How should you begin writing your business book?
The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. `Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ he asked. `Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, `and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’ —Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
You read a book from beginning to end. But you don’t write one that way. It’s unlikely you’ll succeed by starting at chapter one and hope that you’ll eventually arrive at your conclusion. Here is a better way.
Start by defining your goal. Ask yourself two strategic questions.
1. What’s the purpose of your business book?
Only you can answer this question. Try to answer it simply.
- What will your business book do for you once you’ve written it?
- How will your book benefit your customer?
- How will it benefit your company?
Simple statements work well. For example, I’ll be recognized as an expert and get more speaking opportunities. Or, my business book will open doors to new management consulting engagements.
2. What is your business book about?
What central problem does your book address? Try explaining what your book is about in just one short sentence. Buy*in, by John P. Kotter and Lorne A. Whitehead has a subtitle of *saving your good idea from getting shot down. It’s clear to the reader what this book is about. More on titles and introductions here.
What is your book about is an easy question to ask, but not always easy to answer. You may have too many competing ideas, or not enough. Here are general questions to help you move toward clarity. Write your answers down and keep them short.
- Who is your reader? Think of your ideal reader, that one person you want to influence.
- Who is not your reader? There’s no point in trying to please everyone. Answering this question can help you focus.
- What have you to say that your readers’ want to hear?
First-time authors have an impulse to skip the groundwork and rush to the writing stage. Don’t. You wouldn’t build a house without knowing what sort of house you want, or a functional architectural plan.
The first stage of working with me as your business book ghostwriter is conceptual consulting. The purpose is to define, test, and structure ideas into a coherent whole. This is a high value process. A significant effort goes into defining concept and structure before drafting chapters.
Spend time and effort to think about these questions because your perceptions and priorities are likely to change or at least be modified during this conceptual process.
You may even decide your topic isn’t a good choice. Better to know before you write your book. Or, you may discover a more compelling topic. The conceptual process helps you think about your subject from a different angle.
- What events, beliefs, and values do you want to communicate?
- Why do you want to communicate them?
- What relevance do these have to your reader?
If you can answer the two main questions about purpose and topic (see above) you’re doing well.
Sequence is important. You’ll need both sides of your brain for this, your creative side and your analytical one.
- Generate ideas
- Prioritize for relevancy
- Include or discard topics
You want to end up with a table of contents. But a table of contents should emerge from a structuring process. If you miss this stage and impose a table of contents too soon, your ideas aren’t likely to be consistent or effective.
You need a framework to capture and organize your thoughts into a coherent whole. And structure is a topic for a future post.