Secrets of Writing the Big Idea Book, Part Two

You don’t have to write with the skill of Jane Austen or J.K. Rowling to create the Big Idea Book and generate interest in your topic. You don’t need to start with a high-traffic blog, notoriety, or high honors. Every successful author and great business- person-turned-writer either learned their craft from other professionals or hired one to write with them. They weren’t born knowing how to write. They had to learn how to sell themselves, their products, their ideas, or their cause.

You can learn what it takes to craft a well-written book.

You can learn how to use the written word to add value to the lives of others and thereby increase how much value they see in you and your work. For example, many business professionals have seen significant financial results by writing a book that shares their knowledge with potential clients.

As a primer on crafting the Big Idea Book, consider reading my master article, Secrets of Writing the Big Idea Book. In this post, we’re looking at the Big Idea Book from a slightly different angle, one I think will help you get that book out of your head and onto the page. We’re also building out our original outline. Let’s pick up where that article left off.

A Big Idea Book is about change for the author and the reader.

The Big Idea Book is framed and structured by the Worldview Revelation story, which reveals the author’s growth (your heroic journey) and offers a prescription for growth to the reader. The Big Idea book is a combination of the academic, Narrative Nonfiction, Worldview, and How-To genre categories. They are a powerful combo when executed well. Here is how you do it:

  • Demonstrate how you changed by overcoming something within yourself.
  • Show how you gave up a want to get what you needed.
  • Show how you managed, against all the odds, to overcome cognitive dissonance, and how your new thinking changed your circumstances for the better.
  • Offer a compelling story with supporting data that explains why your way worked.
  • Offer a prescription for achieving similar results. You offer the “magic pill.”

How you approach these tasks is critical.

Here are the five major approaches to writing the Big Idea Book:

Provoke

Inspire

Lead

Entertain

Teach

That’s PILET, or what I call my “pill it” method.

Let’s look at each approach.

Provoke questions within your reader. You want to pique their curiosity, get them excited to read more, and to obtain the answers.

Inspire your readers with your own stories and examples of others’ success. By seeing your trials and tribulations, your success in the face of adversity, you inspire readers to embark on a similar journey.

Lead your readers with good stories that help them create a vision of a life different than their current reality. Offer solutions and possibilities readers can obtain if they follow your advice ( a prescriptive tale). Alternatively, show them what not to do so they can avoid the misfortunes you once suffered (a cautionary tale).

Entertain the reader with humor and intriguing stories. By connecting with readers through humor, you not only keep them reading, but your story and advice also become more accessible to them. Humor increases the possibility of bringing readers around to your prescription.

Teach by sharing your knowledge without reservation. Everyone needs improved and extended education. Your writing is a powerful tool for changing how people see the world around them. Your reader wants to gain knowledge without having to earn it the hard way as you did. They want the reward without the risk.

How do you provide this magic pill?

Take the reader on a journey.

This is your Worldview Revelation story, how you went from ignorance to wisdom.

Expose your trials and errors.

Describe your failed attempts to meet your goals and get what you wanted. This enables the reader to see themselves in your journey and empathize. Expose your misguided, ignorant, or naive thinking, demonstrating how it hurt you and led to your revelation of doing things differently.

Leave the reader with hope.

Leave the reader with practical next steps solutions that create hope for improved outcomes. Provide the hope readers need, and you are on your way to changing the world.

Seem impossible? It’s not as hard you might think.

Here are some simple steps to get you there.

