What’s your book’s organising principle?

A great structure makes the book easier to read and understand, but also makes it much easier to write.

 A large part of my book coaching & editing work is helping people find the right structure for their book – whether it’s a 10-page ebook or a 200-page print book. A great structure makes the book easier to read and understand, but also makes it much easier to write. So here are some pointers… Continue reading

Structuring your writing – the back-to-basics masterclass

The three enemies of writing: headless horsemen, lost travellers, and fence-sitters.

The last article looked at your book’s organising principle - finding the overall shape that’ll make it easy to read, and easy to write. Shaping the actual writing is just as important. But if you know how to structure a great presentation, you know how to structure your writing, it’s just a question of applying the same principles. So here’s how to beat the three enemies: headless horsemen, lost travellers, and fence-sitters.

Why you need a developmental editor

Tom Allen’s successful Kickstarter project, Love on a Bike, reveals a discovery that every person writing a book needs to know. After the video’s beautiful intro of cycling around the world and falling in love, we see Tom typing away on his laptop. “My name is Tom,” says the voiceover, “And really, ever since I began travelling, I’ve been wanting to write a book. I’ve got to a point now where I’m on the very edge of having finished that book…”  Hurrah! we think. Done! But Tom has become wiser: Continue reading

No glass slippers! Is your model working?

For thought leaders and experts, a great model is the gold standard.  It showcases your expertise, explains both the concept and the process in the best possible way, and becomes part of your intellectual capital. At its best, it tells you more than you already knew and opens up new avenues of ideas.  In your book, it creates the most logical and helpful structure you can use. But what if your model’s turning into a glass slipper? Continue reading

How long is a book? How long is a chapter?

how long is a bookWhen you first start working with books, you realise that everyone talks in word count – editors, publishers, layout people. At first that feels bizarre, like measuring tree-size in leaves. Surely pages is a better measurement? When you discover how much page count changes with minor tweaks to font, line spacing, and margins, though, you realise why. Book lengths vary, but they’re all measured in word count – so that’s where we start. Continue reading

Lessons from teaching: Use your coaching to create your book

One of the most exciting, challenging commissions I’ve had was to design and deliver a two-week teacher-training course on literary analysis. Teaching teachers – always a challenge to raise your game, and, yes, “literary analysis”, all of it, without much more to the brief than that. Could I do it? Uh… hell, yeah! It nearly killed me, but I did, and loved it.

I realised afterwards that my process for creating the course was an excellent model for book planning. Of course it forces you to think wholistically about the subject, but thinking about potential students for a course also gives you a much better sense of what to include and how to arrange it. It returns the planning process to being helpful and communicating with real people, both excellent touchstones to keep in mind. So here’s your six-step guide: Continue reading

What does your reader want?

When you start to write a book on your thought leadership, it’s easy to feel that you know better than your readers. They may think that their problem is time-management, but you know it’s an issue of aligning their goals with their values. They may think they’re struggling with an overload of work, but you know they need to sort out their time-management. And then your brilliant, well-written book jampacked with insights just languishes in a warehouse, or out in the ether, or as a potential click on a print-on-demand that never happens. And all around you are people struggling with issues which they could solve if they’d only read the damn book! So how do you make it a book they will read? Continue reading

4 pointers to write great coaching sections

If you’re writing a book on your expertise, you’re coaching the reader and the quality of your coaching is what sets your book apart. When you plan your book, treat each subheading within a chapter as a coaching section: what does the reader need to learn and what do they need to do? This fail-safe structure will help you hit the bull’s eye, every time. For well-rounded coaching, each section should include these four things: Continue reading

How to write… an introduction

Before you read anything, you need to know what you’re reading: what’s the topic here? What am I going to find out? If you don’t know that, you quickly become frustrated. At best, you skim down or flick through to find out for yourself. At worst, you stop reading and never reach the good, useful content buried somewhere inside. Everything needs an introduction: every book, every chapter, and every section within a chapter.   In Structuring your writing – the back-to-basics masterclass, I talk about the horror of headless horsemen: Continue reading

Is your draft a mess? Step-by-step guide to fixing it. With Outfits.

“Help! I’ve written this draft of my book and now I can’t get it into shape. I know I need to reorganise this chapter, but my brain keeps turning to wool then it explodes. (My brain and the actual writing. Words everywhere. Sentences poking out the ceiling.) I can’t see the wood for the trees. I don’t even know if there is a wood, anymore. What do I do with all these trees? I’ve been shuffling these sheets of paper and willing clarity to descend and… HELP!” Continue reading