Writing a Book: Mine Your Experience to Make Your Book Better

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Most of the material that I’ve seen about how to write a book suggests that you start with some kind of planning. Some suggest you start with a business plan for your book. Others urge you to begin outlining. I have a different idea.

Before you start writing or planning, take some time to get your head around what you already know that will help you make your book great. Start by using your brain to do what it does best.

Let Your Brain Do Its Thing

Neurophysiologist Bill Calvin described the human brain as “Nature’s connection-making engine.” You don’t need any deep research to understand that. Just think about how your brain connects things every day.

Think about all the times during your day when a sight or a sound triggers a connection to a thought or insight. Our brains are great at that. Here’s how to use it to make your book better.

Let Your Brain Tell You What You Know

Start writing down everything you can think of that relates to your book. Think about what you want in it. Identify stories and research that you want to use.

I suggest using a recorder to capture your thoughts. A tool like mind mapping or free writing is good, too. You’ll probably find that your brain cranks out a whole lot of ideas, so be ready to capture them quickly.

Don’t just do this once. Do it every day for a week or so. Then let your ideas and thoughts marinate in your brain for another week. During that week, ideas and insights will pop into your head. Capture them.

At the end of two weeks, start asking some specific questions. You’ll find some of the answers in material you’ve already captured. You’ll also have insights, remember new things, and have some great ideas. Capture all of them, too. Here are some questions to help you concentrate on specific areas.

Who Do You Know?

Who do you know that can help you with your book? Identify people who can help you get the book done. They can include writing partners, editors, transcribers, book designers, publishing and writing coaches, and more.

Identify people who can help you with the contents of the book. Identify people to interview. Identify people you’d like to interview, but don’t know. Then identify five or six people who might have a connection to the person you want to interview. Review your contact list and your social networks, especially LinkedIn, looking for people who can help with either research or production.

What Should You Read?

Review the books that are already written on your topic or something close to it. Identify any that you should be familiar with.

Look through your files and find any articles that you already have that you should read. Do a little online research and see if you can identify some more.

Consolidate What You’ve Learned

Take a week or so to review everything that you found. Here’s what’s going to happen.

That connection-making engine between your ears will start making all kinds of connections. For example, you might note a book that you need to read and then think, “I should interview the author.” Or you might notice the words in book and article titles and think, “I should do a search on those words.”

Throughout the time that you review your material, you’ll be having lots of insights and ideas. Be sure to capture them. Then take a weekend to pull it all together. Review your notes and all the ideas you’ve captured. Once you’ve got that, you’re probably ready to start planning your book.

Don’t worry about writing down every detail or key point. Let your brain do its thing. When you start your planning, all the work you’ve done so far will be there in your brain ready for it to make connections that matter.

Bottom Line

Before you start writing, before you even start planning, take some time to mine your experience for all the things and people you know. Let your brain make connections naturally.

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