Book Writing on the Installment Plan

Open book with pages shaped into a heart.

Are you planning to follow some advice to blog frequently and then roll up those posts into a book? Here’s how to ensure that approach will end up as a book that works.

Step 1 Decide on the “controlling idea” of the book. This is a 1-2 sentence thesis. For How-to books it goes something like this: “If you do x in y way as I’ve laid out here, z should happen.” For Big Idea books it’s a thesis, i.e. “Ideas spread like viruses” (Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell). Stay open minded—as you start to unpack your ideas, you may discover the controlling idea is something else entirely!

Step 2 Come up with the buckets of information the reader needs to either learn your system or buy off on your thesis, aka the table of contents.

Step 3 Look at the controlling idea and the buckets and draft a 1-2 page overarching narrative of what you think the book wants to be right now. How does it start? How will you lead the reader through the material? Who is the ideal reader? If you were going to write a book review, of this book, once done, what would that sound like? How does it make them smarter, richer, or happier?

Once you have these three things in place (don’t overthink it, contents will shift during flight) then you can start chunking out the writing with a reasonable expectation what you create, once strung together, will make sense and not require a lot of restructuring once you’re finished.

Finally, thank you for wanting to write a good book. It’s a huge undertaking, even when done on the “installment” plan. Making sure there is a strategy underpinning those installments will ensure you’ll be happy with the end result.