  • Develop a Big Idea worth sharing. Explicitly state the problem and the solution. A great resource list is here.
  • Clarify why you want to write the book. Is it to create brand awareness, sell at conferences, provide an overview for future clients? What is it? Be honest with yourself. There are no right or wrong answers. Your decisions here shape the book you write and likely determine the success or failure of the project. An excellent article on this is here.
  • Position the book. Define what the book is about, who it’s for, and the result you want from it. Some tips are here.Narrow your audience even more. The hard part isn’t reaching the right people; it’s writing a book that the right people are intrigued enough to read. The more people you try reaching, the more diluted your message. No one book appeals to all readers. A great explanation of this idea is here.
  • Check Amazon.com and Worldcat.org for similar books. Confirm that you can offer something different, a reason the reader will care. The broad subjects, like leadership skills, business marketing, life advice, and dieting, have all been covered. Unless you have an angle that has never before explored, you’re just creating clutter.
  • Create your personal story around the problem that needs solving. This story is the memoir that you’ll sprinkle throughout the book. You’ll follow the guidelines of the Worldview Revelation Genre.
  • Focus your research on the most current information on your topic. You’d be surprised how many writers fail to do the needed research and stay updated.
  • Outline the book in a logical and compelling sequence. Create a list of the main points your readers need to understand. (See expanded outline below.)
  • Get your ideas out of your head and into text. You can teach lessons on your topic and record it for later transcription. Have someone interview you, interview yourself, or simply work at building your outline out a little more each day. Do whatever it takes; consuming coffee or issuing rewards and consequences. If it isn’t on the page, you can’t edit and improve it.
  • Use your outline to organize things like transcripts and notes into manageable units. Create organizational files. For example, a table of contents, an introduction, twelve chapters, and a conclusion, can be organized into fifteen individual folders. Consider using Scrivener or other software designed to support your writing process.
  • Narrow your topic breadth and increase the depth. To do this, ask yourself what your reader might tell their friends about this book after they read it. Review the value you are providing the reader.
  • Hire an editor to review your work.
  • Revise accordingly. Make notes for changes to any advice and language you wouldn’t use speaking with a friend. You’re aiming for clarity and simplicity, not for sounding smart. Be smart instead.
  • Cut the fluff. Sharpen and refine your message. People won’t buy your book because it has many words. They’ll buy it because you’ve taken the time to synthesize the millions of words on a particular subject for them, making your content potent and targeted just for them. Cut everything that doesn’t contribute to helping them solve the problem you promised to address. Your words are limited. If in doubt, cut it out.
  • Ask some supporters of your ideas and some naysayers to read and review your manuscript. Naysayers help you avoid sounding preachy and self-righteous. Revise accordingly.
  • Again, hire an editor to review your work.

Now you have all the basic concepts and significant suggestions you need to draft your Big Idea Book.

In summary, your entire book is the answer to these questions; 1) What actionable solutions can I offer readers with specific problems? 2) How can I put those in context with my journey toward the suggested solutions? 3) How can I demonstrate the success of the solutions?

Your goal is to demonstrate your shift in worldview from ignorance to knowledge, through the revelation of previously hidden information, to create the readers shift from ignorance to knowledge. Here is what you’ll need to include:

Expanded Outline

Table of Contents

This helps organize your thoughts and see the progression of your argument.

Introduction

Here, your goal is to hook the reader, exposing the pain they will experience if they don’t read your book, and the benefits readers will gain when they do.

  • Start with an emotionally impactful or attention-grabbing line, short story, or example that introduces your subject. Mine your own stories for ideas: What is the most exciting story or claim in this book? What will elicit the most emotion from the reader? What reverses a common idea or approach and makes the reader take notice? What are the top questions your clients ask, their top problem, their want? What was the inciting incident that prompted your journey toward wisdom?
  • Let us know who your target audience is for this book in general terms. Ex., “This book is for dog owners, and those fascinated by the canine mind.”
  • Offer a compelling, personal story about why you wanted to write this book. Make readers care.
  • Grab your reader’s attention with a thought-provoking question. Show us the assumption you’re challenging.
  • Identify the problem the reader is facing, a need for a solution.
  • Make a promise. State the one Big Idea outright and in layperson language, give the solution to the reader’s problem.
  • Persuade the reader with your ethos to assert your credibility and authority in the subject matter and establish their trust in you. (more details here.)
  • Explain how you have a piece of knowledge to offer the reader that will shift their worldview.
  • Show the reader that you’re just like them by using familiar concepts.
  • Orient the reader to the lessons you will provide.
  • Demonstrate the pain you endured before you learned or applied the lessons you are about to teach. Show your previous ignorance.
  • Demonstrate the benefit that came when you finally took action and implemented the wisdom.

*What to leave out of the introduction: Facts, figures, a summary of every single thing you’ll teach in the book, long and detailed descriptions or explanations of any of the above elements. The overview is meant to engage the reader and make them want to read more. It can be helpful to write this last. If you have a strong outline beforehand, you won’t need to discover your organization in the introduction.

Chapters

This is the evidence section (progressive complications) where you present your own ideas/research and other people’s views of the topic.

  • Use chapters to divide your offerings into digestible segments.
  • Make each chapter a unique and distinct point — one idea per chapter.
  • Each chapter begins with a discussion and explanation (could include story) of the idea.
  • Divide each chapter into subpoints; supporting information for the main idea of the chapter. These are the few ideas that must be explained to validate your idea.
  • Incorporate several points of view into your narrative.
  • Include summarized and extremely relevant stories of your own experiences and those of others to support each chapter (not needed for every subpoint). Persuade the reader with pathos, an appeal to their emotions by using impassioned stories.
  • Pack chapters with your stories, data, scientific research, more anecdotes, analogies, metaphors, interviews, and the like. Persuade the reader with logos by appealing to their logical brain, your reasoning, facts, and data. Prove your argument with evidence. Use vivid examples.
  • Connect every chapter to the previous chapter and the following one.
  • In the second half of the book, give a concise summary of what you’ve covered so far to refresh the memory of your reader.
  • Create a global climax by answering the question you raised in the introduction.
  • Give supporting details that help the reader fully understand The Big Idea and prove what they thought before was either wrong or incomplete.

