typically I think you know, a lot of authors make the mistake of thinking, I have to have the publisher nailed down before I can do anything. I have to have to begin with the end in mind.
BB (16:57):
And, and that’s good advice to begin with, the end in mind. But you can’t really decide your publishing path until you have a really good sense of where the book is going. Mm-Hmm. , is it gonna be worth reading? What, what, what’s it gonna, what’s gonna be the best publishing path? Right? So typically, you know, you can get started on the writing process and developing that. I always suggest working with someone to really make it sparkle, really make it awesome. You know, but I don’t, you know, about midway through that process is where you can turn and look at, all right, what are my best publishing paths? I’m about, you know, 30, 40%, 50% through the book. Let me start doing that. Maybe that’s a proposal to shop it to traditional publishers. Maybe that’s a hybrid imprint, like mission-driven press and, and, and things like that.
BB (17:43):
You know, maybe you’re going a different hybrid brow. It can, there, there’s all kinds of factors that affect all of those things, kind of what you’re doing, what you want to accomplish. But you need to know what the book is going to be. Otherwise you’re going to publishers and saying, Hey, I have a little bit of an idea. Do you buy it? Do you wanna be part of it? , you know, none of us would do that if someone came to us and said, Hey, I’ve got a car. I got the idea of a car. I’d like to sell it to you, you know, right now, and then I’ll put it together later. They need to know at least what, what, what, what’s the blueprint? How’s the book coming? Mm-Hmm. , is there actually gonna be a book? What’s the substantive, is it a fit for us? To give some, ’cause some of that kind of timing.
AJV (18:21):
You know, that’s interesting because being in this world for such a long time, you know, we have such a personal experience with, you know, we’ve done the traditional routes, right? We’re now hybrid publishers ourselves. And then we just have tons and tons of friends who’ve gone the, you know, self-publishing route. And what I have found is there’s no necessary right nor wrong. It has everything to do with what are you trying to accomplish with this book, right. With the purpose of it, in addition to getting the message out in the world. But Right. How you get that message out into the world means a lot in terms of someone actually reading the book, which is goal and intent. Usually. It’s like, I want someone to read the book. Sure. And one of the things that I had found, you know, when we went the traditional route and all, although, and this was almost 10 years ago when we shopped our last book to a traditional publisher, but it’s like, you gotta have at least a few sample chapters.
AJV (19:19):
We had to have all of the book outlined, all of the chapters had to have titles, and we didn’t have just one chapter. It was a few chapters. And so we’re talking 30, like what you said, 30% plus of the book was written. And, and the outline was complete for them to even acknowledge, like, this is something that represents us, something that we think most importantly will sell. Right? Which is what kept coming back to, it’s like, do we think the market will buy this? Right. And an idea wasn’t enough. But even in the hybrid publishing space now, I have people come to us at Mission-Driven Press saying, Hey I’m just trying to get failures of how I wanna publish this. I don’t have anything done yet. And I’m like, well then I don’t know if we’re a fit for you based on your timelines, our timelines, how long is it gonna take you to get the book done so that I can actually review it and decide if it’s a fit for us and vice versa.
AJV (20:14):
And it’s, you know, one of the prerequisites for us to even go, yeah, this looks like something that we’d wanna help get out there and I wanna see at least a few sample chapters. Sure. I wanna see the outline, the overview. Whereas, you know, in the self-publishing route, you don’t have that. Right. But at least with hybrid and traditional 30% minimum, I would say has been our experience so that people can go, do I think the market will buy this? Do do I think this is a, a big enough topic for the masses to be interested in? Is it something we wanna align ourselves with? Does it fit, you know, our published house or imprint or whatever? Would you say that’s similar to what you’ve seen?
BB (20:55):
Oh, a absolutely. ’cause We help people develop book proposals, like if they’re going their traditional route, they wanna shop that. We help people do that all the time. But, and that’s the same process, exactly what you said. It’s several chapters. It’s the framework. Usually it’s an annotated outline. It’s basically making the case for the book. It tells the publisher, you’ve done the thought work behind this. Right? and, and, and what was really popular actually for us, when people aren’t sure what publishing path they want to go yet that they don’t, they don’t have to figure that out to get started. Like, we can help them get clarity on that, begin building that actually drafting a manuscript, putting that, getting it to that place where they know they’re putting their best foot forward, their their best representation to publishers, whatever that might be.
