By Lynne Klippel
When you are in the process of writing your book, you may be overwhelmed with all the ideas that you could possibly put into your book. You have ideas, stories, illustrations, and quotes flooding your mind, as well as a wealth of blog posts, articles, and other written material to pull from. All these ideas can start swirling around in your mind and keep you stuck instead of moving forward in your writing.
I call this swirl of ideas ‘the curse of a creative mind’, with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. Most aspiring authors have many ideas for a digital book. In fact, many have more book ideas than time to write them.
It’s possible to research a book topic that you know nothing about and write a credible book. However, it is much more enjoyable process if you select a book topic based on your strengths, interests, and passions.
If you are bored silly by your topic, just imagine how difficult it will be to force yourself to sit down at your computer every day and work on it. When you select a topic based on your strengths, you’ll be eager to devote time to writing and marketing it. Plus, you’ll be able to add illustrations and personal examples which make your book unique and authentic.
Many of us are experts in areas and do not realize it. For most of us, our strengths are things that are so easy for us that they feel like no big deal. We take them for granted.
Your strengths are golden topics for digital products. What you know is valuable. If you can save readers time, money or stress, they will love your book.
Use this simple creative exercise to help you discover a winning book topic:
Step 1: Set aside 30 minutes of time when you will not be interrupted. Turn off your phone, don’t check your email, and close your door. If you are able, go outdoors.
Grab a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. This exercise works best when done by hand, not on a computer.
Close your eyes and think of your ideal reader. See him or her sitting at your kitchen table with you, asking for your help. Spend a couple of minutes bringing that vision into sharp focus.
Then, open your eyes and fill in this sentence starter:
My book helps _______________ (describe your ideal reader) to ________________ (list problem you solve in the book) so that they can ___________ (the ultimate benefit of solving the problem).
- My book helps parents of teenagers stop fighting about chores and homework so that their teen develops personal responsibility and independence.
- My book helps new coaches who hate selling to attract new clients confidently so that their coaching business becomes profitable in 90 days or less.
- My book helps corporate managers spot great candidates during the first 10 minutes of a job interview so that they can build a dependable and productive team.
- My book helps retirees manage their 401K funds so that they don’t outlive their money.
- My book helps new gardeners grow beautiful roses so that they can be the envy of the neighborhood.
I call this sentence the problem/benefit statement for your book. This one sentence statement clarifies your book topic and gives you a sense of direction.
Step 2: Once you have a clear idea of what problem your book solves for your readers, write down the steps you will teach in your book. Then put them in a logical order for the reader from easy to more difficult or from start to finish. This sequence is the learning path you will share with your readers in your book.
For example, for the book on interviewing skills for managers, the learning path could look like this:
- How to screen applications so you select the top candidates for interviews
- Preparing a set of standard questions before the interview
- How to read applicant’s body language for clues about her attitude
- Asking follow-up questions to probe for initiative and responsibility
- Checking references to get the real scoop on workplace behavior
Notice how this learning path follows a logical progression with the information presented in the same sequence someone would use to prepare for an interview. It’s important that the steps you present in your learning path follow a logical, step-by-step progression so that it is easy for your reader to implement the steps. A confused reader won’t finish your book.
Your problem/benefit statement and learning path should fit easily on one piece of paper. It is designed to be a visual guide to help you stay true to the purpose of your book while you are writing it. It will also become the bones of your table of contents.
Once you’ve finished this exercise and have a one page summary of your book, post it where you can see it as you write. Use it as a guide to help you sort your ideas as they develop. The next time you are overwhelmed with a myriad of ideas for your book, you can compare each idea to the learning path and see if that idea belongs in the book or if you want to save it for another purpose.
To take this exercise one step further, create a mind-map for each step on your learning path brainstorming all the ideas and information you know today about each step. I like to create my mind maps on big sheets of paper or a white board. However, there are some excellent free online mind mapping tools which are also very effective. I like www.thebrain.com, www.mindmeister.com and www.xmind.net.
This exercise is all about creating order of chaos. When you can organize your ideas using these simple tools, you will free your creativity to produce more great ideas but they will be targeted to your book topic instead of a distraction.