If you were writing your first book, what would you write about?
I can’t claim to have a lot of experience in writing books since I’ve only recently published my first book. Prior to this I had written two booklets, but You Walk, He Leads would be my first book-size publication. As I’ve already shared the reasons that led me to write on the topic in the book’s preface, I will not repeat it here.
Let me give you four factors that will help you determine what you may write about, especially if it’s your first book.
It seems redundant to say, we can’t write about something we have little knowledge about. You may argue that we can do a study to gain the knowledge. That, however, is like starting with the wrong foot forward if your goal is to write a book. All the more, if this is your first book. It is best to write about something you already know quite a lot and have loads of material at hand. The research is largely to verify and improve on the body of information you already have.
Furthermore, this knowledge should have already been processed in your mind and life. That is to say, you have already worked through the information and you have a good understanding of the topic. Perhaps you have even developed strong opinions and clear conclusions about the subject. In other words, the knowledge you possess about the subject matter has become your own, even if you may have learnt a great deal from others.
So, here’s the first question to ask yourself if you’re writing your first book, What am I knowledgeable about?
If you have no passion for something you are trying to write about, one or both of the following will happen. One, you’ll never complete your book project. If you don’t feel for what you are writing it’ll become a chore—not a delight. If by some miracle you do complete it, it’ll not only be a painful journey for you—it will be a painful read for your readers! Your passion, or rather, a lack of it, will be evident in the way you share your thoughts and ideas with your readers.
Passion for what you are writing about is important because it will give you the drive to write. You write not because you have to, but because you want to. You have something you want to share with your readers. In addition, a passion to put your thoughts in a book will make you want to improve on your writing and communication skills because you want to share as effectively as you can with your readers about what you feel and believe.
So, question two, What am I passionate about?
- Life Experience
One of the most powerful subjects to write about is our own life stories. The reasons are very simple—our stories are unique and real. And also because everyone loves a good story.
However, I doubt the average Joe (or Joanne) like us will have a store-full of gripping stories to fill a book. Even if we do, we may not interest many people, beyond our immediate circle of relatives and friends, to part with their money to read the stories of someone who is not well-known.
Despite the foregoing, stories from your life experiences may nonetheless be used as personal illustrations for the points in your book. They tell readers that you don’t only have theoretical knowledge of your subject but also experiential knowledge. Your life experiences give you as the writer credibility with your readers and your stories help your readers to identify with you.
Question three, What have been my life experiences?
If you keep these three questions in mind I don’t think it’s too difficult to narrow down the subject of your first book. Here’s a simple exercise you can immediately do. Take three pieces of paper and separately list down what you are knowledgeable in, what you are passionate about and what life experiences you have gone through. Compare the three lists and look for commonality between them. Pick the subject that best meets all three criteria—and wallah! you have the subject for your first book!
To knowledge, passion and life experience I want to add one more important factor—the message. I don’t believe that it is sufficient to just write a book simply for the sake of publication. I believe we must write with a purpose—to share a message. I suppose this reveals the preacher in me.
In one sense the message is a factor to help you determine the subject of your book. What is the message I want to share with my readers? Your intended purpose together with the other three factors will help you define your topic of interest. On the other hand, the message may be put aside until you have decided on the subject for your book; based on what you know, what you’re passionate about and from your life experience. Diagrammatically, it will look something like this.
I believe if you include all these elements into your book you’re on your way to writing something that is worth reading.