Case Study: Melinda Carbis-Reilly, Diggin Your Dark Side, and the value of your story

When Melinda and her teamDiggin your dark side - Melinda Carbis-Reilly first approached me about her book, I was both excited and alarmed about the subject matter: depression. As well as my own past experience of depression, two decades ago now, over the past couple of years I’d helped two people very close to me navigate depression. At times I felt like a flimsy life-raft when they needed a steamliner, or that I was caving in the dark without a map – and I was only the carer. I was excited to read a book that offered help and strategies, but I was also very anxious about what approach it would take. Did the author really understand the life-sapping weight of depression? The terrible feelings of guilt and shame it can bring, which is only made worse by jolly-hockey-sticks advice to “pull yourself together”? So much well-meaning advice given to people suffering depression just pushes them deeper into self-loathing and a sense of inadequacy. I felt frightened that the book might take that approach, and fiercely protective of the two people I’d helped life-raft back to shore.

I needn’t have worried. Melinda’s understanding of depression is deep and intimate, and her advice beautifully shaped to meet people where they are. From the first sample pages I saw, I breathed out with relief. I was also quietly awed by her willingness to share her own experiences with such raw honesty, and immediately felt, as she did, that this was absolutely integral to the book. She’s a powerful storyteller, and the way she shares her own stories makes the suggestions that follow so much more powerful. Even the best advice can be difficult to accept without that deeper truth, “I’ve been there.” The life-giving power of “me too”. Also, very wonderfully for a book on such a dark subject, she manages to keep a sense of light and hope running throughout it. This was definitely a book I wanted to work on.

Melinda’s book

Diggin’ Your Dark Side: Guidance to Transform Anxiety and Depression into a Deep Sense of Belonging and Love

Feeling like you have lost your purpose is terrifying. Feeling disconnected to your life and loved ones for reasons unknown to you can take you to a ledge that you may not come down from. This is the grim reality of depression.

Life should have been blissful for Melinda but her past was haunting her. Through a journey of healing her heart from the loss of her son, forgiving her sexual abusers and working tirelessly to overcome the internal self-loathing she found a place where the darkness could no longer hold its power over her heart and her life. Melinda shares her battles with depression and suicidal thoughts with rawness and authenticity. The story unfolds keeping you engaged at every juncture as she shares the tools and techniques she used to get down from the ledge and into a loving and joyful place.

There is no stone left unturned, from nutrition, exercise, meditation, healings, self-love and the pure joy of laughter you will find the right practices to bring you back to the peaceful being you truly are.

This book is for anyone who has experienced trauma that has not been healed, depression that has stolen joy, purpose that has been lost and for the carer who has watched their loved one get lost in the darkness.

Melinda’s story and passion for helping others will inspire you to find yourself and realise how magical you really are.

You could have dabbled with the dark side for ten days or ten years, this book has powerful tools to elevate you into the most loved up and joyful place creating a life beyond your wildest dreams.

Melinda’s package

The original email from Melinda’s team said she wanted help with “grammar, sentence structure, overall flow of the book and spell checks throughout the book” – everything, in short, to get it ready for publication. These are actually three separate parts of the book-writing process:

  • overall flow: a critique of the manuscript, to see what aspects may still need work or more development.
  • sentence structure and style: this is called editing, or style editing, to smooth over the shape of the sentences and sometimes rearranges sentences and paragraphs as well.
  • grammar and spelling & punctuation checks: this is called proofreading, or copy editing, and is the absolute final stage before a book goes to print, to make sure there are no errors remaining. It’s best to do this after layout, as new errors can creep in during the layout stage.

The three stages are often done by two or three different people – the same person might do the critique and the editing, but the final stage, the proofreading, should always be a different person. I emailed back to outline the process for Melinda, and we set up a Skype chat to discuss the chapter I’d seen, her plans for the book, her business and background, and how to proceed. She’d almost finished her first draft, so we arranged for a critique, with the option of coaching or a further critique after that. After the first critique, Melinda worked on the suggested changes for a few weeks, then brought it back for a second critique. It was then in great shape for her to make a few last changes, and send it off for editing.

