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Some lessons from James Altucher’s Writing Course.

In May 2023, in a podcast, James Altucher announced his writing course published on Udemy: How to Write AND Publish a Book in 30 Days. Here are just a few lessons I learned from this course.

    1. The Six “U’s”

    Answer these questions before writing.

    · Urgency. Why is it urgent that you read my book now?

    · Unique. Why is my book unique? What makes it different from others?

    · Useful. Why and how is my book useful to you now?

    · Ultra-specific. Zoom in on a particular subject. Aim to be the only writer in that domain.

    · User-friendly. Tell a story. People love stories.

    · Unquestionable proof. How my book has benefited others.

    2. Myths about writing

    · The first draft is always rubbish. Don’t worry about grammar or elegance. That’s editing. Concentrate on story-telling.

    · Length – doesn’t have to be a War and Peace. 20,000 words is enough.

    · You don’t need to start at the beginning. Start wherever you like and rearrange the chapters later.

    · Understand that the core deliverable is a story. My job as a writer is to tell a story. Don’t lose sight of this.

    3. The Hero’s Arc

    1. The Call to Action: A young farmer meets a prophet who tells him he must save the universe from the evil empire.

    2. Reluctance. He doesn’t want to save anyone. He’s no hero, he is a farmer. He is happy where he is and wants to stay with his family.

    3. Inciting Incident. Uncle and aunt are killed by the evil empire.

    4. The Journey: He sets fight. He meets friends and encounters enemies.

    5. Problems escalate. The obstacles mount. As soon as he overcomes one difficulty, another appears. Things get progressively worse.

    6. The Greatest Problem. This is what everything has been working up to: the showdown with the antagonist, the great battle.

    7. The Triumphant Return. The farmer returns a man to tell his story.

    4. Nuts and bolts

    · Brevity is the key. Make every word count. Write simply. use short words and short sentences.

    · Be ruthless: if a word, sentence, paragraph, or chapter doesn’t advance the story – then cut it.

    · The opening line is the hook – the goal is to make the reader want to know more.

    · Use the Flesch-Kincaid score to check the writing. Aim for the 7th grade.

    5. Writer’s block

    Some ways to overcome writer’s block.

    · Coffee or other stimulants.

    · Reading great books.

    · Write the way you would talk.

    · Surf the web for ideas (or a pile of old magazines.)

    · By-pass the obstacle. If you’re struggling with a particular chapter, leave it, get on with something else and return later.

    · Be disciplined. Start writing at a specific time daily. Make it a habit.

    6. Frameworks

    Here are some techniques for choosing a topic.

    · Listicles. Pick any subject that you’re interested in and then write “Seven Habits of Successful People”, “12 Rules of Life”, “40 Rules of Power”, etc.

    · Habits. The habits of a successful - parent/iOS developer/golf player/professor/entrepreneur/athlete/writer/warlord/…etc.

    · Plato and Pick a historical character and combine him or her with a modern concept.

    · Academic papers – pick a topic (mine was the Gender Health Gap.) Go on to an academic research website – for example, SSRN.com and jstor.org. Identify a list of articles on your subject and each article provides a chapter.

    7. An aside…

    As I was writing this, I asked ChatGPT, “Are you familiar with a technique for writing books called ‘The Jesus Diet’?” ChatGPT responded that it hadn’t and asked if I could provide more context. I replied: It is a method of choosing a topic for a book. You combine a historical character and a modern concept — for example, Plato and the Motor Car, Aristotle on Women's Liberation. ChatGPT then offered these suggestions:

    "Confucius and the Gig Economy".

    "Cleopatra and Social Media".

    "Leonardo da Vinci on Artificial Intelligence".

    "Socrates and Online Education".

    8. Odds and Sods

    · Identifying a subject: Use Warren Buffet’s “5/25” technique. Write a list of the 25 things that interest you. Then, order them, with the most important first. Discard the bottom twenty. Concentrate on the top five.

    · A book is not a list of facts. It is a list of stories that illustrate facts.

    · Self-publishing – forget the stigma. If you self-publish, you bear the risk but reap the reward.

    · Reedsy.com is a good place to start when looking for cover designers or book editors.

    · Grammarly is useful.

    9. Finally, a gripe.

    I have a gripe. In his podcast, James promised that if anyone did his course and had a book published, James would buy and review the book. I did do the course, and my book has been published. I emailed James twice asking for his review, but alas, I haven't received a reply!

    But if anyone is interested, and even though this is probably not everyone’s cup of tea, my book “The United Kingdom’s Gender Health Gap” can be bought here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/United-Kingdoms-Gender-Health-Gap/dp/1068606304

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