By December 9, 2013 Read More →

How to structure your story into your first book

Putting together your first book

Your first book - Leda SammarcoWriter’s coach Leda Sammarco is back with another guest post to help you get started on your first book:

In last month’s blog post I talked about how the clues to your first book lie in your story. Once you have found your story, then you need to think about how to use it in your book.

It’s not about finding a cookie-cutter approach, but about discovering what structure naturally fits your story, and what feels authentic for you and what you have to share with your readers.

You may feel that the best way to pass on your wisdom and experience is in a memoir, where you share what happened during a specific period in your life (remember: if you choose to write your entire life story, then these are your memoirs).

The important thing is to make it engaging for the reader, as what they really want to hear about are the highlights, the low points, successes, a-ha moments and chance encounters, rather than all the ‘blah blah blah’ in between.

It’s a bit like being a public speaker: there are some who constantly ‘dine out’ on one big story and those who share a variety of anecdotes with their audience. If you go to hear them speak more than once, you may hear an old favourite or something completely new.

So, in addition to sharing your experiences, you could offer up some words of wisdom to the reader about what you learnt, and even include something for them to try at the end of the chapters, maybe some key points for them to think about or even a question or two to start them on their own journey.

There are other ways of being creative with your story and that is through the use of flashbacks, where you alternate an ongoing series of events with key experiences from the past. Mitch Albom does this to great effect in his book Tuesdays With Morrie, and it inspired me to use this in my book. If you are particularly drawn to the structure of a book, it is probably because it resonates with the story you want to tell and how you want to tell it.

Alternatively, you may have been through difficulties and now want to share your knowledge and experience with others in a more direct way, such as in a self-help book. Steve Preston, author of Winning Through Redundancy, went through this experience himself and now helps other to make a successful career transition using a six step process. These six steps became the chapters of his book, thus inviting the reader to follow in his footsteps.

You can also use elements of your story throughout your book. Many authors share a summarized version of their story at the very beginning of their book to demonstrate their credibility for writing it, and to let the reader know that they too have been through difficult times. Laura Berman Fortgang does this very well in Living Your Best Life. She draws us in straightaway by telling us about a particularly challenging period in her life that eventually led to her becoming a successful coach.

However, you could also share your story at the end. Louise L. Hay does this in her book You Can Heal Your Life, and when I read her book it felt like the perfect place for it.

You can also use personal anecdotes to introduce a chapter and hook the reader’s attention, or to illustrate a point you have just made, so that it is both memorable and engaging.

If you really want to write your first book it’s because you have a story to tell that you feel will help others on their life path in some way. When you choose to tell your story and share your experiences, you are taking your reader on a journey, and the structure of your book will define the nature of that journey. Make it a good one!

Leda Sammarco empowers spiritual entrepreneurs to get started on your first book through her Book Detective package. She has a background in market research, PR and publishing and is the author of Finding the Gold – an inspirational memoir with self-help elements.

Enjoyed this? Click here for all Leda’s helpful posts for aspiring authors.

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