The Secret to Starting a Book—the Right Way
More on My New Class + Why the Cliche About Aiming at Nothing Is True
Good books, like good lives, aren’t created haphazardly. They require intention and clarity. They aren’t so much written as they are built. Like any construction project, you want to start with a foundation captivating enough to grab a person’s attention and stable enough to build an argument on.
You need to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. The process starts with a through line—a theme—something significant to hold everything else together. To begin a book well requires patience and urgency: you have to speak to the immediate pain points of the reader while zooming far enough out to consider the long-term argument, as well. This is not easy, which is one reason why so many books never get off the ground and why others founder halfway through. With a little practice and the right guidance, however, anyone can do it.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m teaching a live class this week on the process of starting a book, why most people don’t do it well, and how avoidable patterns lead to many lost books. If you have a project you’re working on or one you’re thinking about starting, this class can help you clarify your vision, giving you clarity and confidence to not only start, but finish.
This is Lesson #1 for all my students and clients. And for most, it’s a game-changer. I’ll be sharing more on the book-writing process soon, but let’s start here, with the foundation of every great book: a big idea.
To get access to the live class on Thursday July 27 at 3:00 p.m. CT, as well as the recording and other perks, you’ll need to be a paid subscriber. You can cancel at any time, even right after the class if you want. But my hope is you’ll stick around and help turn this growing community into something even better.
Those who attend will learn:
Why most bad books begin with good ideas and how to start, instead, with an interesting one. I’ll riff more on what this means, how it applies to just about everything—from politics to religion to self-help—and why if you want to understand how ideas spread, you must understand what it means to be interesting.
How to avoid the false start. There is a time to start writing a book and a time to wait. The idea that “now is all you have” is a little misguided. You don’t want to stall, but often a little forethought can go a long way. We’ll talk about what absolutely needs to happen before you can begin writing in earnest—and why this doesn’t take months but hours. Starting well ensures that you can keep going.
The simple formula to come up with a big idea for your book. For years, I’ve shared a simple, research-backed framework for taking any average idea and making it as compelling as possible. You need to do this before you come up with a title or subtitle. This, I will argue, is the basis of any bestseller and great work of art (those aren’t the same thing, but they have certain commonalities).
And, of course, more. Including how you can apply all this to more than just writing. How you do anything is, as they say, how you do everything. Or at least, a lot of things. I am personally starting a new book, and so I’ll share what I’m learning about this new work as well as how it parallels with rebuilding a life.
When starting a book, most people just start writing. But that’s like getting in your car and driving in any direction, expecting it to take you where you want to go. If you’re lucky, you’ll get somewhere, but with a little more planning, you could have ended up in a much better place. When you don’t plan your book, you’re really rolling the dice. It’s best to begin with as clear an intention as possible, boiling down your argument to a simple phrase you can keep in the back of your mind as you write.
In my class, I’ll share how this parallels with life, as well as what good and bad book titles look like, how you know you’re ready to begin, and more. I’ll also give you feedback on your works-in-progress, we’ll workshop the process a little, and I’ll wax philosophic and poetic on what all this means in the grand scheme of a person’s life.
All details are below. If you want to access, pledge your support and join us on Thursday. I have a lot to share on this subject, so this will likely be the first part in a multi-session series for subscribers.
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