Title: The Book You Were Born to Write: Everything You Need to (Finally) Get Your Wisdom onto the Page and into the World
Author: Kelly Notaras.
The Book You Were Born to Write is a guide to writing a full-length transformational nonfiction book by the editor and author Kelly Notaras. After two decades working as a book editor—editing many of today’s biggest personal growth and spirituality authors—Kelly Notaras saw that her clients and readers had important questions about the transformational book writing journey. The Book You Were Born to Write is her answer!
Within the transformational nonfiction genre, the vast majority of books fall into one of three common subcategories.
The first is prescriptive nonfiction, which is a book that teaches the reader a helpful methodology the author has learned or developed.
The second is inspirational memoir, in which the author relates her own life story—often a story of triumph over adversity—for both the entertainment and the benefit of the reader.
Teaching memoir, which uses the author’s own story to illustrate lessons that will help the reader in his life.
Writing makes you feel like a rock star a lot of the time. It’s a huge boost to energy, self-esteem, and creativity. (As opposed to thinking about writing, which is a total resource drain.) Writing a book is a dream for so many people.
Getting a book out into the world is rarely a straight line. It’s a hero’s journey, full of twists and turns, dead ends, and unexpected doorways.
In the Internet age, personality has become the primary draw. Especially in the realm of transformational nonfiction, the marketing game is set up so we feel like we’re not fans of an author but in fact friends with them. Getting an e-mail every week, or sometimes every single day, from an author—reading their words, which seem to be directed straight at us and, if they’re a good match, hit us square in the middle of the heart—we feel like we know them. When their book is published, we not only want to own it, we also want to support our friend’s success!
A book proposal
A book proposal is a document written about your book, kind of like a business plan is about a business. A business plan is written to clarify the founder’s intentions and, in many cases, to generate funding; a book proposal has a similar function. It’s meant to help you get a commitment from a publisher so you know your book has a home before you write it.
An outline is essentially a written plan for your book, listing each piece of information you want to include, point by point, in its proper order.
When it comes to fiction or memoir, this outline tells an overt story. When we’re working with transformational nonfiction, the outline highlights each idea you will be including and in what chapter it will appear. Outlines come in different shapes and sizes, some skinnier (just bullet points) and some more fleshed out (with topic sentences already written).
The Why-What-Wow of Titling Your Book
If you want your book to be actually read, by actual human beings, in a wide and ongoing way, the most important thing you can do is title it well.
The “what” answers the question, “What is this book about?”
The “why” answers the question, “Why should I read it?” and
The “wow” is that extra added something that catches our attention and conveys the book’s uniqueness.”
Writing Practice – a regularly scheduled time when you practice writing. This doesn’t mean you have to write perfectly or craft something that will actually go into your book someday. The only commitment is that you sit down to do it, at your scheduled time, whether or not you feel like it. This willingness to do the thing, at the specified time, even if you don’t feel like it, is the defining characteristic of a practice. It’s the same diligence you apply to a yoga practice, or a meditation practice, or even an exercise regimen.
Seven Steps to a Personalized Writing Plan
- Step #1: Take out a sheet of paper and your favorite pen or marker.
- Step #2: Give yourself an inspiring headline.
- Step #3: Take an honest look at your weekly calendar.
- Step #4: Chart your plan for the week.
- Step 5: Place your writing chart somewhere you will see and use it.
- Step 6: Adjust your commitment as you go.
- Step 7: Start again next week!
The writing plan is all about consistency over quantity. Write every day, even just a little bit. If you complete your plan three weeks in a row—the length of time they say it takes to create a new habit—you may find yourself shocked by how much content you generated.
CRAFT YOUR HOOK
Craft a one- or two-sentence encapsulation of the topic. In the parlance of traditional publishing, that encapsulation is called a hook. And true to its name, the point of this little nugget of information is to catch the reader’s attention—to hook them, like an unsuspecting mackerel—so they can’t walk out of the bookstore without your book under their arm.
The hook for a book might also be called its “concept,” “premise,” or “conceit.” In the film industry, it’s sometimes referred to as an elevator pitch—because ideally you can transmit the “big idea” of your film in the time it would take you and an influential producer to travel in an elevator from one floor to the next.
There are five basic qualities to try to bake into your book’s hook even before you start writing. What you should aim for is a hook that is high-concept, narrowly tailored, unique, magnetic, and salable.
JUST START WRITING
Where a visual artist creates art that is a feast for the eyes, a writer of books weaves worlds that unfold in the imagination. Every word has an impact; every phrase either ushers the reader closer to the author’s meaning or holds him at arm’s length. In this way the act of sitting down to write is the act of crafting, like an artisan, the seed of a new world.
Writing anything—good or bad, brilliant or sh*tty—is better than not writing at all. For a writer, a day when pen touches page is a successful day. Writing comes before all other pleasures—if only because very little else is pleasurable until one has done one’s daily writing.
Handle your Resistance
Resistance is any false obstacle, known or unknown, that is standing between you and writing your book.
As anyone who’s studied depth psychology and shadow work can tell you, there is a reason for every counterproductive behavior we have—including resisting doing the exact thing we most want to do. Usually it’s a very good reason. Often it’s our attempt to avoid a replay of painful feelings we experienced in childhood. When it comes to writing, we might be trying to avoid feelings like shame or humiliation or the fear of being seen. Pretty rotten emotions that no sane person would sign up for.
Resistance is not the enemy; it’s deeply a part of you. Trust it, honor it, and learn to love it. Good writing can’t help but follow.
Copyediting happens when the book is still in manuscript form; it is the last phase of editing before the book is set into type. Done well, its impact is invisible to the end reader. Done poorly—or left out altogether—its absence is felt by everyone. Copyediting is an extremely important phase in the life cycle of a traditionally published book.
Proofreading (or “proofing,” for short) takes place once the book has been set into type. Typeset pages are referred to as proofs, and they are read for errors. (The term “proofreading” is thus a refreshing example of truth in advertising.) Proofing is also invisible to the reader—unless it hasn’t happened.
Front matter and back matter.
Front matter is all the material that comes before page one of your book’s content. This includes things like the title page, copyright page, table of contents, and foreword.
Back matter, as you can likely deduce, is everything that comes after the last page of the book’s main content. Appendixes, indexes, reading group guides, acknowledgments, author bio, and sometimes (especially in genre fiction) advertisements for other books.
As important as your book is, the journey of writing is where the treasure lies. It’s no coincidence that birthing metaphors abound in the book business; writing a book is in many ways a similar creative process to having a child. Your book will take time to gestate. There may be some scares along the way. And labor pains are to be expected as the book emerges from your heart, mind, and spirit and makes its way into the world. Each of these stages is meant to teach you something. Something about yourself, about your readers, and about your purpose in this lifetime.
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.