Writing a book: 3 things you have to do

Oct 3, 2016 | Writing A Book

Thinking about writing a business book? Here are three big, important things you have to do to write the best possible book.

Get everything relevant out of your head

No matter how good that idea or story is, it won’t help the book until it’s out of your head and part of your work process. Getting stuff out of your head happens two ways.

Early in the project, do a brain dump. Write down everything you know, every idea, you’ve got, and every potential helpful resource. Everything means everything. You don’t know until you’re working on the book what will be important and what won’t.

While you’re working on the project, you will come up with insights and ideas. Capture them. All of them. Use a notebook, index cards, or a pocket digital recorder. Use your phone. Write them on your arm if you must, but capture them. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself trying to remember, slapping your forehead, and feeling inadequate.

Put what you’ve got in some kind of order

Thoughts and ideas happen randomly, in no particular order. Before they can deliver value, they need to be in context. Before you have a book, they need to be in order. There are lot of ways to do this.

  • Outline (like you learned in school)
  • Mind Map
  • Major Scene Draft
  • Zero Draft
  • Storyboard
  • White board

There’s no one best way to do this. You have to find what works best for you. I use everything on that list. I usually use several while I’m working on a book. You may have a way to organize your book that isn’t on my list. If you do, please tell me about it. I’m always looking for new tools.

Refine it

Now the real work of writing begins. As you get more things out of your head and in order, you’ll have to eliminate some things. Otherwise the book will be too heavy to carry and have no clear theme or focus.

You will also think of things you want to add. There will be points you want to make that need more research. Every key point should be supported with a story/example and with research. If you use a Major Scene Draft as your main organizing tool, you will have organized around stories. Every story should make a point and be supported with research that explains it.

Don’t think of “research” as “boring academic papers.” Here are some other places where you can find facts, stories, and explanations you can use.

  • Articles
  • Books
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Recordings of speeches
  • PowerPoint decks
  • Conversations and interviews

Those are sources for material to enrich your manuscript. You still need re-writes and revisions to make it read smoothly. Finally, you need a professional edit before your manuscript enters whatever publishing pipeline you choose.