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Turning Your Expertise and Creativity into Cash, Part 9
In the first 8 sessions, the focus was on getting your work into magazines, whether print or online. Strategies shared can be used in multiple other forms of writing.
In session 9, we’ll talk about how to take what you’ve learned and apply it toward writing a book. At the end of the session, you will have a draft form of a table of contents.
Let’s get started! Remember the rule of 7? In a modified form, this can be an excellent tool to help you create the structure of your book. To refresh your memory, the italicized text below shares the concept of the rule of 7 when you want to “magazine-size” your article, along with an example:
This rule says that, if you take a broad-sized subject and narrow it down 6 times, you’ll typically have a topic that is right-sized for a magazine article.
Here is an example using our hypothetical example of you having dog training experience and the magazine focusing on making women’s lives better:
- Level 1: dogs
- Level 2: pet dogs
- Level 3: activities for pet dogs
- Level 4: activities for pet dogs and their owners to enjoy together
- Level 5: exercising with your pet dog
- Level 6: exercising with your pet dog to lose weight
- Level 7: lose 10 pounds a month by exercising your dog
Do you notice that, somewhere around level 3 or 4, the topic could be the concept of a book? The first two are too broad and certainly the seventh is too narrow. Let’s say that, for your book, you decide to use level 4 as the concept: activities for pet dogs and their owners to enjoy together.
Now, instead of narrowing the topic further, you will simply list activities that could fit within this scope; think of it as brainstorming “sideways” as the topics are of not subsets of one another. Your list might start out something like this:
- Road trips in the car
- and so forth
Brainstorm far and wide – and then further and wider – and then choose your best ideas. These would be the topics of your book chapters. Don’t worry if these ideas don’t feel 100% finished; this exercise is just to get you started. Later on, as you begin to create your book proposal (more on that in the next session), you can refine your list – or even change it up if better ideas arise.
Here is a real life example of how this approach can help to create a rough draft of the table of contents for a book. For my book on boomerangs, I ended up writing chapters on boomerangs as:
- social phenomenon
- sport (where I did mini-bios on some of the top athletes in the sport and of the competitive events involved)
- and so on
Once you’ve created a table of contents, take a pulse check. Is this book project exciting you? Boring you? If the first, then great! If not, then go back to the drawing board. Writing a book is a big commitment and, if you’re feeling apathetic from the start, that’s not a good sign.
Recognize, too, that writing a book (or to even thinking about writing one!), can feel overwhelming. That’s normal, so don’t worry. And, if you’re becoming accustomed to writing magazine articles, think about this: a book chapter isn’t that much different from an article (although you’ll want to make sure that the chapters fit together well). If you can write an article, you can write a book!
Action item: Choose a book topic from level 3 or 4 from a “rule of 7” exercise that you’ve done earlier in the course. Now, brainstorm “sideways” to come up with topics for book chapters.
Discover what many/most publishers and agents want to see first from writers in part 10.