You May Already Be Halfway There: Gathering Material for Your Book
Once you’ve committed to writing a book, the task of creating enough material to anchor your ideas and build out a two-hundred-something-page work can seem daunting, to say the least. However, if you’re a thought leader in your field and have committed to bringing your ideas to the world in other mediums or modes of communication, you may be further along in the process than you realize.
If you have already written or spoken about the core themes you hope to emphasize in your book—in blog posts, speeches, or even social media, as just a few examples—your first order of business may not be creating new material but, instead, simply gathering the material already at your fingertips. More likely than not, this process will help you not only to determine and emphasize which themes are most important but also to discover your voice, your audience, and so much more.
In other words, if you’ve been writing or speaking elsewhere, your book-writing process just got a whole lot easier.
Blogging provides an opportunity to engage with readers, create a sense of community, and test new ideas. Many bloggers also appreciate the disciplined approach to writing that blogging creates. If you already have a blog, you likely already have an overarching theme providing a framework for your writing—whether it’s business and economics, women in the workplace, health and wellness, or a number of other options. With that in mind, take a look through your archives and see what supporting ideas and narratives are most represented in your posts and which posts were well received with your audience. This exercise alone may be enough to start structuring your book—or at least a few core chapters.
Participating in speaking engagements can give you a big advantage when it comes to gathering material. First, you likely have at least one prepared outline. Organizationally speaking, the structure of a speech can map to the structure of a book, with an introduction, a few core ideas, examples backing up those ideas, and a conclusion. You may be able to use that structure, and your key ideas, as a rough draft of your table of contents. If you have multiple speeches prepared, you can look for ways of combining that material to add depth to your content.
A bonus to speech giving: You have a chance to get audience feedback about which of your ideas resonate most. This type of feedback will help you along the way toward gathering the best material.
When it comes to gathering material for your book, you might not think your short, pithy tweets or Facebook posts add much value compared with the more in-depth content of your blogs or speeches. However, reviewing your posts on social media can help you clarify what you and your audience are most passionate about.
What topics do you find yourself posting about most frequently? Which posts received the most reaction—positive or negative? If you’re a regular on social media, paying attention to what resonates with your followers can give you a valuable insight into what type of content people want to engage with—this, in turn, can pay dividends down the road.
Are there articles you’ve brought up that could be used as research to bolster your ideas? Social media often requires us to summarize complex concepts in as few words as possible: A tweet from years ago may work as a topic sentence introducing a new chapter or the thesis for a section of your book.
Once you’ve gathered your materials, you’ll have a better idea of the direction you’d like to take your book. However, like a puzzle, although you may have all the right pieces, you still have to fit them together to create your final product. You don’t have to take on that challenge alone; that’s what we’re here for! Greenleaf’s editorial services often begin with a Project Development stage, which would allow you to send all those materials on to an editor who will look them over and guide you through the creation of your larger narrative.
Have you already gathered a set of puzzle pieces? Let us help you put them together. Visit our submissions page.
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