• John Lim

MF 224 : Starting with a short form for the first draft of your book

In this episode, we go from ideation to starting a first draft that’s a short form of the book you plan to write. More at www.bemovingforward.com.

Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above. Moving Forward is also available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, iHeartRadio, and Spotify.

Part 1: A lesson in patience

I hadn’t planned on revisiting Poshmark since we just wrapped up the series a few weeks ago but I wanted to share something that happened last week. If you followed this mini-series, you may have been contemplating starting a Poshmark business or you may still be on the fence. One fear you may have in the back of your mind is one many who start an online business has: screwing up. Specifically, sending an order to the wrong person.

That happened to us last week.

We’ve been on Poshmark for just under a year and we now have over 110 orders under our belt. Up until last week, we had a perfect delivery record with an under 1 day shipping rate.

Last week, we had three orders come in at once. One of those orders was for a black dress which was very similar to an order we had just shipped out the day before. The mailing labels were stacked on top of one another in the email. My dad accidentally reprinted the shipping label from the prior order and sent one of the new orders to the wrong customer.

I didn’t notice this until about a day and a half later when I saw that the USPS tracking hadn’t activated. It had on the two other orders but not this third shipment. I checked the USPS receipt and sure enough, the tracking number didn’t match the one on the shipping label.

I panicked.

I called my dad and felt really bad but he took a much more calm and zen approach. His attitude was that we made a mistake but that there’s always a solution to a problem.

I, on the other hand, was a basket case. I sent out three messages. First, I contacted the customer the order was supposed to go to, letting her know what happened, apologizing profusely, and informing her we would fix this. The second person I contacted was the one the package was accidentally sent to. I was hoping she would be able to decline delivery if she happened to be home or at the very least, I wanted to let her know to expect an unexpected package. The third message I sent to Poshmark support. As we had never had this happen before, I wasn’t sure what the procedures were for handling this.

We waited and for the first 24 hours, we had no response from anyone we contacted. My dad remained calm, confident that everything would turn out ok. In sharp contract, I grew more agitated and impatient.

The next day, at the height of my stress, coming out of Trader Joe’s, I got a ping on my phone. The person who we accidentally sent the package to let us know that she received it and graciously offered to help us get it to the right person.

Soon after, the customer who ordered the package replied to our message, saying she understood and that she appreciate us informing her.

I didn’t hear back from Poshmark right away but I came up with an idea. I asked the person who received the package if we could email her the correct label so she could send it out to the right person. She kindly agreed to help us out. We emailed her the label, she printed it out, put it on the package, and the next day (Thursday), she let us know that USPS picked it up.

The package got to the customer on Saturday. It was a little late but still within a week. She even gave us a good rating.

Meanwhile, during this time, Poshmark emailed us back, letting us know that they had procedures in place in case we needed their help.

My dad was right. Every problem has a solution.

I realized that while I may be the “tech savvy” one, he’s got way more life and business experience. Mistakes happen. We’re all human. That said, I will admit I hate them and don’t deal with them. They say that mistakes and failures are our greatest teachers. It’s a platitude we hear a lot these days. But the fact is when I go through it, I get stressed, I get impatient and short with people. My ugly side comes out in full force. Yet, I can’t deny it, I learned a lot from this mishap. I learned how to deal with a mistake, own up to it and find a way to work through it. We were also very blessed to have two very understanding people who were inconvenienced by our mistake. That to me is worth far more than the money we made from the sale.

As for Poshmark, we now have a better procedure in place. Up until that point, we had been checking the labels to make sure they were correct. However, along the way, as we got more and more sales, we got complacent. My dad admitted he didn’t look at the new label as carefully as he should have and I didn’t do a second spot check. We were lucky that the customers on both ends were so understanding and that we could resolve this quickly. However, that might not always be the case.

We now do a three-point check with each order to make sure the date, order, and Poshmark username (which is printed on the label) all match before sending out, even if it’s just one order for that day.

My hope is that neither you nor I ever make a mistake like this, which is why I’m sharing this story with you. If, however, something like this occurs, know that it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes, when the thing you fear the most actually happens, it ends up not being as bad as you thought it would. That said, I treat mistakes like roller coasters: once is good enough for me!

Part 2: For your first draft consider a short form

Let’s continue our discussion of taking your idea to the first draft of your book. Over the past two weeks, we’ve been looking at brainstorming ideas. If you did last week’s homework assignment, you narrowed down your list and started iterating your ideas. Through this process, you should have “sifted through the sands” to identify one idea or topic that really grabs you. But what’s next? You may have chosen a topic that you didn’t imagine or think of originally and now, you have no idea how to turn that into a book.

This is where the short form comes in.

My current book Making Fake Star Trek didn’t start out as a book. It was originally a series of conversations between my co-author and me; us retelling the same stories over many years with each other and other people in our lives. Then, in 2016, I had a goal to pitch an article to Cracked.com. I’ve been an avid fan of the website for years and as a kid, I enjoyed it when it was a satirical magazine. Cracked has a section called Personal Experiences which is where people submit and share articles and thought pieces on interesting or strange jobs or life experiences. Since acting in a Star Trek fan film is definitely the later, I decided it would be fun to tell this story. I pitched to them around winter 2016 and heard back within a couple of weeks. They were intrigued and wanted to learn more. Over the next several months, I went back and forth with one of their staff writers, providing as much information as I could and answering their many questions. Essentially, I was writing the first draft through this process. By summer, while I happened to be visiting friends from the Star Trek production in LA, I got an email from them notifying me that they were close to making a final decision. We had a few more back and forths and the article came out in January 2017. Within three days, it garnered over 100,000 hits, which ignited a discussion with my now co-author, Andy, to write the book which we just released. The article was a test bed for me, though I didn’t know it the time. I had a lot of fun writing it but once it was out, I felt like I wanted to do more and that I left a lot of the story on the table.

Homework:

By now you should have a topic, whether it’s a conventional one such as a skill or something unique or unusual like the story of your grandparents immigrating to America or why you love Game of Thrones so much. Instead of trying to write a full-blown book, write a short form version of it. This can be a blog or an article you pitch to an online publication. If you don’t have a blog or website, write on Medium or LinkedIn. If you’re smirking at the idea of writing an article on GOT on LinkedIn, check out my article on Cobra Kai, which to this day is my most read article on LinkedIn.

Scrivener

Scrivener (available for Mac, Win, IOS) is a book writing program that auto formats for self-publishing on Amazon’s KDP and other platforms. It’s a great tool with rich features that allow co-writers to collaborate through Dropbox. Scrivener has a bit of a learning curve but I’ve been a fan since 2017 and have talked to many authors who use it as their go-to. If you’re interested in Scrivener, you can use the coupon code MOVINGFORWARD to get 20% off your purchase (for Mac or Win). It’s a one-time license fee and available for Mac, Win, IOS.

Note: this section contains affiliate links and coupon codes for which the author may receive some compensation.

Part 3: What I’m reading / read

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (***): This is a fun, quirky sci-fi comedy about the end of the Earth due to the construction of an intergalactic freeway. The cataclysmic event brings together an eclectic group of individuals from all over the galaxy for a zany outer space adventure. I enjoyed the book: it’s a quick read and if you’re looking for something different, this may be a good choice for you. I didn’t love it though I can see why so many do and I believe this is one of those books that grows on you with repeat readings.

Books by John

  1. Check out my Amazon author profile for my new book Making Fake Star Trek.

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