How to start writing

I wanted to write a piece about how you start writing since so many people ask me it. I’ve got loads of tricks and techniques that I use to share but I wanted to make it hard on myself, to deprive myself of the usual tools and see what obstacles I face to better describe them.

I settled into a cafe with only my laptop and no internet access. The modern equivalent of a blank piece of paper. So what have I got…

First of all, I haven’t got that much time as I’d like as I’ve a meeting in an hour or so. But that’s fine. We can all write a 1000 words or so in an hour and that’s all I need. But so far I haven’t written anything as I’ve just checked my emails on my iPhone, and Twitter.

Bereft of any ideas I open up a document I previously wrote and scan read it. Some of it looks quite good, but I start to fiddle with it. Then I think maybe it’s not quite what I’m after, it’s not really the topic I was planning to write about.

So I look around the cafe for inspiration and find none. Then my hour’s up and it’s time for my next meeting.

So what went wrong?

First of all, an fixed hour slot is probably too short. Also, if the writing slot is a sudden decision then it will take time for the brain to warm up and get in gear. I’d found a good location and deprived myself of laptop internet, but there was still the iPhone and therefore the temptation to check extraneous messages on that. This is no good. If you’re writing, you’re writing, not checking messages. It keeps the brain off message. The final mistake was opening a previous piece of writing and entering ‘edit’ mode. Editing is a totally different process.

So what should we do?

To be productive with writing we really do need to be in a different zone. It’s not something you can do with one eye on something else. Here are a few more clues:

  • Plan your session in advance, preferably the day before. This creates space in your mind and prepares it. Eg. “Tomorrow between 9 and 12 I will be writing”.
  • Allocate 3 hours to your session
  • Write a short list of topics, themes, titles or whatever beforehand to be your triggers during the session. I keep this list in my notebook so whenever I think of an idea for a  blog, chapter or section, I record it there. Then, when I’m faced with that ‘blank piece of paper’ I have my trigger list to choose from
  • Accept no distractions for the first hour. Internet off, phones away.
  • Don’t do research or reading in this session. Just write, leaving a gap or note of a fact needs to be checked. Leave all that checking and referencing for a separate session.
  • Choose a topic from your trigger list and write about it. Don’t worry about how much or structure, just write. Start your writing with a warm up without worrying. Think of it like stretching before doing circuit training or running. The stretching is preparation for the exercise but also has its own benefits to the point of the exercise.

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Turning Points and the Reveal – Applying the techniques of fiction in your non-fiction

Dorothy, Wizard of Oz

Dorothy starts out on The Hero's Journey

If you’ve studied storytelling, either in books, in plays or in cinema, you may have noticed the concept of Turning Points. It’s the point in the story where something suddenly changes and the course of the narrative has to continue on a new path. It’s different to the Reveal, where the story opens up and even diverges.

In plays and films, the narrative is usually split up into a three-act structure. So in a 90 minute film, these acts often consist of 30 mins each. If we take an archetypal story like the original Star Wars (or equally The Wizard of Oz which is almost exactly the same story) we can see how the story divides up into three clear parts, the three Acts:

Star Wars:

Act 1: On Tatooine (From R2D2’s arrival with Luke to blasting off from Mos Eisley with Han and Chewie)

Act 2: Escape from The Death Star (From learning about the Force with Ben Kenobi to Ben Kenobi’s death with Darth Vader)

Act 3: Attacking the Death Star (From arriving on the Rebel Base on Yavin to the Awards Ceremony)

The Wizard of Oz:

Act 1: Arriving in Munchkinland (From Dorothy running away until setting off on the Yellow Brock Road)

Act 2: The Yellow Brick Road (from meeting the scarecrow to arriving at Emerald City)

Act 3: Defeating the Wicked Witch (from meeting Oz to the journey home)