The four pillars of Melinda’s book

Melinda’s business and area of expertise

I am a naturopath, fitness therapist and speaker. I opened Redhead Wellness Sanctuary 18 months ago to create a hub for people who want to take a holistic approach to their health and fitness. My area of expertise would be bringing spiritual, physical and mental health into one plane and helping to educate my clients around the importance of a balanced and inspiring life.

After my own recent experience with depression, I now have an unstoppable drive to help anyone else that is struggling to find joy in life get their zest back and to fall in love with who they are.

The role Melinda’s book plays in her business

My book was written to give hope and tools to those struggling with depression, anxiety and loss. I believe my book will transform my practise as a naturopath and speaker as I share my own experiences with this condition, allowing my clients to open up more with me so I can help them on a deeper level.

Melinda’s readers

This book is for those who have struggled finding their magic, have suffered loss or abuse and for the carer of someone with depression or anxiety.

How Melinda’s personal & business values align with her book

There is an incredibly fine line between my personal and professional values: I live and breathe this life. My book is an autobiographical self-help book so it intertwines my personal experience of resetting my values with my work helping others do the same. My book is my business and personal life, collaborated together into fifteen chapters.

Melinda’s experience of writing this book

Melinda Carbis-ReillyThe writing itself was easy – I got lost in the process and loved every minute, the whole process felt smooth and natural.  My steepest learning curve was the book world itself. I learnt so much about writing. I also learnt a great deal about myself: reflecting over your life and the lessons you have learnt is an amazing experience.

Writing this book taught me how simple the most effective tools are. It taught me that I didn’t have to keep digging on an intellectual level for answers that are already in our souls. It taught me that the best way for me to help others be their happiest, healthiest and freest versions of themselves is to keep it simple and loving.

I chose to self-publish because I wanted ownership of my work, I wanted to be able to give copies away freely if I choose to, and I wanted to promote my work in a way that felt right to me.

To anyone planning to write a book, I’d say, just do it! Don’t over-think it, just lay out your chapters summaries and then write from your heart.

You can find out more about Melinda Cabis-Reilly’s work and order her book on her website, here.

Your author-editor relationship

What does your editor do? Will they rip apart your book? Will it hurt? If there are typos in the book, is the editor to blame? What are all these different kinds of edits? The editor’s role is often misunderstood – from thinking that’s the person who fixes the commas and typos, to characterising them as vicious monsters who make authors cry.

The editing process: it’s far more than fixing the words

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Case Study: Shirley Mansfield and The Grown-Up Business

Cover_webShirley Mansfield contacted me on 6 November 2013, saying “I hope you can help me…” and that she wanted to write a book. The Grown-Up Business was released on 4 November 2014. From starting point to release for a full-length high-quality published book in just under a year – now that’s superb! Read more to find out how Shirley did it and what she can teach you from her experience. Continue reading

Your CALENDAR you must book…

Certain phrases tell me immediately what’s going wrong with someone’s writing. They usually look something like this: I’m hoping to write a book this year. I’m going to try do some writing this weekend. I’ll see if I can do some writing in the evenings. I’m planning to write a book sometime this year. At the risk of coming across all Yoda… Continue reading

Redeem your book plans

How’s your book going? Are you writing away steadily or have other demands pushed it onto the backburner? Does the question make you grimace with guilt; has it turned out a bigger challenge than you thought? Do you have a draft outline and notes or heaps of pages? Do you know what to do next?

Don’t put a black line through “Write a book” just yet: get yourself a review. This will clear the ground and give you a clear plan of what to do next. And you’ll keep your promise to yourself. Continue reading

What does your reader want?

When you start to write a book on your thought leadership, it’s easy to feel that you know better than your readers. They may think that their problem is time-management, but you know it’s an issue of aligning their goals with their values. They may think they’re struggling with an overload of work, but you know they need to sort out their time-management. And then your brilliant, well-written book jampacked with insights just languishes in a warehouse, or out in the ether, or as a potential click on a print-on-demand that never happens. And all around you are people struggling with issues which they could solve if they’d only read the damn book! So how do you make it a book they will read? Continue reading

The Evil Secret Stretch Goal

The Evil Secret Stretch GoalMost creatives and ambitious types know how difficult it can be to keep a normal, healthy self-esteem. Doing something good isn’t enough – you want it to be magnificent!  And if it’s not magnificent, you are shit. And so self-esteem gets trapped between unrealised magnificence and unrealistic shittitude. A close cousin of this is the overambitious idea-killer. You have an idea and it’s great. You keep imagining just how great it could be until it is so amazing that it’s impossible to do. The idea blows up like a bubble until it pops.