BB (21:41):
Because you usually only get one shot at that, right? So if, if you’re pitching it to publishers or presenting it to someone, you, you don’t want to give them like your C level work. You want your A level work. Mm-Hmm. . You wanna bring your best to the game. And that’s where we really excel, is helping to shape that best into something that publishers then get excited about. And regardless, again, regardless of that publishing spectrum, where you are, where you end up on that publishing spectrum, there’s pros and cons to all of it. And we are, we’re like publishing ambivalent. We really passionately want what’s best for the author. We’re working with that. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. And so that’s where we try to work from to build out that story.
AJV (22:23):
Yeah. Well, I think that’s a great transition into talking about making sure that what you put forth is excellent and making sure it’s the best of what you have, not an idea of what might be the best of what you have. So Right, right. High level, what makes a great writer?
BB (22:40):
Hmm. Yeah. I think the first thing that makes a great is almost too, it sounds too simple, but if someone is actually gonna be a writer, they’ve gotta put their butt in the chair and do the work, right? They’ve gotta show up and write. And so a lot of people have this perception that they are a writer, or they could be a writer if they wanted to, they just never do it, right? and candidly, that was me for a long time. I, I talked about myself as being a writer when I was younger, and I always told her, oh, I’m a writer, but I wasn’t actually writing anything . And so a writer who’s not writing isn’t actually a writer, right? They could be, but they aren’t. And so actually doing the work, first of all, you have to do the work.
BB (23:30):
You have to actually do the writing. So just showing up every day. I think the second thing is to understand that writing is a process. And many people think that the first draft of what they do is writing, but it’s not, that’s just the beginning of the writing process, right? So good writing becomes great writing through editing. So simply putting something on a page that just gives you raw material to work with that you can then evaluate. You can edit, you can cut a lot of stuff. If you’re a good writer, a lot of what you write will get cut and left on the editing room floor, even though it’s really good, it just doesn’t fit. Mm-Hmm. . And so there, there, it’s that level of work of, I, I can often tell when a book has just been like, first run, maybe review it a little bit and I’m done.
BB (24:23):
It, it, it lacks depth. Often it lacks detail. It lacks clarity. It doesn’t get to the point in a powerful way. It kind of rambles a little bit here and there. You know, so thinking about that, a third thing I would say too is understand that writing is a unique medium. So speaker, for example, if you’re a speaker and you, you like to give keynote speech and maybe really good at that, but recognizing that giving a speech and putting words on a page are two different mediums for conveyance. Just like video is different than speaking, right? We, there are different mediums and you need to understand the nuances of them. So writing, for example, here’s the challenge of writing. You have to put words on a page and then put it out into the world. And then someone who you don’t even know has to open that page, read it, and understand what you intended to say, and have the same emotional impact that you intended to say as if they were in the room with you talking with you, .
BB (25:26):
But they’re not , right? And so you’re getting no feedback. You don’t know if we’re, have, we’re having this conversation, you know, you’re nodding, right? I fourth dynamic. And in writing, you don’t get any of that, right? So you have to, it’s one way communication that needs to feel like it’s two way mm-Hmm. . And so that, that takes a lot of editing and a lot of work, and a lot of being willing to, you know, that expression, kill your darlings, if you will, right? Being willing to let go of things that might be cluttering that process or getting in the way of a reader, or that feel clever to you. I know, you know, you guys talk about that a lot, right? That clear is better than clever, right? And so it’s that kind of idea of writing with clarity takes place there.
BB (26:15):
The the fourth thing I would add is that it takes time and effort to become a really good writer. And you have to become a writing. And a lot of people simply don’t have the time to do that, right? They’re, they’re professionals. They’re entrepreneurs, they’re speakers. They’re building their influential brand. They’ve got business going on. They don’t have time to do that. And that’s okay, right? This is what a lot of people don’t realize is you don’t actually have to become a writer to create a, an incredible book. You can partner with someone like me, like my team, who we, we do the work of becoming the writers and understanding your ideas to help turn them in to something that, that is really cool.
AJV (26:56):
I love that. And I wanna go back and touch on each of these points because I think there’s a lot of wisdom and depth into each of these. And then on that last one, I think it’s a grand a grand transition into, okay, well, if you know you’re not a writer Yeah. Tell me about that. What, what, what, how do we do that? But I wanna hop all the way back to that first thing you said, which is the first thing that takes to become a great writer is showing up. Mm-Hmm. Right? But in the feet. Right? And so what I’d love to hear is, do you have any tips or best practices of what’s the best way to actually get yourself to write the book? Is there like an ideal schedule or timeline? I have my own, you know, experiences of what I’ve seen happen in my house as well as with others. Sure. But like, what would you say would be a good schedule for writing?
