Roadmap: A Plan for Writing

Before taking a journey to your new get-away spot, you’d set your GPS to get your there––a roadmap. A book is a journey too. You shouldn’t dream of writing a book without a mapped-out plan of how to get from start to finish. The roadmap will provide you with questions to prompt you to search for your real purpose in writing, how to identify your audience––by the way, it is not everyone––and you’ll also work on the structure of your in a memoir or the table of contents in a nonfiction book.

First, you’ll want to really examine a fundamental question: why are YOU the best person to write this book. Maybe you are an expert in your field and no one else has had your experience in the industry. You’re a pioneer. Maybe you’ve lived through a harrowing experience and have found peace in your new normal. Whatever your goal is, make sure you know why you’re writing the book .

Second, and what may appear obvious but is not, what is your point of this book. Sum up the book in a single paragraph. Consider this scenario. You’ve bumped into a literary agent at a writing conference. You get on an elevator together. Now, you have a captive audience, literally. You have been the first and second floors to pitch your story. What do you say? You give them the main point of your book.

In order to do that well, you’ll need a killer sentence. Polish up that sentence you’d state to the agent. It has to grab his attention and get him to say, “Tell me more.” The killer sentence is also the opening sentence of the book. Or at least it can be. With an attention grabbing sentence a reader is not going to put a book down. Remember how you go through a book store. You read the jacket copy and open the book to the first page. If the two of those reads don’t get your attention, you put the book back on the shelf. Your audience has a short attention span when it comes to shopping for a new read. Make sure you have a killer sentence.

Next, you’ll need that jacket copy. In a paragraph, or two at the most, write the description of what the about will be about. Maybe it’s about the discovery of an illness you didn’t know you had and the decline of your health, the near death experience you had, and the miracle which saved your life but not as it was, but as it now is post illness. Maybe you’ve developed a new method for teaching people how to cope with anxiety. You have a couple of paragraphs to make your method stand out. How would you entice your readers to want to open to that first page. Think of this as a sales pitch without being the next TV infomercial hawker. Entice with a soft sell. Don’t give away the store, but peak the reader’s curiosity and you’ll have them hooked.

But before you can see the audience, you need to know who they are––your real audience. For a memoir about your illness, it will be people who have had the illness first. People like to read about issues they’ve grappled with. The audience may also be people who love memoir as a genre. Yet, not everyone will pick up your book and read it. Most people have favorite genres or are looking for answers. In a memoir, this could be the feeling that they are not alone in this shared plight you and your reader face. Or in a nonfiction book, it could be the audience who you are trying to talk to directly, people with anxiety. Others who don’t have anxiety will not care, unless they are caring about a person close to them who does have anxiety. See how to narrow your audience idea to your true audience? Good.

From there, you’ll want to consider the structure of your book. Each book, generally speaking, has a table of contents which allows the reader to know, in a basic overview, what the book will be about. This is the hardest work you’ll do in your roadmap. It’s the meat of your story and will BE the book. Don’t try and rush this section of the roadmap. It can take weeks to figure this out. You may be wondering why you need this before you writing. Can’t I just write and make the table of contents at the end when I know what the book is about? No. In the writing world, there is an argument between the “pantsers” and the “plotters.” I used to be a proud pantser. I’d sit at my computer and just type away. I had a general idea of what my book was about, but nothing clear. The writing was the point. Get words on the page and you’re a real writer. Boy, was I wrong. When I began to be a plotter, my writing speed increased because I KNEW where I was going. I could see the whole book in a snapshot (the table of contents) and could simply follow the path toward a completely, coherent book. Trust me, be a plotter and create a table of contents for your book before you write it.

Once you’ve completed the tasks about, you’ll have a clear picture of what your book will be about and who it will be for. Books are communication between the writer, who has something to say, and the reader, who is ready to listen. Keep this in mind because it is important. If you are unclear in what you are saying, your reader will be confused and put the book down. If you are too self-serving (I’m writing a book look at me), then you are doing a disservice to your reader by ignoring their need. Readers want to be helped or entertained. Keep the reader’s needs in the forefront of what you are doing.

If you want help navigating through the steps of the roadmap, please send me an email and we can work together to get you on the path toward writing a viable book.