"I want to write a book, but where do I start?"
I often receive this question from aspiring authors who have an idea for their nonfiction book but struggle to put words on the page. Usually, they want to write about their lives or a topic they're passionate about, but they don't know how to begin. I remember asking myself the same question before writing my first book, Beauty in the Valley of Rejection. Thinking back on it now, translating my thoughts and ideas into written words made me feel extremely overwhelmed.
What should I write about first?
How do I organize my thoughts?
The journey to a captivating story takes time and figuring out where to start can be daunting. If you're ready to begin your journey to become a published author, I am here to help. Below, I give you a peek into my personal process as well as highlight eight easy steps to help you do less staring at the blank document on your computer screen and more typing.
Step One: Remove Your Fear and Self-doubt.
Will anyone want to read my book? Are my ideas foolish? What if I make a mistake? Am I good enough?
These thoughts and more, plagued my mind before I was able to finally sit down and write my first book about finding the good in challenging circumstances. I had a severe case of ‘imposter-syndrome’ that hindered me from moving forward and writing what was in my heart. After I realized that my story was unique and that someone needed to hear it, I decided to let go of the fear I had cooped up inside my head and start writing.
The first-time authors I educate, often express the same concerns. I have found many of their worries to be rooted in with the fear of failing. When the fear of failing arises, I remind them of George Clooney's quote, "The only way to fail is not to try." Whether you're writing a self-help book, a cookbook, or a business book, if it's in your heart to write it, it's probably because someone out there needs to read it. Sharing your experiences can be frightening, but in the end, it's well worth it.
Knowing why you want to write a book is essential. What do you want the reader to know? When they close the book or finish a chapter, how do you want them to feel? What message do you want them to take with them? Are you writing to inform, inspire, entertain, teach or help? Get a clear concept on the purpose of your book before you sit down to write. All succeeding steps in the writing process will point back to the book's purpose and your reason for writing it.
Defining your target audience is one of my favorite parts of the writing process, because it allows you to use your imagination.
Whom do you see reading your book? How do they look? Where do they work? What is their ethnicity? Are they single or married? Are they rich? Do they have children? What are their pain points? What challenges do they face? What are they thinking? How are they feeling?
I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
It's easy to think of a group of people when you hear the word "audience." However, when you write, it's always for an "audience" of one. My editor taught me this valuable lesson, and I keep it at the forefront of my mind whenever I write.
Give the audience you wish to write for a name. If you're artistic, just draw them. You could also print a stock image of someone that represents the audience you imagine. Keep the image in front of you when you write. If it helps, put the printed or illustrated photo in a frame next to your computer, as it will represent whom you're addressing in your book.
When I was writing my book, I printed a picture of the person I believed represented my audience, and I kept that picture in front of me throughout the writing process. Defining your audience will motivate you to keep moving forward. As you write, remember whom you're writing for.
Step Four: Figure Out The Theme of Your Book.
According to Litcharts.com, the definition of the word "theme" in literature is, “A universal idea, lesson, or message explored throughout a work of literature. One key characteristic of literary themes is their universality: themes are ideas that not only apply to the specific characters and events of a book or play but also express broader truths about the human experience that readers can apply to their own lives.”
In other words, the theme of your book is the book's central idea or message. It's the overall ‘big picture’.
You might be wondering, “How do I figure out my book's theme?” Here a few ways to uncover the theme of your book:
Get clear on the universal and central idea of your book. Every chapter you write should support and point back to your theme.
After you figure out the "big" idea, create a road map of supporting statements. These ideas should link back to your theme or central idea of your book. Again, you can revisit notes, journals, and life experiences to help you develop supporting topics. If you don't keep a notebook or journal, carve out time to sit down and brainstorm the messages you want to discuss in your book.