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Question
Hello Susan,
I have been considering writing a book about my life as a person who has overcome stuttering and its related features. I am unsure about how to begin but I do have a journal containing my thoughts over the last five years. I am unsure if I should write it for people who stutter or those that may also experience the features associated with stuttering such as anxiety, depression, alcohol or other substance abuse, low self-esteem, etc...I am wondering if you could help?
Thanks,
Dan  

Answer
Hello Dan:

I have always classed stuttering as one of those problems that people tend to discount, although there is no doubt considerable suffering attached to it. I think such a book as you have in mind would be a valuable addition to our literature. You should write it for anyone who is interested and all those who are not but could be if the book was interesting enough.

To get started, I recommend this method: First you need an "organizing principle." The organizing principle, or premise, is necessary if you want to write a meaningful
book, rather than just a simple story that people will immediately forget and especially if you want someday to publish it.

The premise is what your story is "about," and can also be described as the "takeaway," - what you want the reader to take away, or learn, from the book. It should be universally applicable (true for all people). This statement will describe one principle - something your life has taught you. An example would be "Love plus plenty of money makes for a good marriage." True or untrue, it should reflect your views on the subject. You must feel passionately about it and believe strongly that this is
something the world needs to know, or to be reminded of. This is the most important part of your book, so choose carefully.

Next, get yourself a pack of 3x5 cards, and on each write a line or two of a story "event," or "point, you want to make. Then go through them and toss out the ones that do not support your premise. There will be some, of course, that reveal nothing about the premise, are simply "Adds" - character development, plot action, bits of dialogue, etc. Lay those aside for inclusion later.

When you have all the events that support the premise down on cards, sort them into the order in which they will be presented. Sooner or later you will become aware of a  coherent structure emerging. Once you have settled on a structure you like, make a simple outline.

Once the outline is done, begin writing your first draft. Don't rewrite, don't judge your work, just continue on until you get to the end. All this draft is for is to establish structure. The fun part comes next, in the second draft, where you may let your imagination soar, filling in the details, but always adhering to the outline, and developing the premise. For this kind of book, your attitude toward the subject will have a lot to do with its success or lack thereof. I recommend a light, sometimes humorous slant.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 700 questions.

And good luck with your writing!

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Susan Rand

Expertise

I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at http://pygmypress.com, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.

Experience

I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

Education/Credentials
BA degree in Written Communication

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