The Secret Source of Clear Content
by: Susan Raab
You can do anything in four easy steps!
An outrageous claim, no? But I can prove it. Because you’re doing it now.
Imagine your laundry basket. What are you going to wash today? Ah, socks. How will you wash them? In the machine. Now you do the wash and when the socks come out of the dryer, you wonder, “are they done?” Are they really clean and dry? Are they both there? Don’t you have to match them and fold them and put them away? Because what you really want is socks that are ready to wear. And soon enough, they’ll be back in your laundry basket again.
This is the circle of life: you decide what you want to do and how you want to do it; then you do it and check whether it’s really done. The pattern’s easy to see with a simple project, but when you’re facing a complex project like writing a book, it’s easy to get muddled.
To get where you’re going, know where you are.
Many of my clients just start writing, trusting that their urge to say something will produce something someone (maybe even everyone!) will want to read.
This urge is valuable. It proves that deep inside, you have the power to complete your task. But to be effective, power must be directed. Like your car’s drive shaft, process concentrates your writing power where it has the most leverage. And to get to the end of the process, you need to know where you are in the process right now! If you’re not sure where you are, review these questions:
* Can you describe what your book does for your reader in eight words or less? * Do you know the demographics of your ideal audience, what they read to find information similar to yours, and how you can contact them? * Can you measure the value your book gives your reader, as well as the rewards you need to receive to make the book worth your while?
If you answered No to any of these, you have more work to do to define what value your book must deliver. Defining what gives you the ultimate guideline for creating a clear, easy-to-read book, and communicating its worth to a publisher.
* Can you picture the environment where your ideal reader actually reads, and visualize the style of content that’s easiest to use in that environment? * Do you know your reader’s goals and expectations for outcomes, and how to fulfill them? * Do you have access to all the information you’ll need to deliver your book’s solutions?
If you answered No to any of these, you have more work to do to define how your book will deliver its value. Knowing your book’s structure and style as well as its content builds your confidence and helps you write it right the first time. If you answered Yes to all of the above, congratulations! You’ve done the hardest work and could probably turn the book over to someone else to actually write.
* When you sit down to write, do the words flow easily? * When you look at your work, do you feel a sense of accomplishment? * Do you have a complete draft?
If you answered No to any of these, you still have work to do. If the words aren’t flowing or you’re not sure you’re making progress, your time might be better spent clarifying your what and how, or in examining and overcoming any fears or doubts that might be blocking you.
* Is every sentence, paragraph, and topic clear, crisp, and error-free? * Does every word contribute to the solution your book delivers? * Is your book ready for publication?
If your manuscript does not deliver the value you want for you and your reader, you are not done. The plan you created for what you want your book to deliver is an excellent guideline, but expect some “oh, yeah” moments, like “Oh yeah, those socks aren’t really done till I put them in the drawer.”
Take the next step, even if it’s backwards
Perhaps you’ve been writing a little, outlining a little, and wondering how to get a publisher. Now that you know where you are in the process, you can put what you’ve already accomplished in perspective. Each phase builds on the one before, so you’re best served by doing them in order.
If you don’t have solid answers to the first three questions–answers from which no one can dissuade you–you’re not finished with what. What is the hardest, the one you’re most likely to revisit as your project progresses, and the secret to your success.
If you’ve already started writing, don’t worry-your work is not wasted. Just keep it on file until you get your what and how defined. With those tools in place, you’ll finish your book with confidence, get your message out, and be ready to start the next one!
About The Author
The award-winning creative force behind hundreds of non-fiction titles, Susan Raab has brought the Power of Clear to corporations like Sony, Microsoft and McGraw-Hill. For her FR*EE how-to articles, visit http://www.ContentWheel.com.
This article was posted on September 14, 2005