The Acts contain a whole section of the story, perhaps as in these examples, set in one place or with a particular problem or set of characters. But the start and end of each Act do not reveal the Turning Points that I want us to understand. Let’s look in more detail. Each Act is split into chapters:

Star Wars Act 1 has four chapters:

1. R2D2 and C3PO escape from Darth Vader on Princess Leia’s ship with the stolen plans

2. R2D2 and C3PO are captured by the Jawas and sold to Luke’s family

3. R2D2 escapes and finds Ben Kenobi who rescues Luke from the Sandpeople

4. Luke, Ben and the droids go to Moss Eisley Spaceport and meet Han Solo who takes them to Alderaan

The Wizard of Oz Act 1 has four chapters:

1. Dorothy runs away from home and meets Marvel

2. Returning home in the storm, Dorothy’s house is lifted off and lands in Oz

3. Dorothy meets Glinda and the munchkins

4. Dorothy gets the ruby slippers and is threatened by the Wicked Witch of the West

So those are the chapters within which are the turning points that take the stories up a level, change what we expect, raise the stakes or the threat and mark points of no return. These are different from the Reveal that adds to our knowledge in the story or opens it up. Let’s see what they are in those chapters of our stories:

Luke, Leia and Han

Luke follows in Dorothy's footsteps...

In Star Wars Act 1 there are two turning points within those four chapters:

1. Reveal: Darth Vader and his Stormtroooers board Princess Leia’s ship and search for the plans she hides in R2D2. The Turning point comes when C3PO decides, against his better judgement, to use the escape pod.

2. Reveal: R2D2 plays part of the message from Princess Leia, Luke realises the droids were involved in the Rebellion.

3. Reveal: Ben Kenobi reveals that Darth Vader killed Luke’s father and asks Luke to join him on the quest. Luke refuses. The Turning Point comes when Luke discovers his Uncle and Aunt murdered. Now he must join Ben.

4. Reveal: We are introduced to the dangerous world of Han Solo. The Turning Point comes when we learn that Alderaan has been destroyed by the Death Star and a tractor beam pulls the Falcon in. Now they can’t simply deliver the plans to the Princess and have no idea what to do next.

In The Wizard of Oz Act 1 there are two turning points within those four chapters:

1. Reveal: Miss Gultch wants to take Toto away and Dorothy runs away from home.

2. Turning Point: Dorothy lands in Oz and finds herself in a world of colour

3. Reveal: Dorothy learns there are good witches and bad witches and the Witch of the East is dead.

4. Reveal: there is an even worse Witch. The Turning point comes when Dorothy can’t get the Ruby slippers off and must ask the Wizard of Oz for help to get home.

So how can we apply these concepts to our non-fiction books? A way to think of it is like this (the numbers are just for convenience here as an example):

Let’s assume your book will have a total of 40,000 words. Let’s split it into three Acts’ or Parts of 10,000 words each. Each Part has four chapters of 2500 words each. Each chapter has at least one major Reveal and alternative chapters need a Turning Point.

So our structure could look like this:

Part 1: 10,000 words
Chapter 1: 2500 words, Reveal
Chapter 2: 2500 words, Reveal, Turning Point
Chapter 3: 2500 words, Reveal
Chapter 4: 2500 words, Reveal, Turning Point

With Parts 2 and 3 following the same structure.

You might be saying that I’ve just spent a proportion of this book going on about the non-linear nature of our books and yet here I am comparing them to a story narrative that is clearly linear. The truth is that both work but the ultimate method is to get them to both work at the same time. So the book can be dipped into (unlike a story) but if it is read from beginning to end, the Reveals and Turning Points are there to drive the reader on.

Let’s summaries the difference between the Reveal and the Turning Point in the context of our non-fiction book:

The Reveal is a startling piece of information that opens up the material. It adds depth and detail, drawing the reader in. This is the facts and examples that they learn from. It’s you showing the many ways of doing things.

