In the first post in this series, I described the Content Dashboard I created with MindManager. In Part 2, I showed how I use it manage my blogs posts. In Part 3, I showed how it helps me manage client projects.
Now, I want to show you how I use my Content Dashboard to write virtually anything- -from 3 minute videos to books- -using the 3 MindManager templates which form the core of my writing tools.
But, what if you don’t want to write a book?
I hope you’ll still continue reading, because the principles that help me and others write books are the same principles you can use preparing articles, blog posts, proposals, reports, and web copy.
The size of different projects may differ, but the dynamics of writing remain the same.
Once you understand your readers, the competition, and your message, you’re ready to write!
What do reader’s want?
Unless you’re writing fiction, intended to be read for pleasure, writing is all about your readers, and your ability to provide them with the information they need to solve a problem or achieve a goal.
Thus, the first step I take when I begin a new project, or help a client get started on a project, is to turn to my Reader Persona planning template. The Reader Persona Planner provides a structure for replacing assumption and intuition with a detailed portrait of your intended readers and the information they’re looking for.
Start by identifying the top 4 or 5 categories of readers that want to read your book, article, or proposal. Then, describe the characteristics that define each persona, along with their goals and information needs. Hint: collapse and expand your each persona while you’re working on it, so you can focus your attention on analyzing and describing its characteristics, goals, and information needs.
Step 2: Who’s the competition?
Next, analyze the competition, in the case of a book, existing books on the topic. The worst mistake an author can do is write a book that parallels an existing book. No publisher wants to publish a “me, too” book, and no reader wants to buy a book that covers already covered ground.
Agents, editors, and readers are looking for fresh ideas. You need to research the competition to find out what’s been written and- -most important- -what’s currently selling best. Your goal is to identify the missing book– -the book that hasn’t been written yet!
This may come as a surprise to you, if you’ve been focusing on your ideas and your writing style. Literary agents and acquisitions editors, are likely to pay more attention to quality of your reader analysis and competition analysis than your experiences or qualifications.
Remember: good ideas and a strong writing style, by themselves, don’t guarantee success. Your book idea must correspond to what readers want and your ability to provide fresh insights and information.
Demystifying the structure of a book
Avoid thinking about the number of words you have to write, or the number of pages you have to fill. Instead, view your book- -or any other writing project- – in terms of sections and chapters. Always chunk your project into a few major sections, parts, or steps.
Let’s start by examining the structure of a typical nonfiction book.
As shown above, good, solid, career-enhancing nonfiction books are often built on a simple structure consisting of 10 chapters, organized in 3 sections. Each chapter contains between 6 and 10 main ideas.
The power of the 3-part structure is based on the way that the solution to your reader’s problems, or the achievement of their goals, can usually be described in terms of 3 steps; a beginning, middle, and end.
Likewise, if you’re writing an analytical, rather than procedural, book, you can often organize your information in terms of:
- Where are we now?
- How did we get this way?
- What can we do?
When appropriate, of course, you can modify the 3 core writing templates as you work with them. The example above shows how I added a section to create the curriculum plan for a 4-part e-course.
The yellow highlighting in the example above shows how you can also use the same mind map you use to track your progress as you complete each topic.
The MindManager Notes icons, in the example above, indicate where I began writing my book right in the table of contents planning map.
Using the book proposal template to pull it all together
The final step in writing a book involves preparing a book proposal for submission to literary agents or directly to publishers. The book proposal consolidates the information you previously entered in the previous Reader Persona, Competition, and Project Planning maps.
A book proposal is important, even if you’re going to self-publish your book. Your book proposal becomes the business plan for your book, guiding you as you evaluate your options and make decisions as you plan, write, promote, and profit from your book. It keeps you focused on your readers, your competition, and your topic at every step.
Maps and stress-free writing
One of my original goals in creating my Content Dashboard was to provide me with a 2 or 3 click access to the files stored on my hard drive. Quick and dependable access to files, by itself, creates a compelling reason to base your writing on templates like the above.
However, as my Content Dashboard has evolved, my writing templates have become more proactive, providing me with an easy way to get started on all types of projects.
At every step, the templates permit me to switch between the “big picture” view of your project, or drill down to the subhead level, even adding sentences and paragraphs as ideas occur to me while planning my projects. Beginning to write my projects as MindManager Notes saves me great amounts of time when I export my projects to Microsoft Word.
Most writing coaches agree, “Writing problems are usually the result of planning problems.” By creating your own Writer’s Dashboard, you can save time while improving the quality of all types of writing projects while avoiding the unnecessary stress of writer’s block.
Roger C. Parker invites you to explore the mind mapping resources in his Published & Profitable’s MindManager Resource Center while downloading his 16-page Write Your Way to Success report and subscribing to his daily writing tips blog and following him on Twitter.