No, I’m not kidding.
Writing a book is a lot like planning a trip. You need to know where you’re going in order to get there. You get out a map, chart your course, and then go. Okay, so writing a book is not that easy but the process is similar. The difference with writing a book is you don’t need to know everything yet because we’re creating here, right? As long as you have a general idea, you’ll get there.
I self-published my non-fiction book in August 2013 but before I wrote a single word, I completed a simple exercise. This works really well for non-fiction or “How to” books, and believe it or not, you can come up with your book in about 20 minutes. Here’s how it works:
1. Get a blank piece of paper or open a blank document on your computer.
2. List everything you want your reader to learn, believe, do, or realize when they’re done reading your book.
3. Make each entry in your list a topic. Like these examples: Stop Smoking, Vote, Set Up a Website, or Think Positively.
4. Under each topic, list the reasons why they should learn, believe, do, or realize whatever it is you wrote down. For example, under Stop Smoking you could list all the diseases caused by smoking, how much longer a person can expect to live as a non-smoker, or the cost per year to keep smoking.
5. Now provide proof or back-up information for the “why.” This is where you cite experts, thought leaders, or even people who have done or experienced what you are writing about. When you are a first-time author this is important to get readers to trust you because you’ve done your homework.
6. Use this list of topics, reasons why, and expert proof as your outline for the first draft.
It should take you about 20 minutes to do this exercise but it will be time worth spent. You’ll have the foundation for your book and you can start writing knowing where you’re going with your first draft. That’s better than staring at the wall for hours waiting for inspiration, right?
If you’ve had an idea for a non-fiction book percolating in the back of your mind for a while but were too overwhelmed or nervous about actually writing it, try this exercise. The world needs your book so don’t wait. Someone out there needs the information only you can provide.
Dana Leipold is an author and writing coach. She began her writing career as a copywriter for corporate America. In 2011, she wrote and published Stupid Poetry: The Ultimate Collection of Sublime and Ridiculous Poems. It was an accident that made people laugh so she kept writing. Her newest book, The Power of Writing Well: Write Well, Change the World, helps writers get their message heard, create stories that connect, and take action to get the writing done. She can be found at: www.danaleipold.com, Facebook, and Twitter.