The Turning Point is the shocker, the twist that closes down the material. It’s the part where you tell them there is only one way of doing things. It’s where you catch the reader out by showing that things are not as they seem.

You need just one Turning Point per 5000 words. Too many Turning Points can get tiring and confusing. You need at least one big Reveal per 2500 words. There’s always room for more Reveals.

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The Window of Opportunity

Recent books I've designed

Books are magic. I’ve discussed that in some detail here. I use the word ‘magic’ in it’s right use, I believe, meaning ‘something that has an extraordinary effect whose mechanism we don’t understand’.

That’s how it is with books. If someone is an author, we think of them as the authority on the subject. We think of them as something special. We will pay more for their advice.

The reason we respect authors and their books is because we know deep down that it’s an amazing thing to get published. Aside from the actual writing, you have to be picked up by a ‘publisher’ who, in recognising your talent and greatness, verifies and validates your work. A published book has been approved by several experts who know a good book when they see it. A published book has gone through a process of peer review. Only the very best get published. A published book is a proper book. An unpublished book is like an unsigned rock band: if they were any good they’d have got a deal.

But there’s a problem. Now, almost, anyone can get a book out. It requires a little bit of skill and knowledge, but not much. Anyone can get a book ‘published’. All that requires is the tiny bit of know-how. It’s shockingly easy.

So what does that do to the magic of books? What does that do to our admiration for the published author? Does it mean that there’s a window of opportunity that having a published book still counts as cool, but in a short while when more people realise how easy it is, that glory will be undermined. So you’ve got a book out? So what?

We call it democratization. A leveling of the playing field. Now, more people can get into the previously invite-only members club of publishing. So what will happen next? Will the magic be undone?

Let’s have a look at previous democratisations for the answer. Here are a few:

Photography was the domain of the professional expert from its invention in the late 1800s until around the 1950s. Then it entered the domain of the committed hobbyist who had the cash to invest in it. Then cheap instamatic cameras and Polaroids in the 1970s opened it up to everyman. Now, ridiculously cheap digital cameras in recent years has made everyone a photographer. But there’s still a place for the photographic expert…

Filmmaking follows the same pattern. You needed serious cash to make films, even on consumer Super8 cinefilm up until the 1980s. Then VHS cameras, MiniDisc, digital tapes and then hard drives made everyone a filmmaker. But television programmes and movies are still made by committed professionals.

Graphic Design was one solely the domain of the draughtstman, illustrator or typographer. Their tools were indian ink, marker pens and lead. Desktop publishing became a reality only in the early 1990s when the tools changed to computers and software. The PC became cheaper. Ready made clip art appeared. Everyone can now be a graphic designer. But if having affordable professional tools was the answer, every Church magazine in the land would look like a quality periodical like those on the shelves in WH Smiths. Every PowerPoint presentation would inspire and compliment a speech perfectly. Every poster or flyer produced would be worthy of being framed and have prints sold in those poster shops. But clearly they aren’t.

Just as with photography, filmmaking and graphic design, having the right tools and the right methods does not create greatness in itself. You still have to create a quality piece. Quality work is produced by dedication, persistence, practice, research, willingness to learn, experience and perhaps a few other factors.

It’s likely that the world will become awash with new books written by new authors. But the magic will remain, but change form. Democratisation means everyone can do it, but it also means that we can’t and won’t rely on third party endorsement alone. The democratisation of publishing means we now have the power as writers to publish and as readers to judge for ourselves what is worth reading. The external filter has gone so we have to filter for ourselves.

More television channels gave us more telly. But it didn’t give us more good telly. Self publishing will give us more books to choose from, but not necessarily many more good books.

This is why, more than ever we have to focus on quality. Our books must be brilliant. They must look brilliant. Just being ‘published’ will soon not be enough…

Don’t just do a book – make it a good book.