We know this stuff. We can all quote Voltaire, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” (Or if we’re being really perfectionist, “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.”) But sometimes it still slips under the radar – and one of its techniques is The Evil Secret Stretch Goal. Continue reading

Trick of the trade: how to keep your readers in mind

readersEvery book on writing says “Think about the reader” – and of course that’s essential, to think about what they need to know and how you need to say it. The content you choose and the way you write depends on who you’re talking to. In practice, though, how do you do that? Simple: look at them. Pictures of real people you really know. Writing can sometimes feel difficult, but communicating is effortlessly human. It’s part of what defines us as human. The throes of unrequited love aside, it’s usually easier to explain what we mean when we’re talking to a human face. So here’s how to do it. Continue reading

How to write something you can’t write

The_ScreamEveryone finds some types of writing difficult. Your thoughts hit a brick wall, your mind goes blank, your fingers freeze.  It might be a difficult chapter, a cover letter, your web text, or a biography. Usually, you’ve hit an emotional or psychological barrier: it’s too personal, too important, or too far outside your comfort zone. It feels like anyone in the world could write it better than you – but you’re the only one who can write it, because the information’s in your head. Longer term, you might want to sit down with your fears; if it’s just one piece of writing, though, and you need to get it done now, this is how. Continue reading

No glass slippers! Is your model working?

For thought leaders and experts, a great model is the gold standard.  It showcases your expertise, explains both the concept and the process in the best possible way, and becomes part of your intellectual capital. At its best, it tells you more than you already knew and opens up new avenues of ideas.  In your book, it creates the most logical and helpful structure you can use. But what if your model’s turning into a glass slipper? Continue reading

Why you need a developmental editor

Tom Allen’s successful Kickstarter project, Love on a Bike, reveals a discovery that every person writing a book needs to know. After the video’s beautiful intro of cycling around the world and falling in love, we see Tom typing away on his laptop. “My name is Tom,” says the voiceover, “And really, ever since I began travelling, I’ve been wanting to write a book. I’ve got to a point now where I’m on the very edge of having finished that book…”  Hurrah! we think. Done! But Tom has become wiser: Continue reading

Create your book… in 30 seconds!

What? Yes, really. Have you taken leave of your quality-driven senses? Not at all. This isn’t the book you’re going to publish, but it is a book full of great content, all carefully considered and written by you, and it might well be the John the Baptist to the Jesus of your book.  It’s The Book Of The Blog! And thanks to BlogBooker, it really does take 30 seconds. Maybe a minute, if you read the instructions carefully and take a couple sips of coffee. Continue reading

Are you throwing away great info?

Situation: My friend’s fantastic book was lying dormant for a year or two – frustrating for him and for everyone who’d read snippets of it. When he passed through Oxford, we came up with a plan to get it back to life.  For three weeks, he wrote like a demon – then he hit a snag in the plot and a work crisis at the same time. Writing jerked to a halt. After two weeks, he confessed his “failure” and a plan to resume writing in March. Failure? When he’s been writing so much? March? Three whole months away? Just a week before, I’d read an article with exactly the info he needed, on how we build habits and react to breaks in habits.  It was… Continue reading

Quick – slow down! The paradox you need to practise

I make people work fast – and I insist they relax. I make them do an exercise in 10 minutes instead of an hour – then I tell them to take an extra-long shower. I give them a demanding schedule of work – and tell them to take it for a lovely long walk. I do all this not out of crazed split-personality psychosis, but because I know, intimately, the creative process. Continue reading

“What does an editor do?” in terms of ninjas

Ninja editing“An author working without a professional proofreader is a bit like a school bus with no brakes speeding toward a cliff on an icy road. And the school bus is on fire, and an angry ninja is stabbing the driver in the head.” – Scott Lynch

