When you’re embarking on the task of writing a book to highlight your expertise, it’s more than likely that you’ve already created part of it.
You may have notes, research, blog posts, and even a draft chapter or two.
Your musings could be well formed or just a series of sketchy points, but they’re there and it’s a start. And my years of experience in coaching people to write their business books or ghostwriting books that have already been started, has shown me that the ‘well formed’ chunks are the areas you feel most confident with or enjoy the most. That’s natural.
But when you’re facing the task of writing ‘proper’, should you begin with those already-created elements or start ‘at the very beginning, a very good place to start’ as The Sound of Music would have us believe?
How do you roll?
The answer it, it depends.
If you’re the kind of person that likes to take a methodical, step by step approach to creating something, beginning at Chapter One and typing your way to The End is probably the best way for you.
But if you’re the type who likes to jump around, working on whatever enthuses you most at the time, there’s no reason why you have to write your book a logical order. In fact, if you feel more energised and enthusiastic about the experience because you’re doing it in a way that suits you, this will help you complete it more quickly.
Because it’s not just lack of time that stymies budding authors, it’s a deficit of oomph as well. Any way you can oomph yourself is fine with me.
However, please know that there are two major potential pitfalls to avoid if you’re a ‘jumper’.
Do your planning first
It’s vital that you start with a solid outline for your book if you plan to skip around while writing it. In fact it’s important for anyone writing a book, but particularly for you.
Why? Because without knowing up front what information you want to include in which chapter, you’ll be in danger of having to re-write and re-organise large chunks of your work if it later transpires that Thought A would come better after Thought B rather than the other way around.
You can discover more about how to outline your book in this post, but these are the main factors to bear in mind:
- Create an outline that makes sense for your readers, and then break down each chapter into a short series of points. You’re thinking top-level here, not details.
- Once you know what you want to say and in what order, assign a rough word count to each chapter. This will help you to know if you’ve written enough or too much – something that would be easier to sense if you were writing in order, but hard if not.
If this feels a bit too rigid for you, consider this. There’s nothing more soul-crushing than discovering half way through writing your book that you don’t have enough information for a particular chapter, which means you need to incorporate it into another one. But which one? And how?
Or that you have more to say than you’d thought and it would have made more sense to split the chapter in two, in which case maybe the first part should go near the beginning. Or should it? Aarrgh!
If you have a sold plan you’ll avoid these disaster scenarios. And you can – of course – flex a little as you go along.
Join the dots for your readers
When you write out of sequence you’ll find that when you’ve finished your book your chapters will have the appearance of a patchwork quilt. They’ll fit together but there won’t be clear and obvious links for your readers between one chapter and another, which can be confusing.
Not only that, but you may find you’ve repeated yourself without realising it and – just as likely – left gaps in your narrative. This is easy for any author to do even if they’re writing from Chapter One, but for you it’s pretty much a given.
This isn’t difficult to fix. Once you’ve finished drafting all your chapters, read your book through from beginning to end. On a sheet of paper (one for each chapter) put a sticky note for each repetition and gap you come across. Don’t correct it there and then, just record it on a note. Once you’ve reached the end go back and make corrections, binning each sticky as you go along (a highly satisfying process).
Then, go through all your chapters re-writing the beginnings and endings of them so they flow from the one before and into the one after. Now your book reads beautifully.
The most important thing is that you use a process for writing your business book that works for you. If you force yourself into a methodology that saps your energy and drive, you’ll take longer to complete it and be more likely to give up midway. So if you’re a ‘jumper’ good for you, just put in place some actions to deal with the pitfalls and you’ll have a brilliant book before you know it.