Your book already knows what it wants to be. The question is…will you listen?
If you’re inspired to write a book, there’s something you know or have experienced that you feel the need to share with the world. Especially if this is your first book, you’re going to be tempted to copy the structure of other books you like. Don’t. I mean, be inspired by them but resist the impulse to imitate.
Why? Because your book will tell you what it wants to be. Your job is to listen. Meaning, as you start to capture and organize the content around your controlling idea, themes will become clearer and additional insights will occur beyond what you originally identified while planning out your book. Everyone also has a certain rhythm to their writing and as you start collecting and working with the content, that will become apparent, too.
When you listen and stay true to the book’s North Star, the result will be something that is so uniquely you and so indisputably authentic that it will immediately and very deeply resonate with your reader and they’ll be happy to engage with you however you want.
A good example of this is Lost and Founder, a book by Moz founder Rand Fishkin, (Portfolio, April 24, 2018). I heard him interviewed (I can’t remember where, I looked) and he talked about being nervous that his book wasn’t like a “normal” business book that follows the thesis, example, example, example, conclusion, rinse and repeat formula.
That book demanded to be what it wanted to be, and to his credit Rand listened. It took guts. His book wanted raw stories and a heap of frank talk. Real numbers, not all flattering. Self awareness! Depression! And drawings! Rand listened, and the result is a great read that is helping a lot of people feel less alone. Myself included.
Note: This is assuming you want to write a book that is meaningful and that will change lives, i.e., give someone hope or leave them with a new idea or way of seeing the world.
Not everyone who undertakes a book has this goal. I’ve seen drafts of books where the author’s sole goal was to just “get it out there” and who weren’t concerned about whether the book “works.”
But if you feel compelled to write a good enduring book, get your ears ready, marshal your courage, and then watch what unfolds!
P.S. A good editor can help prop you up and point out that voice.