It’s an exciting moment when you first start working on your book. And it can be tempting to dive straight in and start writing. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have a ghostwriter to do the heavy lifting for you, to pitch up to your first meeting with all sorts of ideas buzzing around in your head.
However, this is the moment when it pays to step back, take a deep breath, and gather your thoughts. Because a book that’s well thought through from the beginning will almost certainly turn out to be better than one that flows from your head or hand in a stream of consciousness.
For a start, planning your content allows you to decide what’s most important to you. If your book is a memoir, for instance, what elements of your story do you most want to focus on? What moments from your life best illustrate the theme you want the book to carry? Which stories have most meaning for you?
If you’re writing a self-help guide, what points do your readers need to know if they’re to make a difference to their lives? What order should they be in? Is your subject one which would make most sense in chronological order, with step one leading to step two, and so on? Or could people access your expertise from multiple angles?
And if your book is a thought leadership piece or based on a topic of specific interest, how can you arrange your content so it not only draws in your readers with the most exciting viewpoints at the beginning, but also continues to engage them as they progress through the chapters? Would certain elements of your subject make most sense early or late on? If so, which?
You can see how it’s helpful to have an idea of your outline and structure before you begin – you’ll end up with a much more readable book.
But there’s more: it also saves you time and effort in the end.
While doing some planning up front may delay the start of your book for a little while, it means that when you come to do the writing, you’re one step ahead. All you have to do is look at your plan and points, and you’re away.
Also, knowing what you want to say ahead of time helps you to avoid the discovery that you don’t have as much to say about a particular topic as you thought you did, or that you have more. If you don’t know this up front, you might end up going through the frustrating process of re-ordering your content by making excessive use of the cut and paste keys. Not recommended.
If you’re not sure about how to structure your thinking, this is where an experienced ghostwriter can help. We’re used to taking an author’s unformed ideas and arranging them into a compelling and logical order, much like you do when completing a jigsaw puzzle. Every piece has its place (and yes, we find it fun).
You don’t have to plan out your entire book in detail from the beginning, but if you know the main points you want to make, and in what order you want them to go, you’ll be streets ahead of the compulsive author who doesn’t take the time to think about it.
Your book, your readers, and your publisher, will thank you for it.
Ginny Carter ghostwrites authority-building books, memoirs, and self-help guides for entrepreneurs, thought leaders, speakers and coaches