BB (27:43):
Yeah. What I find is using something like our storytelling structure method that would help break it down, right? If you think, I gotta write this big book, so easy to stare at the screen and have no idea what to write next, but when you break it down into small enough parts, anything can be done If you break it down to small enough parts. And so breaking it down into, all right, I need this chunk. It’s, it’s, I don’t know, three or four or 5, 6, 7 paragraphs, maybe a page and a half. That’s all I need, right? That’s what I need to do today. Mm-Hmm. . And so having that kind of mindset I think helps considerably to get started. The other thing that I, I wanna really push back on is this myth, myth of writer’s block. Hmm. People talk about it as if it’s a real thing, .
BB (28:26):
And, and I just, I just don’t believe that’s true. Having written so much and, and all this, I, what I find is that writer’s block isn’t really a thing provided we are simply willing to do it messy, right? That’s something you guys talked about at brand builders also. Right? Just do it messy. And so when you have it broken down into small enough pieces, then it’s Right. All right, where does it feel right for me to begin? Where do I have clarity within this? Well, I have this one statement I wanna make. Start with that statement, and then give yourself, as a writer, the freedom to go wherever that takes you. And, you know, we, we think about creating and editing, we’re talking about two different sides of the brain. And so you have to give your creative side freedom to say, this is a creative session.
BB (29:16):
I’m not editing, I’m not perfecting, I’m not polishing. I’m just allowing myself to get out what’s in my heart and head and, and approach that session with that in mind of this. I, I’m, I’m, this is gonna be messy. It’s not gonna be perfect. It’s first draft, and that’s okay. There’ll be another time that I’ll come back and I’ll switch to the other side of my brain and do the editing and bring the critical eye and apply that. But for this session, it’s gonna be about creativity. I’m gonna have it, whatever, wherever I do have clarity, I’m gonna push forward. I’m gonna start putting words on a page. Even if they don’t even make a lot of sense to me, I’m just gonna do it. ’cause Motion creates momentum, right? So going through that process allows you to do that and not get hung up on this you know, idea of writer’s block. And then we grab that as an excuse, well, I can’t write because I have writer’s block, you know, air quotes. Right? Whatever that means. And I just, I’ve just found, put it on the page, be creative. Get in the right mindset and let it flow.
AJV (30:17):
I love that because I think that comes back to if you have a robust outline and you have clarity on what you’re writing about, right? There isn’t, well, I don’t know what to do today. I have writer’s block. It’s like, no, we’ve already done that work. Right? We know exactly what we’re writing about. We know the pillars, we know the points. We know the stories, right? So I hear what I hear you saying is that if people quote unquote struggle with writer’s block, it’s probably due to a lack of clarity of what they’re writing about. And they haven’t done the strategy work and the larger picture work in order to do the, Hey, I need to do this one chapter, or I need to, you know, do X, Y, and Z.
BB (30:55):
Exactly. And if, for instance, if we apply our storytelling structure method to a 12 chapter book, I can pretty much right now, without knowing anything about the book, know that you pretty much have at least 60 sub components that you need to build out. It’s actually a little more than that. And some of it can shift and change, and there’s nuance to all of it, but it’s pretty much what it is. And then once you know what those pieces are, you can schedule those. This is my creative time to work on that. It’s probably gonna take X amount of time. And then you get to know, give yourself the freedom if you’re doing the writing yourself, get yourself, give yourself the freedom to get to know how you work best, right? Yeah. There are no, no two writers are alike. You know, I think of famous writers who, you know, might be approached it one way, others approach another. No. Two writers are like, so don’t think that, oh, I have to be like Bill, or I have to be like Ernest Hemingway, or I have to be whoever. Right? no, you define your own style and what works best for you.
