Here's What It Takes To Write A (Great) Book
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A common question since I released my first book, Inside Job, is how I put my thoughts onto paper. Did you know, there are around three million business books written each year? That’s a lot of books! With that kind of competition, we can ill afford to write a book (or do anything for that matter) half-hearted. Whatever you attach your name to is a reflection of your brand standards. Even the best of the best have to make continual improvements to rise above the noise in a world saturated by information.
Since I tend to write from my current experiences and the questions I spend a lot of time addressing, I thought it would be beneficial to share my thoughts on what it takes to write a great book, and how you can write yours. These are my keys to the kingdom to connect with people and build momentum.
Writing a book is akin to writing a business plan. Like any strong business plan, it’s imperative you get clear on some key fundamentals when sitting down to write your book. I begin by asking myself a number of questions to help build the framework and find my audience sweet spot.
What is the purpose of your book?
There’s no point doing anything unless you get clear on the purpose of your endeavour. Before wasting even a second writing a single word, really get clear on the purpose of your book. Consider this from the point of view of the reader and for yourself too. Are you writing to strengthen your credibility? To give you more influence and pulling power? Or, are you writing to encourage or impact the reader in some way? Is the book written from a strategic perspective, or are you merely telling a story?. Knowing your book’s purpose is equivalent to it having the desired effect.
Who is your book for?
Knowing who your reader is in microscopic detail really helps when it comes to your marketing strategy, as well as in creating marketing campaigns via social media or more traditional advertising channels such as radio and television. Focusing on for whom your book is written will help you stay focused throughout the long journey putting pen to paper. One method for uncovering your reader persona is to clip pictures of your ideal audience from magazines and post them in your workspace. As you write, continually consider if what you’re writing is what this audience really craves, desires and is talking about.
What is the key message of your book?
Since your key message is the core of your book, it is really important to consider ahead of time. Your key message should be punchy and clear- something that will attract readers when summarised on the back page When I released my new book, Plot Twist, earlier this year, the back cover encapsulated my key message thusly, “We all have goals and visions for our own lives, but things often come from left field and take us in a new direction. Plot Twist helps you pivot, evolve and reinvent yourself when life throws you curveballs.” Pretty simple and, yet, effective. People understand the essence of the book. What is the key message of the story you want to tell?
What takeaways do you want to give people?
I like to write through true stories that have taken place in my life, but I also often use a metaphor to illustrate the point in life, business and relationships. Get clear on what you want the reader to take away from your book. Do you want them to have greater belief in themselves? A renewed focus? A new way of looking at things? Or, perhaps, you simply want to educate? It’s important you be able to answer the question, “What do I want people to get from reading my book?” A great book isn’t about you- it’s focused solely on the reader.
Why would someone buy your book?
This may sound like a harsh question, but it’s a great question to ask. Think of it like a business. Why should a customer buy from you? It’s important to understand the needs and wants of those we’re trying to engage in business and in our writing.
Why does the world need to hear your story?
With so much noise, information and distraction, why does someone need to hear what you have to say? I write my books through my own personal journey, focusing on experiences I've had, mistakes I’ve made and the blueprints I know work. In this way, I’m sure my message is authentic and clear. When your message is genuine and plain, people more easily connect to it. It also helps to be open about your own life with all its mistakes and successes- people want to see the human side of you.
Once you've spent some time answering these questions and getting clear on your book’s objective, it’s time to address the structure. I always begin by brainstorming words, ideas and topics that resonate with me, make me curious, excite me and paint visual pictures in my mind. These may be only simple headlines or potential chapters titles for your book, but it helps build a timeline and structure.
If you go down the self-published route, which I did for both my books, it’s paramount you have a killer editor. I worked with Meredith Pruden and Heather Westbrook on my editing and design. The huge benefit of having an amazing editor is they help with the flow so you can just get on writing.
The hardest thing about writing a book is sitting down to write it. I wrote Monday through Friday for a minimum of 30 minutes every day, but you need to find find your own rhythm. The average book length is 50,000 words. Mine have typically been between 40-45,000.
If you write for 30 minutes a day, it will take you between 4-6 months.
Write a thousand words a day, and it will take you 50 days.
Write a page a day- 200 days.
You just need to find what works best for you. We all have a story to tell, we have all lived a life to varying degree’s. If we want to connect and encourage the human spirit to achieve something and overcome, your story and strategies needs to be a powerful mix of personal emotional connection and practical actionable steps to help unlock the opportunities and potential around us and within us. If the book you write impacts on just one person it was worth the time and the effort to bring it to fruition. If you have further questions or thoughts, you can tweet me @sephtonmark!