Just write your book already (here’s how to start)
And you’ve been banging on forever about how you’re going to write a book.
Your friends and family are sick of listening to how you’re ‘gunna’.
It’s time for action. But, where to start?
Well, you’re lucky – this article can help.
**Note this article is aimed for people who want to write non-fiction. But most of the rules can be translated to getting started with a novel.
Step 1: Finding a Topic
Be specific about the knowledge you want to share
The advice is trite, I’ll grant that. But the first step to finishing your book is to figure out WHAT you are going to write about.
And by “what”, I don’t just mean “I am going to write about Latin dancing.”
What is something you know that you can share with others?
Everyone has that one thing (and the lucky ones – those several things) they know a lot of detail about.
Remember – though author credibility is important – no-one said you have to be the world’s biggest expert on a topic to write a book about it.
Below, in “who” I’ll talk about how your audience determines both your topic choice and how you present it. But for now, in selecting a topic remember Rule No.1 – you just need to be two steps ahead of your audience.
Despite this, you will need a well-honed and specific intention for the knowledge in your book.
So, to help find your what, reflect upon these questions:
- What is something you’re good at or admired for?
- What is something you have taught to another person or groups?
- What is something you could teach to another person or groups?
- What do people ask you for advice on? If this is not a topic you’d immediately consider writing about, is there something tangential in the general area that you could choose?
- What do you find yourself talking, thinking and interacting about?
What parts of your knowledge do you want to leave out?
You don’t have to say everything you know about a topic.
In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t. This is especially true if you’re writing about a specialised or technical field. Writing copy for a law firm taught me that there can be a truckload of complex information available. Including all of it can bore or confuse people. So, as with any good thing, it’s important know when to stop.
Important: Is now the right time to share?
As people who’ve read my articles know, I’m not a huge fan of energy outputs for low return.
So, perhaps the intention for your book is to write a little something-something to leave behind for your kids. You might also just want to write for your own pleasure, or to work through the topic so you understand it better yourself. And these are valid reasons for putting pen to paper.
And in both of these instances, now is as good a time as any to get going on whatever topic you please.
However, if writing is your livelihood – or you want it to be your livelihood – write into a space in time as well as for an audience. What do I mean by “space in time”?
I mean a cultural and historical space. A zeitgeist.
If you want to put your work out to the world, and you want to world to buy it, then the time has to be ripe for your ideas.
Certain niches of knowledge are so far ahead of common thinking on the topic that audiences don’t have the background or the cultural maps to be able to gel with the ideas you’re putting forth.
If someone had written a book in the 1950s, for instance, about non-hierarchical open plan workspaces, the idea probably would have crashed and burned. High energy into no outcome. Hierarchy was the bomb (let’s face it, people had just waged a lot of energy fighting a very big war to maintain power and dominance). But, come the post recession slump of the 90s, some touchy-feely New Age postulating, together with the advent of personal computing and the world’s ready to talk open plan – as well as work from home.
You see my point?
How can I test which ideas will resonate?
I use three specific platforms:
I often do updates about topics I’m not sure about, or I’ll post images or articles simply to test likes and interactions. A topic that I find fascinating does not always fascinate in equal terms my Facebook followers and friends. And the one thing I thought no-one would be into – that thread takes off. A social media platform is not the most accurate gauge, especially if you limit your circle to close friends and family, but if your circle has enough breadth, over time you should be able to use it indicatively to some extent.
ii. My blog
Again, likes and shares on a blog can be indicative measures of audience interest in a topic.
iii. Personal interaction
You can ask people what they think. Creators never work in a bubble. Toss ideas around when you’re with other people. Observe which ones get traction and which leave people either emotionless or disinterested.
If an idea doesn’t look as though it will get traction right now, that’s actually very okay. It’s not a waste.
Put it away in a box to be reviewed down the track.
What are you waiting for?