Thinking of writing a business book? Here’s what you should know

Mindy Gibbins-Klein gives some pointers on how to structure your bestselling book.

It may not seem it, but planning is probably the most important stage of the process of writing your business book. It is quite common for authors, incensed by that initial rush of enthusiasm, to decide to write a book and get stuck in, diving straight into the deep end, writing their first chapters. Then, a considerable way down the line, they realise that what they’re doing has no structure, they feel lost, and ultimately have burned through all the drive they initially had to write a book. The old ‘it’s not all it’s cracked up to be’. This leaves you with nothing more than a half-finished project and significantly less assurance in yourself and what you can achieve.

Although the enthusiasm is brilliant and can be put to good use, it can lead you on the wrong path of writing freestyle, potentially turning out a book that doesn’t live up to your expectations. It’s the same as going to run a marathon, and ripping along for the first mile before being escorted off on a stretcher a few miles later. You don’t want to run purely on enthusiasm, and have it run out before you’re finished. It is important to have a slow and steady start once you’ve decided to write, and this should ideally make time for proper planning. A decent plan will lay solid foundations for the whole writing process, and ensure that you keep momentum, keep focus, and don’t forget anything important.

What is your book about?

Start right from the beginning. What is your business book going to be about? What is your message? If you were going to sum up the content of your book in one sentence to a stranger, how would you do it? Figure out a strapline that would communicate to anyone with a spare few seconds what use your book will serve to them, and use this as a starting point. Now begin plotting key points of what you have to teach around this sentence. If it helps, further divide your points into subcategories or separate lists – lay it out in whatever way is beneficial to you. Prepare yourself, because the average book should have several hundred key points. If this sounds like a lot, don’t panic. You probably don’t realise quite how much you know, and may well find writing this amount gets easier once you’ve got started.

In many cases, making a mind map or spider-diagram that you can divide and divide as far as you need is the best option, but feel free to format your notes however works best for you. Now write down all the information you can think of in a way that makes it clear and accessible. Now comes a very important step that all writers do at some point or other: put all your work away for a day or two. Take your mind off it and do something else for a while. Take your work back out a few days later, once your brain has had a chance to rest and reset. You’ll find that this refreshed brain will have detached from your work, it won’t feel so apparently ‘yours’ as it did previously, and the words won’t be so familiar. It is in this refreshed mode that you should take a new look at your work and draft it.

Not only will this method make any silly mistakes more obvious, but will give you time to gather new thoughts, any of those bits you forgot the first time around. If you think it necessary, put away your plans for a second time. You have now arranged that crucial first layer, and it’s all about building upwards from here. This is the point at which you’ll realise why I made such fuss over planning in the first place. If you put effort into a really efficient and detailed plan, the actual writing process is infinitely easier – probably easier than writing the plan was.

Putting the plan to use

Now it’s time to start putting your plan to use, and it may well surprise you how big an aid it turns out to be. If you’ve done an efficient job, it will be like giving a public speech from cue cards with just a few words on them. But these few words should be the bones of what you are saying, so this phase can also test the strength of your plan. Take your first notes, and have a go at writing your first chapter, or even just your first page. If you’re not able to translate the notes into coherent sentences with relative ease, you may not have done a thorough enough job of your plan, so go back and have another look at any gaps you could fill in a bit. It will pay off when it comes to writing the book itself.

Think of your writing plan as a detailed map of your journey to completing a book. It guides you from one place to another, and ensures that you don’t stray from the path, or forget anything important along the way. It can also give you a rough plan of how long your project might take, and allow you to keep on top of how far you’ve got with your book. Any writing project’s chances of success are increased significantly by arranging an efficient plan first. Although there are ways to salvage a dwindling writing process, putting a good plan in place before you really start is a highly advisable method, and is most likely to set you off on the best, and quickest route to book completion. If any of this feels too daunting you always have the option to seek the help of a good book coach who specialises in business books.

Mindy Gibbins-Klein is an award-winning international speaker, author and thought leadership strategist. For more information visit here

Ben Lobel

Delphine Hintz

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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