Book Writing & Publishing Coach Lisa Tener on overcoming writer’s block, meeting your Muse and elevating the voices of female authors

By   Hannah Bickerton 7 min read

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Lisa Tener is an inspiring book writing and publishing coach, author of the award-winning The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day, entrepreneur and speaker. She has also been awarded the Silver Stevie for ‘Mentor/Coach of the Year’ by the Stevie Awards for Women in Business.

Lisa helps visionaries, experts, entrepreneurs, creatives, healing professionals, therapists, coaches and people from all walks of life to produce their finest work. As a Book Coach, Lisa aids in all aspects of the book writing journey: from creating a book concept to planning, writing and beyond. She is known to empower writers and creatives to take accountability and stay committed to their work, to connect her clients to their individual creative sources of inspiration and momentum, to help them in overcoming creative blocks and challenges and action a holistic and exciting approach to writing, business and other creative projects.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a Book Writing & Publishing Coach?

I always wanted to be a writer. Even as an undergrad at MIT, I took writing courses every semester and minored in writing, where I studied with such luminaries as Frank Conroy, A.R. Gurney, Jr., Jean Valentine and Gjertrud Schnackenberg. In my thirties, I got the idea for a book and eventually began writing with two co-authors. It took seven years to go from my book idea to writing a book and getting published by a traditional publishing house. After that, I realized I could help people with that process and make it much, much faster.

I started out teaching steps for ‘writing in the zone’ – in a state of flow. I created a creativity coaching website. After some time, most of the people who came to me specifically wanted help with non-fiction, so that became my specialty and my website became a book coaching website. 

A big opportunity came when I was invited to be one of the writing workshop leaders for Harvard Medical School’s CME course on writing and publishing. I met many of my clients there and learned that I had a knack for helping academics translate their work into a more conversational style – teaching them or re-teaching them how to write in a compelling, clear, engaging way. I served on the faculty there for over a dozen years, until the course was no longer offered.

What are your top writing tips and techniques that non-fiction authors should always keep in mind during the writing process?
  1. In general, know who you are writing for. Put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Speak their language. To write conversationally, imagine writing a letter or having a conversation with one reader who is from your target market. The exception? Sometimes the words just flow and you don’t need to do that; just make sure the words are suited to the people you are writing for.
  2. It helps to have an outline. If you get stuck, consider a more detailed outline. Having said that, sometimes the words just flow and you don’t need an outline. I guess we’re hitting up on a pattern here – there are exceptions to every rule: trust your instincts.
  3. Verbs are your superpower. Use specific verbs whenever possible and avoid was/is/had/has/were/are as much as you can. Better verbs can paint a picture.
  4. Trust your reader to draw conclusions. We all know,‘”Show; don’t tell’, but it’s easy to lose sight of that. Don’t worry so much in the first draft, but when you read your work aloud (another tip) be sure to notice where you tell the reader rather than let the storytelling be so clear that the reader draws those conclusions themselves. If you find yourself using words that describe emotion, that’s often a clue that you are telling rather than showing. When you ‘tell’ you neglect to engage your reader in the story.
  5. Journal in the morning to access your creativity! As the author of The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day, I am a passionate advocate for the power of journaling to get you into a state of flow for your book writing and to stimulate creative ideas.
How do you help authors who are struggling to find inspiration or overcome writer’s block?

One way is through my latest book, The Joy of Writing Journal. So many people tell me that it has sparked creative ideas for them, helped them break through blocks and also provided new inspiration. I’m surprised at the range – writers, four podcasters searching for script ideas, people who want to write but feel self-doubt, a client and her home-schooling niece, and even a mom and her eight-year-old son who experienced relief from his anxiety through working through the journal prompts.

Another way I help writers is through connecting them with their creative source, what many call their Muse. I have an exercise I call ‘Meet Your Muse’ that helps people bring their creative questions and challenges to the inner Muse in order to get clarity, experience a breakthrough, make decisions, gain confidence and be inspired. Readers can access a free version of the ‘Meet Your Muse’ guided visualization (or meditation).

In your opinion, when is it advisable for an author to self-publish, instead of going down the traditional publishing path?

There are so many reasons to self-publish. With The Joy of Writing Journal, I wanted to include many QR codes in the book – so readers could easily scan with a smartphone and watch an inspiring video or listen to an audio meditation for additional inspiration before journaling. I had a feeling it would be hard to get a publisher on board for this vision. So one reason is to retain your artistic vision and control. You also have control over pricing, your book cover, your title – all things that a traditional publisher usually has final say over if you don’t self-publish.

Another reason is to have the book quickly. Traditional publishing is slower. It often takes a year and a half or two years after a contract is signed for a book to be published. That takes patience!

I also like that I can make changes to my book easily, whereas a publisher generally only makes changes once they are doing a new print run. I’ve updated my book several times after getting feedback from readers. Louise Hay often spoke about the benefits of self-publishing and how she updated her first book many, many times. So, your book gets better and better over time. 

Another thing that I often advise clients is that for a traditional publisher, they generally need a large platform. Creating that platform, if they don’t have it, can be quite distracting and not always easy. They can waste a lot of time chasing after a platform. Whereas, if you self-publish your book, you can use the book to grow your platform. For an entrepreneur, coach, service provider, speaker or expert, why not use the book now to reach your goals and not wait so long?

There are times I recommend traditional publishing but more often self-publishing is the best fit for most authors.

Do you believe writing and self-publishing a book can help empower and elevate the voices of women, especially in certain male-dominated genres such as Business and Sport?

Absolutely. Writing a quality book (well-written, well-edited, nicely designed and accurate) gives you authority and cachet and people will pay more attention to what you have to say. Plus, self-publishing gives a woman the ability to write what she wants and not acquiesce to anyone else’s vision – such as a literary agent or a traditional publishing house editor.

How do you think the publishing industry in general can do more to support new and established female authors?

Publish more women in fields where their voices are less than 50%, for one thing. Also, provide mentorship and training for women, both to write and to reach their readers. And put more energy into promoting those authors. With health books, for example, the largest publishers seem to do more to promote the male experts than the female ones.

What advice would you offer an aspiring female author about to embark on writing their first non-fiction book?

All the things I said in the first question about compelling writing apply. I also have aspiring authors create a vision statement – what they wish their book to do for their readers, their community and also their own life and career or business. Often, women in my classes neglect to include the part about what the book will do for them, but that’s important. Don’t be shy about what you want to come out of the process for you.

Lisa Tener is a leading book writing and publishing coach, entrepreneur, speaker, and author of the best-selling book, The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day. Winner of the Silver Stevie Award for Coach/Mentor of the year and known as “The Creativity Catalyst”, she has helped thousands of aspiring writers through her coaching services and courses. Connect with Lisa on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook or her book coaching website,

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Hannah Bickerton
Hannah Bickerton
Hannah has worked in marketing for nine years, specialising in strategy development for start-ups and EdTech companies. Having recently jumped across industries to join the Whitefox team, Hannah isn’t a complete stranger to the publishing world with previous employment at Macmillan and TES Global. She is now dedicated to ensuring that anyone who has something interesting to say knows all about whitefox.