This article came out of a conversation I had with Howard from

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Just do me a cover…

Recent books I've designed

This is the mistake so many people have made. They treat their book cover as another graphic design job and that gives them three choices:

  1. They can do it themselves. Unless they have typographical expertise and knowledge of composition, layout skills as well as the technical issues involved, the result is likely to be less than remarkable.
  2. They can get it done cheaply. This may result in the same outcome as above, or perhaps give something ok, average or unuseable. A cheap designer is either inexperienced or isn’t prioritising the job as they have better things to do. Even if it’s ‘a mate’, many people run into trouble as the designer has to prioritise paid work, it’s just a fact of life. Either way, there’s a risk that the wonderful expertise promoting work that your book should be, may go out in the world a bit lackluster.
  3. They could spend a lot of money on it.

But all this is missing the point. The cover of your book is not just another graphic design job that needs to be ticked off in the same way that you need a plasterer to do the walls of your house. It’s not someone coming to fix the radiators or make the sandwiches. It’s not like insurance where you get the cheapest quote you can. It’s not even something that the more you pay the better the result. It’s not something you have to get out of the way in order to publish your book.

Your cover IS the book.

You think that the hard slog of writing, the early mornings, the late nights, the rushing to meet your deadline, the painful editing, the writers blocks and the years of research and experience is your book. It isn’t.

The clever title that communicates the message of the book, the relevant and neat typography of the title and subtitle and the metaphor contained within the image or graphics on the cover – that’s your book.

To put it another way: the COVER is your book.

In fact, many best-selling expert authors suggest that the first thing you do when you’re about to write the book is to not write the book but design the cover. With the cover you can gauge interest in the book and take advance orders for the book (i.e. sell it before you’ve written it).

A book with a cover is a real book (even if it doesn’t yet exist as a book). This is part of the magic of publishing and how books are embedded into our consciousness. Today, more than ever, the concept of the cover transmits the Big Idea that can arrest and hold busy minds whose attention is eager to flit to something else.

We don’t have time to wait till chapter 3 before we reveal our purpose to our readers. We can’ even rely on them getting it in the introduction. We have to get it to them right there up front with the cover, through the use of the right words, images and colours.

Once that eye of attention of our potential reader settles on our cover we have only a fraction of a millisecond for the image we have created to inspire neurons to fire in the mind of the observer. If the meaning and significance transmitted is unclear, dull and uninspired, the eye of attention will move on. If on the other hand it shines, causes an itch, invokes curiosity, intrigue, humour or hints at a solution, the image in the eye triggers a cascade of neurons to fire. This in turn makes new connections in the eye of the beholder which shoots a message from the deep unconscious to the conscious that says quite simply: find out more.

That’s the purpose of the cover. It’s a visual consciousness magnetic neural network triggering mechanism. And to create one of those you need more than a ‘graphic designer’.

To create one of those you need more than to just say that oh-so-underwhelming instruction, “just do me a cover”.

People won’t judge you by your wit on page 230. They won’t judge you by your startling conclusion. They won’t judge you by your extensive research and experience in the field. They will judge you first by what they see. And what they see is your cover.

Make it worth seeing.

Learn more about writing and publishing your book:

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So you want to write a book – but what’s it about?

Me Myself and I bookSome years ago I spoke to someone who’d been to a motivational seminar. The result of it was that it had inspired her to write a book. That’s great news I thought, a real tangible action that she could follow through.

The next question was of course, “what’s the book about?” She said, “It’s called Me, Myself and I – the story of my life”.

Now I don’t want to sound too dismissive. I didn’t know her that well either. But what I did know was that she was more or less like most of us. Fairly straightforwardly normal. Nothing particularly remarkable had happened to her that hasn’t also happened to me and you.

At this point I think we’d all agree that this was a pretty poor idea for a book. If she was writing this autobiography for her own and her families enjoyment then that’s a good thing. We should all do that in some form, to record and pass on our stories and experiences to the next generation or simply to reminisce. But who else is even remotely interested? Let’s face the facts: no-one.

