Step 1 to Book Writing: Know Your "Why"
Updated: Dec 5, 2020
There are as many reasons for writing a book as there are published titles and works in progress. Taking the time before you write to define your specific reason and the outcome you're aiming for will make all the difference in the ease of your writing process and the success of your book. So it's well worth the time and effort to take a moment now and ask yourself: What's your goal for this book? Why are you writing it? What outcome do you expect?
Maybe you simply want to tell a great story
Or you want to help people solve a problem
Perhaps you want the book to position you as an expert to get better gigs, better clients
Maybe you want to share the insights you’ve gained in your career and life
Or you want to raise awareness of an issue to further a movement
Perhaps you’ve designed a program, made a discovery, or have a complicated idea that requires a book to explain it and introduce it to the world
Maybe you want a book to help you sell a product or service
Or you just want to get your life story in writing for your grandchildren
Your “Why” Tells You “How”
Knowing your "why" from the start provides clarity and direction for your book. Saving you time, false starts, and frustration.
Your “why” can tell you who your audience is (and is not). The tone your writing should take (informal, formal, business, friendly, etc.). What information to include. And what to leave out. It also steers you in how best to publish your book (traditional, self, hybrid), what format(s) to publish in (print, e-book, audio), how and where to market your book—and the list goes on.
When you know all that before you sit down to write, the writing process itself becomes a lot smoother because many of the difficult decisions have already been made.
Find Your “Why”
So how exactly do you go about defining your “why”?
Make the time to get quite. Seriously, put at least an hour on your schedule to do a deep dive into why you want to write this book. Turn off the phone. Close the door. Take some deep breaths. Clear your mind of all your “to-dos.”
Grab a pen and paper. It helps to jot notes as you think. Writing naturally forces you to clarify your thoughts. Seeing thoughts in black and white can help you hone in on ideas that ring true.
Then ask and be open to exploring your answers to the following:
Why do you want to write this book particularly? Notice the “you” in that sentence. This is not about your reader. Put the focus here on you.
What is motivating you? What’s the prize? A check on your bucket list. A way to preserve your story for future generations. A boost to your career. Or your ego. The joy that comes from helping people.
Think of your book as a tool. What's its primary job? To provide an account of your life, or your business strategy. To make the world a better place. To get you or your product noticed. To provide income.
Finally, what outcome would please you? Having a reader contact you to say "you changed my life." Being positioned as an expert in your field. Seeing your title on a bestseller list. Your grandchildren saying, “Wow, I didn’t know that about you.”
As you think through these questions, be honest with yourself. You don’t need to be selfless here. It takes a lot of work to write a book. It’s smart to know what you want from it—and if that's possible—before you expend the effort. There are no right answers here, only your answers.
Put Your "Why" In Sentence Form
Once you've defined your "why," write it down in one sentence. Clarity in your purpose is everything in life, business, and most especially in writing a book. Nothing makes you clearer than having to put a big thought into a very few words that form a sentence.
Post your sentence where you can see it. Then consult it often as you plan, write, produce, and market your book. Think of it as your North Star, and let it do its job in helping you to make the many, many decisions that will be yours to make as an author.
And don't forget to give yourself a high five! Knowing your goal before you’ve written one word gets you that much closer to creating a book that delivers for your readers and for you.