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Music, Writing, & Art

Dreaming about being a writer? How to write a book (Dan Millian and Sierra Prasada)

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How to write a book?  CJ Liu interviews Dan Millian (author of 17 books) and Sierra Prasada (author, blogger, writer), a father and daughter team share a book that they co-wrote, The Creative Compass ( about the process of writing a book, article, or strategic plan. The book provides an aerial view of the process of creating a book/movie/etc to give a structure and sense of the stages. Make sure to listen to the interview to learn about 2 of the 5 stages of the creative writing process. I’m not a writer and I still got a lot of great aha moments. Share with us your AHA moments through the comments below. Better yet, sign up for the class at

Learn how to dream and visualize your next book

DREAM : The process of writing all starts with the DREAM stage, a time to generate ideas, and being open and receptive to the creative process. One of my favorite parts of the interview was Dan’s describing procrastination and it’s a natural part of the dreaming process. My personal experience is that it’s often nice to provide some structure for dreaming and the book coaches you how to dream through 8 chapters on dreaming. In this interview, Dan and Sierra talk about ways to clarify and edify your dream like the “What if…” chapter in their book that helps you distill your dream down to its essence. We talk about the importance of the idea of “Get to Know Thyself” which is understanding who you are and how that shapes every aspect in how you write and the process you use for writing. Last, we talk at a high level about the “Your Stickiest Idea” and why it’s important to find it to sustain your passion in writing.

The last part of the interview covers editing and the 300 pages that Dan had to regrettably cut from his book. How do you let go of your sacred words in your book that just don’t fit? Last, some tips to new writers on making sure you continue writing even while reading books on writing 🙂

Also make sure to check out advice from a Creative writingcoach:

Sierra Prasada and Dan Milliman talk about how they use dream before writing

Dreaming The Creative Compass (source: by  on  in 

Untaming the world and allowing the differences between people and between streets and houses to be felt and acknowledged mark the growth of an artist.

-Anne Bogart and Tina Landau, The Viewpoints Book


Dan on DREAM:

Our writing book, like all my projects, began with a sticky idea, one that transformed unexpectedly before it germinated and grew. From the beginning, I had a title in mind — “Writing Your Way,” to acknowledge that there was no single right approach the work — but not much else. All books eventually insist on titles; some titles, like this one, demand books.

Throughout those years, I thought of the project as my own. So, perhaps it was natural that, even as I began talking with my daughter Sierra about collaborating, I simultaneously waded into a draft that carried forward my initial solo impulse. What emerged was a memoir, organized in chronological, autobiographical order, describing each book I’d written and what I’d learned along the way.

I might have committed to this original draft. But it would have meant winding up the collaboration before it had even begun, asking Sierra to serve as an editor and not a coauthor, choosing what was comfortable and familiar over what was challenging.

Instead — and the book itself has given me the language to explain my own actions — I forced myself to recognize that what we call drafting is only dreaming until we know precisely where we’re headed. Returning to the blank page that made us equals, Sierra conceived a structure for what would be a very different book. Later in the process, we could and would incorporate ideas from my original draft, she assured me.

And so I let her pull me out of one dream and into another.

Sierra on DREAM:

As my dad’s and my collaboration began, I knew his process to be more intuitive than analytical — he never outlined. In direct contrast, I thought of myself as a ‘writer who outlines’ (even though I’d largely stopped doing so years before).

Writing together meant either figuring out how to merge our minds — call it California dreaming — or starting with an outline, all the more so because we’d decided that we would try to sell our book to a publisher as a proposal and not a finished manuscript. Before we could confidently set out to write anything, we knew that we had to agree on a common vision, the heart of any collaboration.

In other words, we needed to talk about ideas before we talked about (or in) prose.

Doing so made so much sense and worked so well from the start that it immediately revealed itself as a cornerstone of the book’s philosophy: We had to dream before we could draft.

There is something almost Zen about writing a writing book. How you actually do what you do must remain consistent with what you recommend. That’s one internal check. My dad’s and my contrasting approaches offered another check. I drew upon his and my own intuitive ideas and organized them into the structure required by a proposal, most prominently the list of named sections and chapters.

Years earlier, in a college creative writing class, I’d realized that my writing only flowed after I’d “found the frame” for a piece, as I put it then. For our still untitled collaboration, the early table of contents became that frame. It turns out that a few key pages can make a book real in more than one way.

Read the next post in the series.

Got writer’s block?  Get tips on how to get unblocked here.

About our Guest

millmanDan_prasadaSierraDAN MILLMAN is author of 16 books published in 29 languages. Way of the Peaceful Warrior was adapted to a film released by Universal Pictures in 2007. A popular international teacher and speaker, Dan has influenced leaders in the fields of psychology, health, education, business, politics, sports, entertainment, and the arts.

SIERRA PRASADA is a Washington, D.C.-based author, journalist, editor, and teacher. While living in and reporting on the Middle East, she gained proficiency in Arabic and wrote her first book, Creative Lives, profiling Lebanese artists. Her current undertakings include a ten-year 20th Century Project, a screenplay adaptation, and other fiction and nonfiction projects.


#how to write a book, writing a book, book ideas, book template, creative writing, writing coach, writing tools