If you’ve written a dozen or so articles on, say, green building construction, traveling with children, designing training programs, or another defined topic, you might easily gather them into a acim manuscript.
Why would you want to do that, you ask? Because having a book to show as an example of your writing skills gives you an enormous advantage over your competition. Clients are impressed by books.
Your book doesn’t need to be on a subject in the client’s field; it can still add to your credentials and boost your stature as a writer-even if it’s about bird watching or is a novel. The immediate impression is, “Wow! You’ve actually written a book!” You’ve got the client’s attention. Take it from there to close the deal on an assignment.
How should I start?
Choose a topic. If you have previously written a fair share of material about the subject, you have a great start. If not, then begin compiling information.
Become an article clipper. Every time you see a relevant newspaper or magazine piece, advertisement, or brochure, cut it out and dump it into a box. If you can’t clip it, copy it and throw in the copy. Carry a pad or PDA with you and make notes. Print out interesting and related Google searches and blog entries. Jot down comments heard on TV and locations of podcasts. Work at it: Find everything you can on your subject and fill your box.
After a month or so of hunting and gathering, dump the box onto a table and start sorting. Use sticky notes and make more copies as needed. Create piles of information that seems to go together. Then sort each individual pile to see what more information you need to close the gaps of logic, transition, and flow. Arrange the piles into a coherent pattern based upon chronology, affinity, materials, or other commonalities you choose to follow. Fill the gaps and winnow out whatever strays from your basic theme, although you might want to hang on to some items that would make good sidebars and illustrations.
Do I need an outline?
Give each pile of information a name and write all of the names down in a sequence that makes sense to you. These are going to become your chapters.
Now write two or three sentences after each name that indicates what the chapter will be about. Don’t write the chapter; just describe what its focus will be. Review the information again to see what’s missing and do some more research to find that additional information.
You now have an outline, framework, treatment, skeleton-call it what you will-for your book, and the process becomes one of filling in the blanks. If you’ve previously written extensively on your subject, you should be able to move through the chapters fairly easily and quickly. If not, it will, of course, take longer.