By the end of this article I’m going to change my mind about that. Let’s see if you do too.

Since then I’ve met a load of other people who’ve been to motivational seminars and have come out with the ‘big idea’ to write a book about their average mediocre lives.

I’ve also met a lot of people who’ve had some wonderful or tragic experiences. On the face of it, these heroes appear to have it easy, they can tell the story of their triumph over adversity, good fortune or hard work. The story is right there for the telling. But they have a little problem in that when that big story is told, there is nothing else to tell. They have become that story. There’s nothing more to give.

And that’s why us ordinary folk have a subtle advantage. But we have to work hard to get a grip on it.

If you’ve ever read any biography of a famous person or seen an in-depth interview (like the ones Michael Parkinson used to do, not the product placement ones we get nowadays) you may have noticed how they work. The story of their life doesn’t necessarily start at the beginning. It is framed up with the main thing that they are famous for. Every part of the biographical detail from then on, every story that follows, adds insight which builds the picture of the famous person and the fame they were born to have. If it’s an actor, they’ll recount the first time they ever acted (probably a game they played as a child). If it’s a comedian, they’ll recount the first laugh they got from their mates or from the school bully to avoid being punched. They miss out most of the missed opportunities and other adventures that aren’t central to the main driving story of their life’s purpose. They don’t recount their holidays or what they got for Christmas unless it’s central to the main thrust. Often they don’t mention their children, who may be in reality the most important people in their lives. If they don’t play a main role in the big story, they don’t get a look in.

It’s the secret method hidden in every kind of storytelling. You only mention things that are relevant. To add drama you may not reveal their relevance straight away and when the reader realises the truth later on, they experience that wonderful payback as they form the thread of the meaning of the story in their own minds as they read. The same is true for films, for sitcoms, for plays, for everything. In fact, it’s a good way of seeing if a story is based unchanged on a real story or not as real-life accounts are full of extraneous detail that have no bearing on the plot.

The point here is that famous people have a fulcrum to their life story, a pivot or purpose that vignettes are chosen to add colour and detail to the driving plot of their lives.

So what has this got to do with us?

Imagine if you were to write your biography now. Imagine writing it with no major destination, it’s just the story of your life, the story of ‘Me, Myself and I’. You’d have school stories, teenage adventures, college or work anecdotes, family crisis, family fun. There’d be no shortage of material, but without a focus, all those stories would be of little interest to anyone who didn’t know you as there would be no correlation between them other than they all happened to you. The reader would be desperate to link it all but without your help they’d get distracted and bored and would stop reading.

Now imagine picking a point to your life. Let’s start with an easy one. Imagine the point of your life was to have your children, or to do the job you do now, or to have the lifestyle you have now or the particular hobby or interest that you’re so good at. If you wrote your biography only including the stories and anecdotes that relate to that point you’ll have a totally different book to the sprawling, meaningless all encompassing one. If you chose another, a different point, you’d have a different set of stories to include.

This is why I said we’re better off than those who have one big story that’s so big it dominates everything else in their lives. These heroes struggle to tell another story of their lives without the big one getting in the way. For most of us there are dozens if not hundred of stories to tell, all of which have may a strong point. If effect we could write a dozen autobiographies of ourselves, each one different to the last.

The challenge is now to choose which of the possible life purposes are we going to choose for our first book. Notice I say ‘first’ book. They say everyone has one book in them. It’s not true, everyone has dozens of books in them. We just need to decide to begin. It’s actually easier to choose than you may think. You simply chose the purpose to your life that you have the most or best stories to tell. You choose ‘the point’ that the book will make that is the most interesting or compelling that a certain type of audience will want to hear.