AJV (31:51):
Yeah. I love that. You know, and it’s interesting ’cause I’ve had the privilege to watch my husband go through the process of, of writing two books. And as we are heading into the process of writing our signature book for Brain Builders group, it’s been really interesting of going, how he does it and how I do could not be more completely different on this planet. Like, his whole thing is, I gotta block two weeks and I just gotta get it done, you know? And it’s like, Mm-Hmm. it just all has to happen at once, right? And he’s like, I need all 80 hours, nothing on the schedule. And it’s like, I couldn’t be more different. And I’m like, oh, that’s, that’s a luxury, but not all of us possess. And so if you’ve got all these other things, not that he has lots of extra time but it’s just, again, it’s finding, it’s like, Hey, I can break it down into chunks, and it doesn’t have to to happen in a certain timeframe. I just have to go, these are the chunks and this is where I fit it in. And it’ll get done when it gets done. But when it gets done, it’ll be right. Right,
BB (32:47):
Right, right. Yeah. I love that. Yeah. There, there’s no single right way to do it. It’s just, there there is wisdom and guidelines that can help you get there faster and better. I love that. That’s what it’s about.
AJV (32:58):
It’s flexible. Right. All right. Second thing. Yeah. And I loved what you said, and I just wanted to call back out. And this is something that we say a lot at Brain Builders Group. So no one take offense to this, but there are no great writers. Mm-Hmm. Only great editors. Mm-Hmm. Right. It’s like when we write Mm-Hmm. If you do it, you know, if you do it often and you do it well, it’s like you’re verbose , there’s too much. Yeah, sure, sure. And it’s all over the place. Sure. And that’s what a great editor does, is it makes it more succinct and clear. And that’s not necessarily the writer’s job. The writer’s job is to get it all out. Right. The editor’s job is to tighten it up, clean it up, and bring it together. And I think that’s just a great reminder to everyone. It’s like, you don’t have to be a great writer. You just need great editing. Mm-Hmm.
BB (33:44):
. Mm-Hmm. . Absolutely. I totally agree with that. And the writer and the editor can be the same person, provided they realize they need to switch the sides of their brain and their focus of what they’re doing. Right. Because I, I do both, but I, you have to approach it intentionally. I’m here to edit. That’s why I’m here. I’m not here to write, I’m here to edit. Although I think you could, you could switch out that word writer and put a definition next to it and just put editor. Yeah. Right. ’cause That’s really what it is. You don’t get to greatness by accident. Mm-Hmm. . And I think there’s a lot of lessons for life in this as well. If we approach life like we do writing, the key to great writing is ruthless editing. Well, the key to great living is also ruthless editing.
BB (34:28):
Right. The ability to know, Hey, this is our objective. This is what I’m trying to accomplish. And so because of that, I’m gonna cut that out. I’m gonna cut that out. I’m cut that out so these things in my life can flourish. Right. And giving space for those ideas to take place and, and not trying to do so much that you know, I think of your, what the analogy you and Rory use about Sheehan’s wall, right? That in order to get out of obscurity and part become well known, you have to get focused and punched through that wall. I think it’s, I mean, it applies to larger vision of life, right? In order to live the life you truly want, I like to say live a story. We’re telling, like, you have to get clear on what you do want focus, so you can punch through that resistance and enjoy what you’re seeking on the other side.
AJV (35:13):
Yeah. So true. Okay. Third thing is just the process of getting words on a page. And so I was curious, I’ve just got two quick things here that I jotted down, is what’s your take on the trend of people just audio, they’re audio ing? Is that a thing? I’m making it a thing. Audio ing their book, right? Doing everything Voice Right. And then having it transcribed and edited from there. Sure, sure. And then also, what’s your take on using ai?
BB (35:42):
Oh, great question. Great question. Yeah. First of all, on the transcript side you know, we, we don’t do that. And again, it goes back to the medium conversation, right? A speaker is going to speak things one way, and and that’s fine in a conversation, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into the, into the written word. And so there are services out there that will say they actually tout the fact that, oh, you, you just answer these questions. We take your answers, we make sure they’re grammatically correct. And boom, you gotta book it’s magic. The, again, the problem is, first of all, it, it hasn’t gone through the filter of translating into that medium. Secondly the ideas, any one of us all by ourselves only has certain ideas and only has a certain perspective. And so when you bring in other voices into that process, who can bring fresh insights strategically raise the value of that perspective, and cause you to realize other things.
BB (36:41):
We have one gentleman incredible business consultant. We’ve written several books with him and what he has said, I come into a book project, I have a good idea of what I wanna say, but by the time I leave, that book has been improved so dramatically because of the ideas that we’ve developed through that process. I could never have gotten there on my own. I, and so that’s, that’s what we look for. That’s the value of what we do. You know, so this kind of outta the box plan if that’s a fit for you, great. We, our focus is more does it actually serve your audience or is it more about easy for you? And if you’re here to serve, then you gotta make sure that book is really strategically powerful. So that’s the one question on the AI front.
