Some time ago we started on the pages of this blog talking about writing and analyzing what are the fundamental steps to take for those who want to become a writer. And when I speak of a “writer” I mean those who want to draw concrete, even economic, gratifications from writing.
So to write seriously, to be able to define you as a “writer”, to throw down black and white the ideas that spring up spontaneously in your head is not enough. You need a continuous commitment to learning the technique, a real interest in improving your style and above all you need a preparatory work on the contents of the books and on yourself.
Often, in fact, as I verify every day in my work as a ghostwriter and writing coach, people begin to write a book of momentum, maybe just because one day an idea that they thought was good came to mind, but they don’t stop to evaluate if the narrative structure of their text is solid, nor, before starting, have they reckoned with their own expectations.
So let’s do it together now and start from the fundamentals.
Writing A Book Is An Open Sea Navigation
As we have already seen in a previous article, writing a book is a fantastic adventure that can be compared to an offshore navigation.
If you want the trip to be fruitful and you want to arrive at your destination, you must be ready for the unexpected and, if necessary, you must be available to adjust the route, but first you have to prepare your trip, set the destination, set up the boat, supply the galley.
If you want to write a book you are therefore like a sailor who is about to set sail.
If you leave without knowing where you want to go or without informing yourself about the weather report, in the best of cases you will take a trip offshore, keeping in sight of the coast and then you will return to the harbor; at worst you will stray too far, you will lose orientation and you will wander adrift. In some rare cases, with luck, you will arrive in a new port.
If instead you know where you want to go, you can set the rudder, wait for the best wind to leave, and settle the route along the way.
Moreover, if you’ve ever seen a regatta, you know that sailboats can be pushed by the wind, but they can also climb it, sailing upwind.
Writing a book is therefore like setting sail with your boat: if you don’t know where you want to go, no wind will be the right one for you.
What do you mean?
So before you start writing a book, you need to ask yourself some fundamental questions, to make sure you take your path in the right direction.
The first of these questions is: Why do you write?
We talked about it in a dedicated article, in which we saw why it is important to ask this question and respond sincerely.
The second question you need to ask yourself before writing a book is: What do you mean?
This question is centered on the content of your book.
While with the first question you have to investigate your internal motivation for writing, when you ask yourself “What do I want to say?” You have to clarify exactly what the central content of your book is.
What message do you want to convey with your book?
What concept do you want to face? Be specific. Go into detail.
It will also happen to you to listen to someone who tries to explain himself and makes so many turns of words, and maybe he also does many examples, but it is not clear where he wants to end up, what are the connections, so instead of clarifying your ideas, he confuses you. more and more. At the end you put it in the corner and you say: “Yes, ok, but what’s the point?”
Here, now you are in the corner yourself and the question you have to ask yourself.
What’s the point? What do you mean? Exactly.
And don’t think that this question only concerns writers of manuals and essays. No, it concerns everyone. Even the writer of fiction must know what he means in his novel.
Remember that the reader looks for meaning in what he reads. Indeed, readers often find in the fiction books the very meaning and logic that are often lacking in reality.
So, if you write a manual or a novel, ask yourself what you mean and find your answer.
You don’t need to tell it around, you can keep it for yourself, but in reality your answer to the question “What do you mean?” Is implicit in your own book.
If you can tell clearly what is the point of your book, your readers will understand it because it will be the central message of your book.
What message do you want to transmit?
So you see that, taken from another angle, this question becomes an important junction of your writing. How can you write a book if you don’t know what you want to communicate inside it?
Without a clear message to convey, your plot of your novel will be confused and disconnected, or the structure of your manual will not follow a logical thread.
Many authors have a vague or generic idea of what is the central nucleus of what they want to say, but they do not know how to define it clearly or concisely. You have to go into detail.
What do you want to communicate? Search for the basic idea of your message, the deep emotional lever you want to move.
If you can’t answer this question, seen from this angle, try looking at it from another point of view. Try putting yourself on the reader’s side and try asking yourself: What am I looking for in a book? What am I looking for in this book?
Basically it is the same question, analyzed from the point of view of the writer or reader.
- Do you want to entertain? / Looking for fun and carefree?
- Do you want to teach something? / Do you want to learn something?
- Do you want to offer support or comfort? / Looking for support or comfort?
- Want to set a good example? / Looking for examples of reference?
- Do you want to feel emotions? / Do you want to feel emotions?
If you think about it, whenever you choose a book to read, look for something. If a book “takes you” and you can’t wait to have a free hour to finish it, it means that that book is giving you what you need. If you always read books of the same genre or books by the same author it is because in that genre or in the pages of that author you know you find what you are looking for.
The reader seeks involvement in an interior in a book, even when the book is pure entertainment. After all, wanting to escape from one’s daily life by reading a good book is an equally valid reason to want to study ancient history or learn effective and modern marketing techniques.
It doesn’t therefore matter to which genre your book belongs: what matters is that the message you want to communicate coincides with the message that the reader wants to hear at that moment. But this coincidence cannot take place if you as a writer are not clear on what you mean, what message you want to convey in your book.
So, now that you’re on the other side and you’re the writer, don’t forget how a reader thinks and make sure you offer him a book whose message is strong and clear.
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Don’t Fear Being Trivial
When I ask the authors I work with to answer the question “What do you mean?”, They often don’t know what to answer, because they fear being trivial, that is, they fear that the central topic of their book, what they want to talk about, the message that want to communicate has already been said, written, read many other times.
Well, I tell you right away that probably the answer you have in mind, you who are reading this article right now, is an answer already heard, an answer that many others have already given.
It is very likely, therefore, that the subject you want to discuss has already been discussed and the message you want to communicate has already been communicated by many other writers.
But this is not a problem at all, indeed!
Think of how many books talk about love in all its forms: happy love, betrayed love, fear of love, wrong loves, etc. Do you think that the volume of books on this topic will prevent other authors from writing again and again on this vast subject?
No, of course.
Writing a book that speaks of love may seem like a cliché, but in reality if you want to say something about this topic it is precisely because it is a universal topic on which everyone has something to say and with which all writers sooner or later they have to deal.
The difference is the way you approach the theme, the plot you invent, the characters you create, the style you adopt, the images you use to enrich your language, the emotions you arouse, the reflections that stimulate you with your writing .
Your goal must therefore be to answer the question “What do I want to say?”, To establish clearly what is the message you want to communicate in your book and to fix it in front of your eyes like a pole star that shows you the way.
Check Your Answer Along the Way
Write your answer on a post-it and stick it on the frame of your computer monitor: you will read it, knowingly or not, every time you start writing.
In this way your writing path will be easier because you will immediately understand if a character works or not, if a scene is functional or useless to the development of the story, and so on.
Furthermore, the clearer your message is, the easier it will be for readers to understand if they want to follow you.
You declare where you want to lead them and the readers decide whether to get on board and be guided by you.
And in all this, how can you manage the headwinds and sudden changes of course? Simple: asking yourself the question several times along the way.
This question, in fact, could lead you to different answers, depending on whether you face it at the beginning or at the end of the writing process. It may happen that you start with an idea, that at first you are convinced that you want to say a certain thing and then, as you go along, the characters evolve or the story takes an unexpected turn and the message you outlined in the beginning no longer responds to the reality of your book. Well, this is the moment to ask you again the question: “What do you mean?”
If the answer you get is always the same, it means that your writing took you off topic along the way. Then stop, go back and set it up.
If instead you get a new answer, then it means that in the first answer you didn’t really go deep, or you didn’t plan your characters and your plot in detail.
Well, it’s time to do it!