If you take this approach, what you’ve really done is the opposite of what most new authors do. You’ve picked a purpose that is powerful, personal and relevant to others, that you have a cache of real personal stories to add human interest which grips and entertains the reader. You then add in relevant research, facts and data about the topic to educate the reader. What you’ve done is given the reader a useful, valuable experience that is unique. It’s your personal take on the topic. It’s that unique personal take which is the magnet that attracts the reader to the content. A personal story with no point is irrelevant and content without a personal take is a textbook which is boring.

So here’s your task. Writing your autobiography is actually a good thing! Why? because by plotting out your journeys, stories and anecdotes, randomly at first, you’ll start to see patterns emerging. By writing ‘Me Myself and I’ you’ll build up a body of work that will become your resource bank of material for your entire writing career.

Call us today on +44(0)1865 779944 to discuss how we can turn your expertise into a brand or create a book with selling power.

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We all hate textbooks so why do people write them?

textbookThere’s a place for textbooks. They belong as reference material for classrooms and courses. They don’t work in isolation. They supplement other learning materials such as lectures, seminars or workbooks.

But as far as we’re concerned as experts who write, they are irrelevant. Unless you have been commissioned by a major publisher, who has the infrastructure to get the book to market and you have been paid in advance to write it, there is absolutely no point in writing a textbook.

So why does everyone do it?

When experts begin writing their book, either to pitch unsolicited to a publisher or with a view to self publish, they begin in couple of particular ways.

Here’s the wrong way. We can call it the linear method or ‘the brain dump’.

Linear authors start by writing everything they think they possibly know about everything they know. It’s so unstructured that they try desperately to think of a start, to give them something to hang onto. Since there’s no plan, defined topic or target market in mind they have no choice but to try to start at a beginning. Such books begin with variations of “I was born at an early age in my home town” and “In the beginning…”.

This linear way of starting kills the motivation to write really quickly. The actual ‘beginning’ of any story is usually very boring. Boring to write and boring to read. It’s also out of context. The reader is given no clues at that point as to what’s going to happen. That’s why most fiction and all movies start well into the story. The action has already begun.

Good authors recognise that they’re not telling the entire story of everything, they’re just telling one story that sits within a bigger story. A James Bond film doesn’t start with him being born. It doesn’t start with him sitting in the secret service offices waiting for the phone to ring. It starts at the peak of some action.

“But I’m not writing stories! I’m not writing fiction!” I imagine I hear you cry. I doesn’t matter. The same rules apply. Any writing needs to engage the reader enough so that they don’t stop reading through boredom.

The only book that’s allowed to start at the beginning of all creation is the Bible. And even with that the writers wrote that very first bit of Genesis last.

This linear way of writing is bad for the reader but it’s worse for the writer. It will almost always create ‘writers block’ which we can define as boredom, lack of confidence and lack of inspiration. If those blocks are overcome the result is a textbook.

These textbooks start tediously at the beginning with simple introductory concepts and then get more complex and more tedious as it progresses. Then at the end when it delivers the most complex, in-depth material, it stops. Then there’s an index (which is totally useless as you can’t dip into such a book as you would have had to read everything up to that point for it to make sense.)

These boring textbooks are often written by lively, passionate, friendly, talented people. So why do they leave out all that passion and emotion when they write?

The solution to all this, to write an engaging book, perhaps one that can be dipped into and most useful of all, one that you can actually write AND finish, is to write a non-linear book or write the book in a non-linear way.

Have you ever read a textbook? Probably not. If you did it would only have been because there was a gun pointed at your head.

No-one reads textbooks. So don’t write one.

We’ll look at the alternative method in my next post.

Call us today on +44(0)1865 779944 to discuss how we can turn your expertise into a brand or create a book with selling power.

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What sort of author are you?

There are certain types of authors that I’ve found and worked with. Each has advantages and disadvantages that need to be understood if a book project is to be successful. A book is like a rocket: it needs an awful lot of energy to take off and get going. It needs a constant supply of energy to overcome gravity and keep going, but once it’s in orbit it will move all on its own. Here is a list of the types I’ve found:

The Creator/Collectors: these people love creating stuff. They love having stuff in their hands. You’ll probably find their homes and offices full of books. And not just the obvious ones. They probably quite like nice looking, luxurious hardbacks. Those beautiful ‘coffee table’ books. They probably haven’t read many of them, but love having them.

