I don’t know about you, but I like to DIY things as much as I can. I even fixed my own washing machine once! (YouTube is magic.)

I’ve taught myself how to waitress, how to play piano, how to write articles. When I’m deep in a tricky part of some new thing I’m writing, I will stay with it for a long time, trying to figure out what’s not working. That’s DIY me.

But I have to admit there’s a time when getting guidance makes a lot more sense. Inevitably, it means spending money, but I make that money back – and then some – on what I learn or accomplish. 

For example, I once took a six-week journalism boot-camp – and landed a piece in the New York Times. Was that a good investment? Um, yes.

From there, I wrote for Yoga Journal, Yoga International (my beat was yoga culture in America) and briefly did some blogging for Wanderlust, a big yoga festival. That one boot-camp opened up a lot of doors.

While I’m an obsessive reviser (all writing is rewriting), I have also paid editors to look over my work. Like many writers, I get too close to my material and need help to see it fresh.

So when I cannot solve the issues any more, and my piece is fairly readable, I will hire someone I trust to go through it.

The editors have found not just typos and weird mechanical issues (what were those verbs doing in paragraph four?), they have also been much better at seeing my own big picture than I was.

They always got me back on track, increased my chances of publication, and saved me from sending my work out too soon – which would have been embarrassing and frustrating.

Growth is a mixture of self-inquiry and guidance. As a book writer, you have to know when it’s your time to buckle down and get those pages written, and when it’s time to hire help.

A really useful guide knows when to support and when to challenge, when to dive in and when to step back.

A skillful book coach (or developmental editor) is all of these things: guide, cheering section, task master, wise oracle, friend (okay, sometimes more like a therapist) – a hired champion of your work.

When it comes to book writing, as I’ve hinted at here on the blog, the process can be deeply transformational. It requires an investment of your time, your thinking, your best writing–and also your humility.

It will require you to face ideas you have about yourself and your book (just ask my Book Proposal Academy clients!) Don’t get me wrong – it’s wonderful. It’s deeply satisfying. It is also work.

Guidance can be the difference between getting to the finish line, or meandering around in the middle, wondering why you started this race. (Writing a book is not a race, but for the sake of the analogy….)

So, when do you DIY your book project and when do you hire cracker-jack professional guidance?

If you’ve got the seed of an idea, spend some time writing. For example, see if you can “sprint write” 30 pages. How did it go?

If you’ve got chapters and chapters – or, conversely, a mountain of scraps – I challenge you to pull together a long essay (1K – 5K words). Can you find the beginning, middle, end – and the through-line?

Once you’ve got something to work with, but you’re no longer making progress, that’s when it’s time to hire help.

Whenever you get that strong feeling that you’re fired up but really not sure of your next step, that’s when it’s a good time to find help.

You might need a coach to help you work out your idea, set accountability goals, or edit as you go.

You might need a developmental editor to edit your chapters or proposal to prepare it for submission.

You might want to join a group program (Book Proposal Academy – starts Feb. 10th!) to get the support of your peers as well as the expert guidance of your instructor.

Inevitably, all book writers face challenges – whether it’s on the idea level (what is my book actually about?) or on the purely technical level (what are transitions, again?!?).

That’s why it can be a life-saver to have help. The support of someone who’s been there before, who’s seen writers get to the other side. Or, a group of like-minded peers to walk with you.

These can be the things that help you pull off your project – a minor miracle! And, oh, so satisfying.

What are YOU working on? Let me know in the comments.

Or, where are you most stuck, right now? Tell me!

Or, join the conversation on Instagram @brooklynbookdoctor

Until soon, yours in books,