The Missing Ingredient of a Finished Book

The singer Natasha Benningfield released a hit song several years ago about opening up the dirty window and beginning a book. The chorus had a line, “Today your book begins.”

While this is a catchy pop lyric, it can also give you a tip about getting your book finished. One of the most important ingredients of a finished book is clarity. You can’t see well out of a dirty window. You can’t write a book well, without clarity.

To write your book efficiently and effectively, you need clarity on several important considerations before you write the first word.

First, who is the intended reader of your book?

Can you clearly describe your ideal reader and state how your book will help her? When you are clear on the ideal reader of your book and the problem your book will solve for her, you can write directly to that person, heart to heart. If you’ve ever read a book and felt like the author was speaking directly to you, you’ve experienced clarity of readership.

Next, what is the point of your book?

Before you write, spend some time getting clear on exactly what you are teaching in your book. Write down a list of your concepts, and put them in an order that will make it easy for your reader to digest. Take the reader on a logical journey from point A to point B so that he can comprehend and feel intelligent as he reads. If your book is confusing or difficult to understand because it rambles, your reader will probably not finish it and miss the message you are trying to convey.

Then, what content will you cover in your book?

You will save much time and frustration if you create a detailed outline for your book before you begin to write it. Just like a roadmap, a book outline ensures that you don’t repeat the same concepts or miss something important. In my classes, I teach a detailed process called the Book Blueprint, which is a thorough outline of all the concepts, large and small, that will be addressed in your book. If you don’t know how to do a Book Blueprint, you can start with a mind map for each chapter or create an outline. Both methods work well to keep you organized in your thinking and your writing.

Finally, how will you compete with other books on the market?

It is very wise to look at the top five to ten books that compete with your future book. You can do this at a bookstore or online. Look at the best sellers in your category. Determine what they have in common and what they lack. Ensure that your book will contain the basic material readers need to know about your topic as well as unique material that only you can write.

When you take the time to answer these questions before you begin writing your book, you will have the clarity you need to write quickly. You’ll be sure of your message and the readers who will receive it. When you have clarity for your book, you’ll stop feeling stuck and start writing your masterpiece.

What insights does this article bring to you? Share them on the blog and inspire another writer.

Comments 6

  • It’s reassuring to say I have fulfilled all the parameters above.

  • Such a good article and it is, itself, definately en pointe! I am notoriously stuck around how to even get started despite having several strong ideas for books. Your article above, and all the ones I’ve read, are a comforting reminder that writing a book is not the domain of geniuses, but of passionate committed people who push through the noise and come out the other side triumphant! Well done! And thank you!

    • I love your phrase about the passionate commited people who push through the noise. That’s an apt description and very beautifully put.

  • I have been stalled on a book for nearly a year. Last summer I taught a 4-session study at church on the 4 concepts I want to develop in my book, but for a variety of reasons (or more likely, excuses) I did not proceed to write the book.
    Last Sunday, I met a person who needs this book, and now I clearly see that person as I write. She is my inspiration and the boot in the seat of the pants that I needed in order to get down to business.
    Now your blog has clarified (handy word!) the next thing I need. I know the 4 important points I want to develop, but the outline you suggest is exactly the thing I don’t have. I see now that this is the real reason I could not start. I did not actually know where I was going. I knew my objective, but I did not know how to get there.
    This is today’s task — to get the outline started. I can do this. It is now my goal to complete a stream of consciousness outline today and to refine it tomorrow. I believe it will inevitably continue to be refined as I write, but at least I now know how to set boundaries on my wandering thoughts.
    When I write I always struggle with the emergence of good ideas that are certainly related thoughts but they don’t fit within the boundaries of the project. I hate to let them get away. What do I do with them? If I don’t have a plan for them, I am sure they will bog me down as I try to write?

    • Katherine- I am so pleased that you’ve found both inspiration and direction for your book! Outlining a book doesn’t sound that fun, but you will find that the outline you develop will become your compass and your best friend while you write.

      I suggest that you start a notebook or file to catch your good ideas that don’t fit in the book. You can use them later for articles or other projects. If you record them somewhere, you won’t worry about losing them while you write on other topics.

      Blessings on your writing!

  • Thanks Lyne,
    I Will cash m’y dirty Windows today, both physically and symbolically.

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