Kelly Notaras Believes You Have a Book Inside of You

Kelly Notaras sorting through books.

We may be obsessed with and distracted by all things digital, but a good book still holds our attention: Printed book sales were up 1.3 percent in 2018. And while storytelling has never gone out of style, digital media has made it possible for more fascinating stories to surface, arguably making personal wisdom one of the most compelling book genres.

Publishing veteran and founder of kn literary arts Kelly Notaras believes each of us has a book inside. She’s edited New York Times bestselling books like “The Tapping Solution” by Nick Ortner and “Pussy: A Reclamation” by Regena Thomashauer, and is a go-to editing resource for the venerable Hay House. (Hay House publishes personal development and spiritual luminaries, including Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Gabrielle Bernstein, Brendon Burchard, Dr. Joe Dispenza and Robert Thurman.) Notaras has written the definitive manual for getting your book onto the shelf.

She specializes in a category that she calls “transformational nonfiction,” books whose goal is to inspire readers to change, transform and overcome obstacles, and in so doing, improve lives in important ways. In “The Book You Were Born to Write: Everything You Need to (Finally) Get Your Wisdom Onto the Page and Into the World” (Hay House, November 2018), Notaras breaks down and demystifies the process of germinating, writing and publishing books, helping authors focus their message and ensuring that their finished work stands out in the marketplace.

24Life sat down with Kelly to discuss how aspiring authors can get started, what the process is like, and what her book can do to get them on the right track.

Kelly Notaras on a red couch with a cup of coffee.
24Life: Why are some books so powerful?

Kelly Notaras: I don’t know about you but I can remember the first book I ever read. I can remember the books that picked me up off the floor after boyfriends dumped me. Books are relationships that sort of save you. It takes two sides to create that. It takes the author’s commitment to write it, but then it also takes the reader’s commitment to reading it. And that relational information goes deep. It’s almost like having a friend. A book becomes a friend.

24Life: Why does what we say matter?

KN: Words create our reality. It creates the way that we look at the world. If we are constantly putting ideas out there about how bad things are, about how bad our life is, about how people are disappointing us constantly, or how we’re getting a bum deal, that is what we will see and feel.

Most of us want to actually take some power back, want to step forward in a different way. This is not to say that there aren’t obstacles out there, but it’s always a choice how we look at the situation. In choosing our words carefully, we can decide, “I want to look at life in a more positive way.” By finding the positive in every situation and speaking it, a better life gets created.

24Life: Who should write a book?
Open Journal.

KN: I have a philosophy that I live by; I call it “9 out of 10.” I don’t always achieve it, but I strive to do things in my life that are a 9 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10. And that’s what I say to people when they want to write a book. It’s a long journey; it’s not something you can do overnight. We need to have a motivation that’s so deep that it will carry us for a long time. It wasn’t until I realized my own deeper motivation that I published my own book last year. I was able to write that book because it was meant to serve and help other people. That’s what made it a 9 out of 10 for me.

24Life: What holds people back from writing a book?

KN: People assume they should know how to write a book. Then they sit and look at the blinking cursor and have no idea where to start. I call it “blank-page paralysis.” Knowing how to prepare, getting good advice on what you need to do first and then second and then third—all of that can actually get you up and running, whereas before, you were just stalled out because you didn’t know what to do next.

A second obstacle is resistance, and it’s often invisible to our conscious mind. Resistance is usually a fear that was instilled when we were very, very young—a fear of losing love, safety or belonging. That’s why we have to do our personal work. And why writing a book is the making of so many of us, because we have to do that deep dive with ourselves.

Looking over the shoulder of a person flipping through old photo albums

24Life: What’s the first step to take before actually writing a book?

KN: The first step is to decide what your hook is going to be. It’s your unique selling point or your unique value proposition.

If you’re writing a book that’s meant to help people, you need to ask yourself, “What is the problem that lots of readers know they have that my book will solve?” You must think about your reader first and foremost. What’s going to light them up? What’s going to light the book up for them? What will compel them to make the commitment to read it?

24Life: Is there a tried-and-true practice for getting started?

KN: I love the practice of free writing. Free writing is where you sit down, oftentimes with a writing prompt. A prompt is a sentence starter like, “Back then I …” You start the first sentence with those words, and then you just start free writing. For example, “Back then I thought that I was going to be a lawyer, but then I realized …” and you continue to write until you run out of steam. It might be just one sentence, but it might be a whole paragraph or even a page. Then you go back to that same sentence starter, “Back then I …” A prompt like that opens your mind. It helps you to generate and release ideas you might not have known were there.

What stands between free writing and a book is structure. And this is a place where I lose a lot of people because they don’t like that word. But if you want to write a book, you will have to get comfortable with structure. No one will read a book that is disorganized. They won’t know what’s happening, and they’ll put the book down.

Three friends sit at a table and laugh together

24Life: What’s the next step?

KN: Create an outline. In my book I lay out three different types of outlines that cover almost any type of book you might be writing. I offer them for free on my website too—that’s how important they are to me. I want everyone to have an outline template to work from so they don’t feel like, “I don’t know how to build an outline.” I’ve created one for you.

24Life: What’s the most meaningful book you’ve ever read?

KN: My entire life changed after reading “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. A friend recommended it to me when I was feeling pretty depressed, living in New York, working in publishing but not yet having found my own path. She recommended it out of the blue … she hadn’t even read it herself. And that book literally changed everything. The next thing I did was look up meditation, and I found myself in a Buddhist community in New York. That led to a job offer out here in Colorado, which brought me into the world of transformational nonfiction. So I will forever be grateful to that book.

Find more tips and stay inspired to write with Kelly Notaras on the kn literary blog.

Video credit: Benjamin Clapp, Shutterstock
Photo credit: Bill Miles, billmiles.com; Hannah Olinger, Unsplash; Julie Johnson, Unsplash; Brooke Cagle, Unsplash