SOFT SKILLS MATTER)Have you ever considered writing a book? If so, you have likely thought about it a lot however might not have known how to get started.

Several years ago, many people were telling me I should write a book. Initially I thought it was in interesting idea, but was not sure I could do it.

However, as more and more people kept suggesting it, I decided to consider the idea. First I had to decide what topics I would include. At first I thought I might write a “big” book, but then realized that few people like to read big books so a smaller one might be a better idea and ultimately get more traction. So what could I focus on? Well, the cornerstone to most of my workshops always seemed to hinge on effective communication….however, I actually deliver seven different workshops on communication so which elements to include. I decided that basics are usually best and chose 5 specific aspects of communication that would help the reader to demystify the complexities of communication so that they could “do it better”. Most of us think we know how to communicate as we have been doing it since we were born, however, truthfully, most of us do not do it very well. Hence we experience much conflict, resentment, disappointment, confusion, complaining and harm to our relationships.

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In order to begin organizing my thoughts on the chosen aspects, I began to blog about those areas on my website and for a digital newspaper. The response to my articles was encouraging so I decided this might be something I could do after all.

The next task was to find someone to guide me through this process, as I knew how to deliver live workshops, prepare handouts for the sessions and, write blogs, but would that add up to a reader friendly book? I “interviewed” three possible mentors who were either recommended to me, people I had met through networking or in one case, a person I had actually heard speak about his book writing program.

In the end, only one candidate actually brought along some books she had managed and a few of which had won awards for their design. She had a vast background in the publishing industry and was an artist herself. We seemed to get along right away and so I hired her to be my book project manager.

I had no idea all the pieces that are part of this process, so it was a good thing that I have my manager to show me the path through this “mine field”. She helped me to create a plan, start road mapping my book and laying out the other decisions I was going to have to make.

My first job was to begin writing. So I chose the order of the topics and began writing the chapters. In addition, I had to write my bio and an introduction to the book. Finally, I had to create the formatting of the chapters….some way that would actually help the reader to learn enough about each element so that they could start employing it in their daily exchanges. I will tell you more about that decision later.

Next I also had to choose the following: book size (dimensions), font style, did I want headers or footers, if I used pull quotes did I want them boxed or in open spaces. How would we begin each chapter? Did I want pictures or graphics in the book? What would the table of contents look like? What sort of finish did I want on the cover? Did I have any idea for the cover design or its colours? All of these decisions took quite a bit of time as I had to look at the choices available to me and discuss the pros and cons with my book manager.

Once I began writing, I decided I wanted to format the book as a handbook, so that each chapter would be laced with stories and examples and would end with an exercise to allow the reader to “try out what they had learned” and finally, the last page of the chapter would be a short summary of the key elements to be taken away from the communication topic read.

Once I had begun, my book manager and I set a loose time table and she engaged the services of an editor for me. As I completed chapters, I sent them to her for comments and suggestions. This revision is called a “substantive edit” and is meant as a guideline to the author for consideration of how to massage the material so that it will be more reader friendly. In fact how she did it was to convert the document to one where she could add comments in the margins so I could clearly understand what she was offering.

Just before the first version was to be sent back to me, my book manager called me to remind that the editor was just offering suggestions and not to become offended by what she said or did to my content. I laughed and told her that I was relying on them to show me how to take my material and make into a book that would truly help people become better communicators so was very open to their suggestions. She was very surprised by my reaction as she told me that many authors are very sensitive and protective of their content. I told her I just wanted the book to be relevant and meaningful for the readers and was relying on them to show me how to do that.

Once I received the edit, I immediately began to read it over and found that some of what she had done really made a great deal of sense. However, in the first chapter, she tried to combine two lists of interferences that were not meant to be combined as they were offered from two different perspectives…..it showed me that this was my fault, as I obviously had not been clear enough on why these two lists of reasons why listening is not done well, needed to be separate and I obviously had to rewrite these two sections and better define the differences. In addition, a common comment from the editor was: you need more stories. Again, obviously it was coming across as too dry and academic and I needed to make it more personal and interesting, as I do in my live workshops by demonstrating concepts with real life stories and situations. As a result, I actually created a story file to draw on for future substantive edits.

Both my editor and my book manager were surprised at how quickly I sent back my newer version of the chapter…..I was excited to move forward with this project now and in fact, I had a reason to set a clear deadline as to when I wanted the book printed as I had been invited to speak at a rather unique event to held at a TV station in the new year. This would be my first opportunity to promote and sell my new book so wanted it finished by the end of February…and we were into November already. Both women assured me that we could do this as long as we continued to move forward in this rather ‘speedy’ fashion.

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Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.

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Lynn Forrester
EDITOR

Sandy, I thank you for this article in an area that I have been discerning for a long time. I belong to a writers group at our church and we float around ideas. I am going to pass along some of your perspective and insight for those of us who hope someday to publish. I have thoughts, screen play for a Hallmark movie, ideas and story lines filed away, maybe its time I got them out!