There are many ways to write a book and one approach many of my corporate and academic clients like is to work out the book contents by creating a series of presentations and then delivering them to a live audience.
What’s nice about this approach is that you can get immediate feedback on your ideas. Were heads nodding? What, if anything, did the audience seem to want more of? Was there any constructive criticism and if so, what was it? Were they just tiny picks or were there things that may merit some rethinking on your part?
The downside of this approach is that often the focus of the presentation tends to evolve depending on the audience. While that material may be useful and appropriate for the presentation at hand, unless you’re really clear about what the book is about, it can result in extraneous content that muddies the waters around the “controlling idea” of the book you’re trying to write.
A controlling idea is the North Star of your book. It’s what your book is about. The controlling idea represents the one thing (concept, idea, feeling) you want people to walk away with and thus everything that goes in the book should support that idea in some way, shape, or form. For example, the controlling idea of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point is that ideas, messages and behaviors spread like viruses do. Gladwell built his book around this idea, which started out as a hypothesis.
If you’re going to use presentations to develop the content for your book, I highly recommend you take some time and figure out (as best you can) these two things:
- What your controlling idea is, and;
- What five to seven major buckets of information will be required to get your point across successfully.
These buckets often translate directly into book chapters, but even if they don’t, at least you have a roadmap to follow. Then, once you’re ready to flesh out those ideas beyond presentation bullet points you’ll be crystal clear on what content you need to add (or pare) so that everything you write forwards the book’s (and your) agenda.
To discuss how a developmental editor could help you get to your controlling idea and working table of contents faster and with a minimum of effort on your part, grab 30-minutes to talk to me here.