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Everyone has a story worth sharing. And I’ve just had the honor of helping 19 people tell some of the most vulnerable and badass stories out there.
(To be genuinely vulnerable is about as badass as it gets, by the way. It is hard, hard work and can change the world. But I’ll leave that subject for Brene Brown.)
Kelly McCausey, a brilliant businesswoman, just published a collection of stories of people who have moved past something that held them back.
The book is titled, “Get Past Your Shit: 19 Stories of Imperfect People Who Prove You Can.”
Get Past Your Shit.
We’ve all got it. But have we gotten past it?
After you read this book and the range of situations these women overcame, you’ll be hard-pressed to believe your shit is unique. You’ll find it difficult to hide behind your own stories anymore.
I know — I’ve read every chapter a number of times and I’ve met every author. I served as a story coach for the book, shepherding the chapters along in whatever way was needed.
I was a ghostwriter for some. Editor on all. Encourager, prodder, and a sometime pain in the ass. I asked a lot of questions and often got nitpicky.
The result? An anthology with a lot more meat than most.
Or as an early review on Amazon put it: “It’s not often a nonfiction anthology or collection reads like an addictive page-turner.”
Behind the Scenes
Here’s a brief look at how we put this together and what a story coach does.
Kelly and I connected in August 2019 and over the next couple of months, the book’s theme morphed from her original premise (body image) into a more general “people who have gotten past their shit.”
As she started to receive applications, another team member, Michelle Aubin, did early screenings with potential authors to glean more detail and send her thoughts on whether their stories meshed with the book’s premise.
Then it was my turn.
Over the winter, I started interviews. This began with an email to contributors, introducing myself and asking for information to determine whether we should schedule a short Zoom call or a longer one.
In this step, I was conducting my own discovery but also starting the focusing process for the authors. I asked for a brief recap of their story; although I knew that many of them had already spoken to Michelle, I wanted to see whether they had a clear Point A to Point B.
I was beginning with the end in mind: did they know where they were taking the reader or would we have to dig in a little to find it?
Some were clear, while some needed to talk it out. And either was fine — we were brainstorming and moving forward.
No Hollywood Endings
At the beginning of those Zoom calls, I gave a little speech, borrowing from Kelly’s: “Getting past your shit” doesn’t mean it’s gone. It’s just as likely that we’ve tucked it into our back pockets (stole that from Kelly as well), still carrying it but moving ahead with our lives anyway.
This is real life. No need to wrap things up with a neat bow. But the story does need to include a journey. We need to see some sort of transformation and understand how it happened.
I also knew that many authors would likely want to zip through the hard parts and get to the overcoming. But doing so would shortchange their story. The reader wouldn’t understand how far they’d come — and the reader also wouldn’t feel anything.
So I gave some instructions: take us there. As much as you feel comfortable doing so, show us what that shit had been like and spend a little time with it — not so much that we get bogged down, but enough that we know where you came from.
When the authors did this in their chapters, they used a combination of brain science, tapping into the right and left sides for more effective storytelling, as well as employing a good old-fashioned story hook.
When you read the book, I think you’ll agree that they delivered.
Other Story Coach Tidbits
You’ve likely heard about different types of editing — copyediting, line edits, developmental edits, proofreading — and in short, my role as story coach involved a little bit of each.
The definitions of those can be confusing, even among writers and editors, but here’s what I did: guided writers in the overall structure and flow of the story as well as the language and grammar.
Over the spring and summer, the writing started in earnest and we dug in.
I helped with story order and the information necessary to move the narrative forward. I asked for more detail where needed and made cuts in places where the story got bogged down (and let them know about the cuts).
Sometimes we rearranged whole passages, moving paragraphs around, sometimes we deleted sections, and sometimes we just tweaked.
All the while, the writers kept their unique voice while I ensured their chapter aligned with the overall message and would mesh with the other 18. Although the book has 19 unique stories, it still needs a flow.
And while the book team had final say on edits, each writer received a copy of their chapter ahead of time, during which I’d ask for a thumbs-up before sending to proofreading and layout. I’m a writer myself and I hate surprises, so I made sure they saw it and knew that any additional changes would be minor.
From there, my friend Candice L. Davis — a brilliant author coach and publishing expert — helped with the steps involved in getting the book out to the world. Her timeline and expertise were invaluable during a painstakingly detailed (and potentially painful) point in the process.
The Final Product
And here we are! I’m proud of the way the book turned out. It’s a great mix of stories and reflects the personalities of each author while also sending a clear message of resilience and hope.
Check it out and then let me know your thoughts. I’ve loved reading the reviews and hearing how people have been impacted. Frankly, many people are surprised at how well it reads and how deeply they related to the stories.
And if you’d like to discuss your own story coaching needs, let me know! We can tailor it to almost any writing project you’ve got.
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