Here’s one for the top-ten of our Frequently Asked Questions: How do I get started writing a book? First, let’s focus on how to get started with a non-fiction book. (Fiction is a question for another blog.)
Consider your reason for writing a non-fiction book. It may be that you have extensive, perhaps professional experience, you’ve acquired a lot of knowledge and insight about a subject, and now you want to share it. How should you share it? There are choices. Do you prefer to be an instructor, to offer advice in a how-to book?
Perhaps you have had compelling personal experiences, like overcoming childhood trauma, recovering from a debilitating illness or accident, or travel to exotic places. Have people always told you you’ve had such an interesting life you should write a book? If so, storytelling is the ideal mode to make your experiences and insights interesting to a reader.
It is in these reflections, both about your purpose and your book’s style, that will help you to identify the main ideas or themes around which you want to create your book.
Next, think about your audience. Be specific about who you want to write for. Are you writing for people who have had experiences similar to your own? You can build on things you have in common. Will your book address experts interested in your subject? If so it should be more technical in nature. Do you want to write for a general audience? Then, you’ll need to find universal themes that will be of importance to many readers.
Thinking about your audience will also help you make some choices about the voice in which you’ll write. Should the tone be formal or informal? Do you want to teach, persuade or simply entertain? Each will require a different style of writing. You’re likely better at one than the others – use your most natural voice, and the words will flow.
Once you know your purpose and have identified your audience you can begin to think about the book’s content. You’ll need an outline. No, not the kind you learned in school! Begin simply with a list to identify the main ideas and then add the sub-points you will use to support them. You can move ideas around if you find a different order works better.
Once you have a working outline, get on with the writing. You’ll discover what is best for you as you work on your draft. The first draft does not need to be perfect; or even good, so don’t agonize over a word or sentence; you can fix it later. Similarly, don’t get side-tracked by research to find a fact or detail. You can come back to the draft after it’s completed to improve the text and fill in the blanks.
There is no magic formula for this process. Think about what you want to say and start banging away at the keyboard. In the process, you’ll discover your voice as a writer and grow comfortable using it.
You can do this!