You are convinced authoring a book would be great tool for your business and boost your career. You have built up the expertise and perhaps some articles or a history of blog posts to draw from. But you are also overwhelmed by the prospect of putting a book’s worth of content together. Right?
Well, if you just want another fluffy pep talk, you’re reading the wrong article. Because I will tell you that if you do NOT feel intimidated by it, then step back for a reality check. There are no shortcuts, only techniques, skills, and resources to help. I’m starting to see writers with 5,000 words written down who want to publish an eBook. We used to call that a feature article in a magazine, not a book. To gain the caché of being the leading author in your field, you’ve got to deliver the whole package. And you can!
Right now, however, you are staring at your pile of notes, with your head full of ideas. So let’s take a look at what you’ve got in hand and what you may need as you start writing and editing.
Every story needs context. You probably don’t have to rehash the entire history of your industry or cause, but you do need to put your new contribution in contrast to what’s come before and what’s happening now. This is a piece of the puzzle you can nail down early. And this context will inform and inspire the rest of your work.
Quotes bring it to life. Get your interviews done early, so you have that grist for the writing mill. One very strong quote from a revered expert can be enough to frame an entire chapter. Likewise, sometimes a quote is so good you need to adjust the trajectory of your message to seamlessly work it in. On the other hand, you don’t want to write a section with the assumption your source will give you a quote to hold it together later. You do not have to use all of a long-winded quote, but you should always be faithful to what the speaker actually said, even if that is editorially inconvenient.
Build your case. You have a position (guilty!) and a case to be made. Don’t let it become an excuse for not writing, but get deep into the research you need at the outset. First, what you discover may surprise you and change the course of your story. Second, writing is much easier when the characters and settings are already defined. Third, you are building your case just like an attorney before a jury, so you want to organize your argument strategically and tell the story for the best effect.
A surprise in every box. It’s the interception that makes the ball game exciting. It’s the unusual goodies in the salad that make you say “Yum.” So, is your approach honestly fresh, powerful, and creative enough to keep your readers hungry? Build surprises into your text, like plot twists, to keep your readers saying, “Hey, that’s a cool idea.” A good author knows that plot twists are never accidental (though fiction characters do often tell authors what to say) but are carefully planned. Done well, the placement and pacing of key points and take-home messages will be invisible to the readers. But you string them out for deliberate and maximum impact. To do that, you need to plan ahead in your writing.
It’s in the story. Whether you are writing an account of service work in Haiti or explaining a new piece of software, your message will get through to your readers best through stories and anecdotes. Is there a lot of human interest built into the outline of your book? It’s a solid bet you do not have enough material or a big enough concept to write an entire book on your subject if you do not start with more than enough stories that connect your ideas to your readers’ lives, extending the message well beyond your personal narrative.
The vision is to hear yourself interviewed on NPR? Hold to it! There are victories and frustrations to ride along the journey. Give us the context, share your conversations with the experts, convince us and surprise us. The world needs your story, so start writing!