Where do you start writing your book? You have a blank page in front of you and you are full of ideas and perhaps fears too. How are you going to birth that baby?
You start with an idea. And then you need to ask yourself three questions:
- What is your book about?
- What is its purpose?
- Who is your reader?
I suggest you take a long time reflecting on those three questions. Take notes of the different kinds of answers that come up. It could take some time. Don’t rush. Because if you rush, you will be like an explorer going out on an adventure without a map and without a destination. You might want to explore the ancient art of meditation to quiet your mind to gain clarity. Otherwise your mind might be too busy and cluttered.
Let’s say I want to write a book about death. It’s a non fiction book. I am clear about that but books about death can also be fiction. There are so many different angles to that topic. It could be a book about the different cultures relating to death with a more anthropological point of view.
What is the purpose of my book? I want my book to help people get over their fear of death. I also want death not to be such a big taboo in the part of the world where I live. Once I know the purpose of my book, some chapter ideas start to spring to life. I can see chapters about other cultures that embrace death and the difference that it makes: as it is not a taboo, people are not isolated in death houses (some people call them hospitals) at the time of death and usually die at home surrounded by their loved ones.
Last who is my reader? In this case, I want my readership to be as wide as possible. From Jo Blog to someone who might work in a hospital. But I could have opted to write a book specifically geared for nurses and doctors to help them support their clients and themselves through a process that can be gradually numb you and make you insensitive, if you don’t manage it right.
You can see that by asking these three questions I have a much clearer vision of what my book is going to be about. Once I have done that, and taken the time to reflect enough to clarify my vision I can write a “mission statement” for my book. I need to be able to describe in 25 words (no more) what my book is about. Let’s see.
MY BOOK IS AN INSPIRATIONAL BOOK ABOUT DEATH WHICH OFFERS STRATEGIES AND STORIES TO IMPROVE THE STANDARD OF DYING AND LIFT THE TABOO AROUND IT.
I was lucky, I hit precisely 25 words on my first try. This is called an elevator pitch. The idea is that you sum up your book so clearly that if you were to bump into the commissioning editor of YOUR first choice of publisher in a lift and only had a few seconds to pitch to him or her, your choice of words would be so powerful that they would hire you on the spot, provided of course this was something that they specialise in.
Once you have a clear pitch you are happy with, I suggest you print and frame it and keep it by your desk. This will keep you from the temptation of digressing. And believe me it’s a very real temptation. It will come and distract you again and again, making you include in your book things that will dilute it or take away it’s drive. Regularly refer back to this pitch and ask yourself the question: “Is what I just wrote serving the purpose of my book?” I have scrapped entire chapters of books after asking this question and it made my books better and more dynamic.
To your creativity
Ange de Lumiere