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.
When this happens, you need to create a container to corral all those ideas into a logical order.
Use this exercise to help you clarify and simply your ideas.
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. Or, 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 ________________
(describe a specific problem your book addresses).
- My book helps corporate managers to stop making poor hiring decisions by interviewing more skillfully.
- My book helps retirees manage their 401K funds so that they don’t outlive their money.
- My book helps working moms decrease guilt and enjoy their children in the midst of diapers, day planners, and dirty socks.
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 their 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.
Your problem 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.
Then, 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.
When you have a clearly delineated learning path for your book, you’ll have a road map for its completion as well as a guide that will help you sort all your ideas quickly and easily.
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