Let’s say you’ve got an idea for your nonfiction book, but you don’t know exactly how you’ll write it. You need a framework to give structure to your book and help sell it, too. Although you can probably build a house by hammering boards together, it’s more effective and efficient to build the frame first and then include the walls before you fill out the interior.
The framework for the book is WHAT you say and HOW you say it. Here are some ideas to find the best way to present your book. The most effective way to find great ideas is to brainstorm them. If you need some help with how to brainstorm a book idea, or anything really, check out my post 6 Ways to Brainstorm Your Book.
You’ll find some of these ideas more relevant than others, but all will give you new avenues for exploration and consideration to frame your book.
Go from broad to narrow – If you specialize in nutrition, start with a topic like healthy eating, narrow to healthy 30-minute meals, and then narrow further to healthy 30-minute meals using the Paleo diet.
Find a theme – Successful books often have themes. In keeping with our example of nutrition, consider themes like growing (as a plant), boxing (fighting disease), a mother’s care (nurturing body) or exploring a current food trend. Numbers are also great ways to frame your book; for example, “7 Ways to Boost Your Nutrition”. Just make sure you aren’t being too cliché.
Use your experience and expertise – What is your motivation for writing this book? Did you lose a lot of weight, lose weight after a baby, was someone in your family sick, were you sick, or were you going into the military and needed to get in shape? Perhaps you’re a doctor, nutritionist, or own a wellness company. All of those can provide a frame for your book.
Consider demographics – Look to your target audience to find answers. Write for the busy family, for the common man, for the athlete, for the power executive, or for caregivers of aging parents.
Target a specific pain point – Help the reader overcome illness, make money, save money, save time, or cope with a trying situation.
How you’ll present the solution – Is it quick and easy? Can you do it on a budget? Will you overcome it with grace or power through difficulty? Finally, will you soar to the top immediately or does it require a steady lifestyle change?
Consider geography – Decide whether you’ll target a local or regional topic, such as hiking the Appalachian Trail, or tackle a national or global subject, such as global health.
Choose a writing style – You have numerous options to choose from. Your book can be funny, provocative, poignant, inspiring, scholarly, satirical, unbiased, opinionated, commentary, historical, or factual, among other things. It can be a workbook, full of bullet points and graphs, with a moral, with action steps, with stories, or full of interviews, vignettes, and case studies.
When you’re choosing your topic, be consistent with your company or author brand. You wouldn’t expect a moving, inspirational book from a stand-up comedian, nor would you expect a snarky satire from a self-help guru. Your brand is how others view you. The key is to be true to yourself and it will resonate with readers.
You can explore potential titles for the book as a way to frame the contents. Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is a good example. Covey identifies 7 main habits to share. The book is for people who want to be very effective, not just “everyday” effective. Covey could have gone with “everyday habits for the working mom” and the book would have turned out very differently.
Bonnie Trust Dahan wrote the book, Living with Seasons: Creating a Natural Home. It’s a home decorating guide that uses the framework of the four seasons and the use of natural elements to decorate a house. She could have used colors instead of seasons or used handmade decorating ideas instead of natural ones. The topic clearly defines the contents and the mood of the book. It is a way of attracting the perfect reader.
Explore different ways to frame your topic. Go outrageous. Think absurd. Give yourself at least 20 minutes of time without ANY distractions to brainstorm the topic of your book. Don’t stop writing. Whatever comes to mind, write it down no matter how off base you may think it is. There is always a layer of fluff on top of the really good stuff. Give yourself space to find the really good stuff.
Once you’re done, sit with your ideas for a day or two. Give your brain time to process and synthesize all the ideas. I suggest you repeat this task and brainstorm ideas to frame your book one more time. Your mind has an amazing capacity for ideas. Your job is to mine for gold.
This is my favorite part of writing a book! How about you?