*Remember, the core emotion the reader wants to feel at the end of the Big Idea Book is relief or satisfaction when you (the protagonist, the author) learn what is essential in time to avoid disaster; or pity and horror when you find out too late.

Conclusion

Your goal here is to provide the reader with a clear understanding of the material that they can repeat to someone else after they put the book down.

  • Restate your Big Idea but in different words.
  • Summarize the best evidence in clear points.
  • Share a twist in the information you previously provided, perhaps a hidden meaning. Recap what you learned.
  • Offer a how-to prescription for applying the knowledge you offer.
  • Resolve a story or discussion that ran through the book.
  • Deliver new information that is both surprising and inevitable; again, show how the reader’s previous beliefs about the topic are incomplete or wrong.
  • Create a sense of closure and hope by helping the reader envision a better future. Help them draft a narrative around their possibilities, limitations, decisions, and need for change. This is the “magic pill” you offer the reader. You show them that their actions create change.
  • Shift your explicitly informative and inspirational voice into an urgent request by calling the reader to action. Tell them to get moving.
  • Tell them where they can learn more about the topic and your work.

Final Thoughts?

Remember to use the “pill it” method.

At every step of the writing process, be sure you are evaluating your work on your ability to Provoke questions, Inspire better actions, Lead readers toward improving themselves, Entertain readers to keep them reading and make your book memorable, and Teach readers what you know. It’s all about you providing solutions and value.

Yep, it sucks to write an introduction.

The introduction is the most essential part of the book and the most difficult to write. You may want to write the introduction last. I advise against it. The introduction creates your table of contents, organizes your thoughts, and keeps you on track. I suggest writing it first and then revising after you finish a full working draft. However, if you find you can’t do it without getting all the content down first, do what works best for you. There are many ways to write a book.

Trust the reader.

Assume that your reader is intelligent and wants to learn what you know.

Tell the truth.

Your advice and story aren’t for everyone. Don’t dilute your message for fear of offending someone. The only books that didn’t offend someone were boring and appealed to no one. Also, readers have a pretty good bullshit meter. They know when you are avoiding something, and they will toss your book aside to spell it out in a negative Amazon review for your work.

Professional writers know when to ask for help.

No one creates a book alone. If you run into trouble implementing any of these suggestions, consider seeking the assistance of a professional editor. There is no one-size-fits-all way to write a book for your business, and you just might some need some help tailoring your approach, your outline, and your final product. If you have concerns about your ability to produce a quality book that you will be proud to share, ask for help.

Know when to stop editing the damn thing.

There is no such thing as a perfect book, and there is always something else you can do to improve it. As your writing skills and knowledge evolve, so will the possibility for upgraded content and endless rewrites. At some point, you need to ship the book to potential readers and stop letting perfectionism, fear of failure, and fear of success guide you.

You now have what it takes to craft a well-written book. If you’ve done your due diligence to make the book the best you can by putting the manuscript through a developmental editor, a line editor, and at least three beta-readers, it’s time to let it go. Send it to a proofreader or copy editor and let it go either as a submission to agents, small publishing houses, or as a self-published book. You can write a new book with your updated knowledge and skills later.

People need the knowledge you have to share. You honor the manuscript you’ve written by getting your book to its readers. It can only help others once it is shared. What do you have to share with us?

Go finish that book.

Need some extra help completing your Big Idea Book? Grab a spot on my calendar for a free half-hour consultation so we can determine how I can best help you meet your story goals.

Interested in other articles I’ve written on genre? Check out these links:

Secrets of the Performance GenreSecrets of the Morality GenreSecrets of the Status GenreSecrets of the Society GenreSecrets of Writing MemoirSecrets of the Crime GenreSecrets of the Worldview GenreSecrets of the War GenreSecrets of the Action GenreSecrets of the Thriller, Part One and TwoSecrets of the Horror Genre , Secrets of the Western Genre, and Secrets of the Love Genre

About the Author

Rachelle Ramirez helps writers develop their stories and believes stories are our most important catalyst for change. She received an MA in psychology from Goddard College and attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Masters in Creative Writing Program on merit scholarship. Rachelle served as the executive director for a national writing community before becoming a Certified Story Grid Editor. She is honored to have edited the award winning fiction of some amazing authors but her favorite work is with first-time novelists and memoir writers. She is easily bribed with promises of iced coffee drinks, piles of puppies, and long walks in thunderstorms. She is currently on contract, writing a Story Grid guide to a masterwork. Her forthcoming novel is White Grrrl, Black Sheep. Contact Rachelle to schedule a free 30-minute consultation on your story at rachelleramirez.com.
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