What is a proofreader’s job? What does an editor do? What’s the difference between an editor and a proofreader? And what are all these different kinds of editing – what’s style editing, what’s structural editing, what’s developmental editing, and who will help me kill the ninja? At last, the answers you need – in simple ninja terms. Continue reading

Why you should never write “Anon”

If someone’s idea is important enough to quote, 
they’re important enough to mention. - Megan Kerr

I’m amazed by the number of books from thought leaders and experts that include quote after quote by “Anon”. Usually, it’s not actually anonymous – the writer just doesn’t know who said it. As the editor, I shoot off to Google, spend 5 minutes digging around, and come back with the person’s name and the exact words they used. This isn’t just a pedantic nicety: this is the heart of what we do as thought leaders.We all talk about the ideas economy and the value of expertise. Having ideas, good ideas, good enough for people to like and quote, takes time: they don’t spring out of nothing. They are the tip of an iceberg of thought and work. Likewise, expertise takes years – often unpaid or self-funded years, knowing that once you have it, it’s payback time. If you’ve put in your 10,000 hours, you know what you’re talking about. You can speak with authority and make a name for yourself. Unless, of course, people steal that.

When you write “Anon”, you’re stealing. It doesn’t feel like it, you don’t mean to, and it takes most people a while to realise that it simply is theft. Someone has had a great idea, for which the minimum payback is exposure, their name, and you’ve stolen it. Not just that sentence – but part of the 10,000 hours that went into them being able to say that, because that was their investment.

Writing “Anon” also looks unprofessional. It reads as “couldn’t be bothered to find out”. Sometimes, someone does know the source, but doesn’t want to say, because the name just doesn’t match up to the other people they’re quoting.  Uh-uh. If someone’s idea is important enough to quote, they’re important enough to mention.

When you’re writing online, on blog posts, Facebook, and Twitter, it’s easy to let things slide. For a start, there’s no editor pulling you up.  And as soon as something starts proliferating, it gets harder to track down the original source. It feels less important – everyone knows everything on the internet is basically free! No. Every great line, every awesome picture, was created by a person. Credit the person. Actually, this is even more important online. Things whizz around so fast that the chances are much higher of the original person seeing their quote or picture being used. Turn it around. Think of the ideas you’re proudest of. Now see them in a snazzy little online poster format, without your name, being shared by someone else. Your trust and respect for them capsizes. What are you doing to people’s trust and respect for you, when you write “Anon”?

Intellectual capital needs to be respected. People whose businesses run on intellectual capital need to lead the way. Attribute, attribute, attribute. There is no “Anon”.

Some tips on tracking down the original source

  • Only write “Anon” if a printed, respected dictionary of quotations gives the source as unknown.
  • Don’t trust a rash of Google results – mistakes proliferate. Hack back to a respected source, either first-hand (their own website, the original newspaper report at the time) or an established knowledge site, eg Mirriam-Webster, Oxford Press.
  • If the whole quote in quotation marks doesn’t get you good results, try using a few key words without quotation marks. Often a wrong version is doing the rounds.
  • For original image sources, work backwards in time, for the earliest chronological version. Check some image stock sites.
  • At conferences and panels, write each speaker’s name at the top of your notes and use their initials to mark their contribution in your notes. Afterwards, you can thank them for specific comments you found helpful and you can attribute their words if you write about it.
  • Online, link to people’s sites as well as giving their name.
  • Einstein probably didn’t say it. Check. Wikipedia has a helpful list of sayings commonly misattributed to Einstein as well as a list of general misattributions.

Want this this kind of vigour, rigour, and discipline applied to your book? Email me to book your work in and discuss your project.

Write brilliant headings

Book headingsHeadings and subheadings in your book are a fantastic way to help the reader.  ”Chunking” information like this makes the book easier to scan, so busy readers find the bit they need fast.  It makes your key points easier to remember – each one is clearly signalled.  It also breaks up the page for visual learners, who remember what pages look like.  Brilliant headings do what they say on the tin, are brief and bold, are positive, paint pictures, and for true sparkle have a touch of poetry. Continue reading