One chapter at a time
Michael Hyatt recommends a template approach to writing your chapters, and when we were writing Good Enough? we found this concept helped shape our book. It goes something like this:
Opening quote to set the stage for topic to be covered.
Brief introduction to the topic – why included.
Stories to illustrate message
Learnings to be gleaned
Next steps for the reader
Now obviously it depends on what you are writing about, but as a self-help book on getting over self-doubt, we found this formula worked well.
In her book Got your Attention, Sam Horn talks about the length of your chapters. Basically she advocates that less is more. We live in a time when people are easily distracted and to keep their attention, you have to keep the chapters short and sweet.
Ten pages is the maximum she recommends. This may mean leaving out some information that you feel is important, but you can re-organize your chapters, or as she shares, leave it out. Better to keep the reader reading and wanting more, than to lose them early on.
Think about what you look at before you buy a book. Usually it is the back cover blurb, and then a flick through the content and chapter titles. If the titles resonate with you – sold, you buy the book. It is therefore really important to come up with catchy titles, ones that will convey what the chapter is about and will have meaning to your potential reader. This is not the time to be too cute however. You want your potential buyer to grasp easily what the book is all about.
Just a quick word about your reader. In working with authors at the beginning stages of writing their books, I sometimes find that the reader is overlooked. That first draft becomes more about the author and less about the reader. At some point, it will be important to give more thought as to what your reader needs to know, how the reader is feeling and what is helpful to the person reading your book. Consider your first draft then as cathartic – it is all out there and then you can pick and choose the most relevant sections to include in draft 2.
This post is part three of a series on writing books by Anne Day, President of Full Circle Publishing and author/editor of five books on Women and Entrepreneurship. Her next book, co-authored with Amy Vodarek will be coming out in Spring, 2017