Advantages: Have a strong desire to hold their book in their hands and see it on the shelf.

Disadvantages: May put form over function and create a beautiful product that doesn’t do anything

The Self-Help Junkie: these people will devour every theory that comes along. E Myth? NLP? 7 habits? Robbins? Rich Dad? Who Moved My Cheese? They have not only read them all, they can quote you passages from them.

Advantages: They know how books work.

Disadvantages: Could unconsciously regurgitate old messages or be far too aware of them all and be paralysed, unable to come up with something original.

The Consultant: They know their stuff. Possibly have their own unique material or way of doing things after years in practice. Tend to be practical. Like things to happen quickly. Often overlook or have little experience in marketing.

Advantages: They have a wealth of material and can explain it well.

Disadvantages: See writing as a chore. Tend to turn their exciting material into dull tips sheets, excluding their personality.

Give Sunmakers a call to help identify what are your own strengths and weakness and will help overcome objections and problems you have with your book idea with tactics and strategies. It will give ideas to help formulate a worthwhile purpose, agenda and business plan for you book. It will give ideas to help create an interesting metaphor to give the book that wow factor and will inspire and motivate you to begin, to keep going and to finish as well as giving information on how to publish, produce, promote and proliferate your finished book.

Call us today on +44(0)1865 779944 to discuss how we can turn your expertise into a brand or create a book with selling power.

Turn your Blog into a book: 

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How to write a business book – the secret formula

Just to make it easy for you, here is the formula for writing your business book. It really is this simple. Follow this formula and you’ve done it.

how to write a book


b = book

T = your Topic

F = Key facts or Frequently asked questions or tips

Ci = Internal case studies – i.e. your own

Ce = External case studies – i.e. recognised, famous examples

The transform is then integrated with:

p = Your personal take and human story

m = A strong driving metaphor

T: First decide on your topic. It needs to be something you know something about, have an interesting opinion on, or something you can fairly easily collate research on. Preferably it should be something you’re interested in.

F: Decide on a set number of data to include as the key facts. These could be a set of tips, how to’s or frequently asked questions.

Ci: Collect a few first hand case studies to illustrate some of the key facts.

Ce: Back up the rest of the key facts with third party anecdotes of famous people or companies, incorporating something that the reader will recognise, or use a non-famous but powerful story that you found in your research that makes one or more of the points really clear.

p: Tell the part of your own biography that relates to the Topic, T. This should initially state your immense expertise with regards to the Topic and then incorporate your starting point of ignorance or your greatest failure or fall from grace and your slow climb to enlightenment or your epiphany moment. The sub formula for a successful p is:

p = pE + pS + pT

Where pE is the personal end point of expertise, where you are now and your authority to write the book.

pS is your starting point. This could be how you struggled without the Topic or how your early life pointed the way to the topic. Also included should be your early attempts at success and admissions of failure. This allows the reader to believe you are human and like you, they too can improve with regards to the Topic if they follow your story and advice.

pT is your turning point or points when you realised the truth of the Topic and how you incorporated its lessons for success within its remit.

m: This is in many ways the most important and most overlooked part. This driving metaphor will give the book its title and its cover image. It needs to show that the message of the book, which the audience don’t know yet, is like something else that the audience do know about. It is the ‘high concept’ that sums up the style and direction of the book by almost giving away the main thrust of the book. The metaphor can be a single word, backed up with a strapline. It can be a stylised design, the look and typography of the book. It could be catch phrase or statement. A good metaphor sometimes comes first, but more often it comes out of the research and writing you do. It’s not something that can be forced and may even change as the book is being written.

Of course this isn’t the only way to write your book, there is another.

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