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Finding your book's golden thread

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

"We are all part of the old stories; whether we know the stories or not, the old stories know about us." Leslie Marmon Silko Below in this blog post there are some fun things you can join... like our new online writing community, the next six month mentorship or a retreat in Lamu or South Africa or online

But we recently had a pitch session to a publisher in my advanced author mentorship and one thing came back again and again... what is the reader getting out of this book? The publisher wanted to know, and fast, "why would someone read it?" ​Gasp ! Horrible question to have to answer. But an essential question every non fiction author has to answer. You start structuring a non-fiction book by being very clear on what you are writing about. Sounds simple? Not really. You (sort of) know what you want to say and it feels logical to you, but how do you present it to the reader in a way that is clear, logical and compelling? It’s much harder than it sounds. People often call to me and say … Sarah I want to write a story about:

  1. My motor neuron disease

  2. My sex / booze / rubber gloves addiction (so fun! I love those ones

  3. My lessons about money / gardening

  4. My gardening tips

  5. My adventure through Africa on a unicycle

  6. My 10 years as an undercover agent And these are all great stories to write and can become strong books. But a book demands more of a writer than just writing down your thoughts, ideas or your life. Because the hard truth is that most readers who will buy your book (except for your friends and family) don’t know you. That is why all books about you need to be about more than YOU. Enter the realm of the Big Idea. All non-fiction books need one. Yes, just one. What is this big idea? A Big Idea not just says, ‘This is what my book is about’. It delivers an argument or a solution. It also positions you in a debate. It puts a stake in the ground and tell them you have lived - and learned - some things. You want to tell the reader the answer to this in the most obvious, clear, easy-to-understand and exciting a way possible. You don’t want to imply what it’s about, or hint at it - you want to state it clearly, and upfront. Most Big Ideas are even stated (or contained) in the title, or at least on the back cover of your book. Look at all the below book ideas. All of them contain an argument. Most of them are quite radical or positional. They are not saying … this is a book about my grief, or how I got rich. They are delivering a revolutionary or positional take on it that has some offer to the reader. ü My Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – idea? You can see grief as magic if you look right ü Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki – idea? you need to change the way you think about money if you want to get rich. What is the basic argument of any of any diet book out there? You will lose weight / get strong / be healthier/ be happier….. if you eat like this / like me. HOW ELSE CAN YOU WRITE WITH ME THIS MONTH? I have started such a great and fun writing community. At $40 per month you have access to the Wednesday writing sessions, the once-a-month three-day retreat at home, book Q&A and we discuss and stick to your writing plan JOIN HERE Six Month Author Mentorship Next one will be in October and you will have your book by March - an intimate mentorship with lots of reading time, feedback and connection. APPLY HERE Writing Retreats Italy in June, Greece in July, South Africa in October + November. All dates here.

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