BB (37:28):
It, it, it is like, it’s not even the wild West yet. It’s, it’s even messier than the Wild West on the AI front of books and so forth. Obviously there’s a lot of legal stuff going on. One of the things that’s becoming evident is that if you create a book using ai, you actually don’t own the copyright on that book. You don’t own the content. So trying to build any intellectual property around that becomes really troublesome. ’cause This is one of the things we bring to the table, as you know, as well. We help people develop ways to monetize their ideas into digital courses, instructional design, workshops, trainings, all those kind of things. And if the ideas aren’t actually yours, then whatever you build is on really shaky ground from a legal perspective. The other problem is that, you know, you know, I think it was the writer of Ecclesiastes said, there’s nothing new under the sun .
BB (38:22):
What is new and different is your ability to bring unique perspective, your story, your, your unique approach to it that only you can bring. And AI doesn’t know that. And so it, it just spits out whatever other people have said. And, and it removes that uniqueness on the one hand. On the other hand what AI cannot do is it cannot make connections. It hasn’t already made that already haven’t been made. And this is the, the genius of the human mind is that we can put thoughts together that no one has ever put together before. Right? We, we can bring fresh ideas and insights into all that in a way that, you know, no machine ever will be able to do. Right? Mm-Hmm. , no matter what the limits of that are, whatever that looks like it simply won’t have the ability to pull all that together. So all that being said, I think AI has its place. It can be used to curate content, be used to pull research and so forth, where we’ve run into struggles with authors onis when they start relying on it to do the lifting for them. And then, you know, they end up just stuck in this mediocre place that nobody really wants to read.
AJV (39:31):
Yeah. And it’s interesting, I think most of us have encountered enough AI content at this point where it’s like, yeah, I think that’s ai Right? Versus right , I can tell. And I think it’ll continue to improve over the next, you know, months and years and we’ll see where it ends up. But I agree that there’s just some things that, you know, technology can never replace the human heart. And writing and storytelling, I believe are two of those categories. It’s right, the importance of the nuances of a story that really can only come from the human heart. So let’s talk, transition a little bit into then, what is it that you guys do to help humans bring humans into this place of becoming, you know, great writers and produce great writing? And so what is a ghost writer and what do they do?
BB (40:23):
Sure. Well, I, I usually don’t even use the term ghostwriter. I don’t mind it at all. I like to use the term collaborative writing. Mm. I like that. ’cause It’s really how I view it as really coming alongside. Yeah. An author not replacing them, not pretending that they did something they didn’t. But a lot of the big names and big books you see out there, not all of them by any means were written with collaborative writers or ghost writers, whatever the case may be. The key, I think a lot of people tend to, this is another reason why I use that name is people think of ghost writing as almost like it’s a fake writing. Mm-Hmm. And that’s not what the collaborative process is at all. In fact, it really relies on authenticity. You know, that the people I work with on books we, we go deep into, into content and our team goes deep with them to develop that content.
BB (41:13):
You know, so it is very much the author’s ideas. That’s another thing some people think is, well, it won’t actually be what I have to say. It won’t be my message. No, not if you have a good collaborative writer, it will be your method. We, we have a priority of preserving that and adding value to it, not not replacing it. Right? so we serve as that sounding board for ideas and value add for ideas. And we just go through that process. I mean, we, a lot of times the authors I work with, we become good friends ’cause we get to know each other really well. Our team becomes good friends and so forth. And we have a whole process laid out where we help people really turn their ideas into compelling books and compelling manuscripts that they can then decide what’s the best publishing path for me? What do I do with this now that I have a book I can be proud of? Right? So that, that’s really where, where the heart of that comes in. And that’s really where our passion is. ’cause You know, we’ve seen so many people who have ideas and they either take them half baked into the world and regret it, or they don’t take ’em at all. ’cause They’re afraid they don’t know how. And we believe the world needs to hear what these leaders need have to say.
AJV (42:19):
You know, it’s interesting ’cause I liken what you just said to something that I also experience when the red light on the camera goes on. Because we do so much video work. And what I’ve noticed that even with our team at Brand Builders Group, they will have the most amazing ideas and eloquent conversation and wisdom. And then I’m like, we gotta get that on camera. And we put the camera in front of them and that red light comes on. It’s like, . I’m like, what just happened? Like, like, just repeat what you just said. And they’re like, what did I say? Right? And what I have noticed, it’s because it’s in an interview conversation format. When people have to move into monologue mode, which is what happens when you are writing or you’re talking to yourself, so much of that disappears. And it’s like, wait, I don’t, what did you ask?
