Book Review: On Your Mark – From First Word to First Draft in Six Weeks

At the 2015 ATD-ICE conference, I sat in on a presentation given by Cathy Fyock. She spoke about the importance of writing for your career. More importantly, she spoke about getting a book written in the shortest amount of time possible. As she noted in her presentation, she wanted to model that behavior and wrote her book, On Your Mark: From First Word to First Draft in Six Weeks*. Yes, she did it in six weeks. There is lots of good advice in this book. 

On Your Mark: From First Word to First Draft in Six Weeks* was written by Cathy Fyock and Kevin Williamson. The book weighs in at 166 page spread across six chapters and a couple of appendices. As Fyock notes, you don’t have to necessarily have to write War and Peace. Books come in many sizes and degrees of difficulty. The authors of On Your Mark stress that you can write a good book in six weeks, if you have the desire to do so.

As I noted, this book covers six chapters:

  • Why do you want to write your book?
  • So why haven’t you written your book?
  • On Your Mark—Preparation
  • Get set
  • Go!
  • Fine-Tuning

Each chapter ends with a number of exercises to help practice what was shared. Some of the earlier exercises are to get you into the writing habit.

The book is intended for professionals who are looking to advance their careers with a book. In their first chapter, the authors examine a number of reasons for writing a book. They stress you need to be clear about why you are writing. As they explore reasons why many have not yet written their book, they provide guidance for overcoming these obstacles. They do a good job addressing self-doubt or as they call it, “the Bitch.”


As Fyock and Williamson focus on preparation, they want writers to pull together their writing samples. Additionally, writers need to prepare a thesis statement, outline, and support for the book. Previous writing samples (blogs and articles) can be used as a springboard to writing different sections in the book. They stress the importance of considering to write for journals and magazines. They do a good job of providing detail about developing a thesis, creating an outline, and providing support. The authors also talk about how to block out time and commit to writing.

In the Get Set chapter, the authors have the writer double check on having a clear thesis, detailed outline, ample support material, a block of time, and commitment before moving forward to the actual writing stage. I can see that this is a separate period of time from the actual writing a draft in six weeks stage. I did not grasp that on the first read. As I write my book, I have to relook at my thesis, outline, and support material. I can do a better job organizing for writing. This chapter also has the writer clarify the audience and type of book to be written. Writers are also tasked with developing a project plan.


Chapter five is dedicated to writing, writing, writing. They stress to write without editing. It is not possible to successfully do both at the same time. Actually, I am finding this out as I write blog posts. I have gotten into the habit of writing and then going back to make some sense of what I have written. When I do both at the same time, I struggle. The authors provide some formulas to help writers understand the writing pace. They provide a number of great ideas for keeping you on task as you write. Fyock and Williamson also stress that you do not have to write a book from page one to the ending page. In fact, they advocate for writing the easier sections first. Jump in out of your outline as it helps you write fluidly. Lots of great ideas to deal with writer’s block. They also addressed how to add meat to what you are writing.


The last chapter focuses on editing. As they note, editing requires different skills and attitude. They provide a “checklist” for editing. The checklist is broken down into stages that will help to refine what you have written. They talk about how to react to others reading and recommending corrections to your book. They also provide guidance on what to do next when the book is in final draft, such as selecting a title, book cover, publisher, etc.

Kevin Williamson includes a great section on writing style. There are a number of great tips for generating stronger writing.

This was a very enjoyable and informative book. If you are thinking about writing a book, I would definitely recommend reading this first.

Other recommendation

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to Publish a Book* by Guy Kawasaki

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