AJV (43:09):
What? I don’t know what I said. And it’s because what came to them was in the form of the question. And so what I see that you do so well is it’s helping the writer get into dialogue mode in conversation mode. Because you’re asking the questions that help them get to the root of the story or the point, or what they’re trying to share. Where when you’re just looking at a camera screen, it’s like what, what was that? Or, or you start questioning yourself like, wait, is this really good? And what you have an hour to write and you’re like, yeah, it’ll sucked. And it’s like, says who? And it’s because you don’t have that dialogue and conversation. And so to hear you use the term collaborative writing makes a lot of sense because it’s that dialogue. It’s that conversation that allows the author, the, the content creator to flow more naturally, which is how it would in real conversation versus putting words on a page or talking to a blank screen.
BB (44:06):
I completely agree. Again, pushing back against that myth that people think it, I I have to do it myself, or it’s not my ideas. Mm-Hmm. . Well, the reality is none of your ideas are truly your ideas in the first place. You’ve got the, the seeds of those from elsewhere anyway, right? . Totally. You’ve brawn those in and you’ve pulled them together in a unique way. And so this is what we do is really about, let’s be intentional about that. Let’s be intentional about for busy people who, frankly they don’t have time to become experts in writing. They don’t, they have other priorities and they should have other priorities. Frankly. They have, they do things that only they can do extremely well. And I was just talking to one of our mutual friends, right? Lewis Howes the other day about this idea is he’s a huge fan of, you know, delegating ruthlessly. Like whatever is not in your strength spot, find someone else who can do it better. Right? And hence our partnership. I know he partners with you guys for the same reason, right? So it’s, it’s that kind of idea that if, if this isn’t your thing, find somebody who can add value and collaborate with you to help, to help you be more creative. Yeah. Because you have those ideas. We can just help them get them out of you and share ’em with the world.
AJV (45:18):
And it doesn’t matter who you are and at what level. Everybody still needs coaching. Rightly, the best athlete in the world still have coaches, absolutely the best anything in the world Absolutely. Are seeking never and constant, yeah. Improvement. you know, so I think that’s back to the process. We all need to coach in something in our lives. And if you’re going through this process that’s a lot of what it is. It’s collaborative writing, body coaching questions and the, and, and making time and having accountability to the time, which we all need that too. So bill, if people wanna learn more about Story Builders, where should they go?
BB (46:05):
I would say the best. Sorry about that. My internet stuttered for a minute there, I think.
AJV (46:10):
Okay. I’m almost gonna start that little sentence over. So Bill, if people wanna learn more about Story Builders, where should they go?
BB (46:17):
We would love to connect with people who have a story that they, maybe they’re wondering, is my story worth telling , do I have a book? Do I need, do I even need help? We’re here to help you figure that out. So the best way to get in touch with us is to schedule a book, idea session with one of our story strategists, and we’ll get you answers to those questions. It’s free, no obligation session with them. Veteran Book, people who have worked on thousands of books, thousands of authors. We would love to help you figure that out. Go to my story builders.com/story. So my story builders.com/story. And you can easily right now schedule time on your calendar, put in a spot we want to come alongside and help you. If we can be a fit for you and help you, great. If not, we want to get out of your way so you can tell your story and live it out in the way that you feel called to do.
AJV (47:10):
Hmm. I love that y’all, my story builders.com/story. I will put that in the show notes, at least vet the idea of, is this the route for me? What is this idea I have? And have some conversation around what that looks like. Now, bill, people wanna connect with you personally. What’s the best platform for them to connect with you personally?
BB (47:31):
Best one is gonna be LinkedIn. We, we put a lot of focus in actually serving the clients and story partners as we call ’em, that we’re serving. But LinkedIn’s probably the best place. Just look me up, bill Blank Shane, or Story Builders, one of the two. And or, you know, schedule some time with our story strategist and say, Hey, I’d really like to talk to Bill. I’d, you know, got a project. I’d like to explore what it would look like to have him help me personally or anything like that. It’s fine, whatever that takes. And yeah, just, just reach out and we’re here.
AJV (48:00):
And I’ll put your LinkedIn link in the show notes as well. This was so helpful, so insightful, so many good nuggets. And for everyone else who is listening, stick around for the recap, which will be up next. And we will see you next time on the influential personal brand.