Don’t be Daunted
Do you want to write a book, but feel daunted at the size of the task?
Sharing your ideas in words is at the heart of building credibility for you and your business. But when faced with the challenge of writing 30,000+ words, overwhelm can stop you before you even start.
That’s why learning a structure and a process — especially if you’re writing ‘how-to’ content — is a powerful way to ignite your author journey.
After all, how do you eat an elephant? It’s one bite at a time, isn’t it?
So keep reading, and let’s explore how you could use ‘how-to’ writing to your advantage.
Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs
This quote from Henry Ford sums up the strategy you need to take if you’re a first-time author wanting to write a book.
Writing can be tough. Even the most accomplished of us struggle at times to get words onto the page. I know I do!
Resistance is a force to be reckoned with and it can show up in many forms.
Fear, writer’s block, lack of clarity, confusion, lack of time, under-confidence about our ability, a sense we have nothing new to say… I wonder if any of these show up for you?
It’s because of the resistance that you must break down the process of creating your book into manageable chunks.
Each time you get a small win, you grow in confidence and you are able to take bigger, more challenging steps.
Set yourself smaller targets at first.
As you work through your to-do list, you’ll gain momentum with your writing and boost your confidence too. And one small step you can take is to write a ‘how-to’ article about your topic. Here’s why:
1. Gain confidence with a framework
The blank page can be daunting. But, with a framework to guide you, writer’s block becomes less of a problem.
With hints and nudges to structure your thoughts, the first draft of your 1000+ word article can sometimes write itself – especially when you’re writing about a topic that you know very well.
But that’s not the only reason to practice ‘how-to’ articles…
2. Learn a technique you can apply to your book
If you’re writing a non-fiction book, then you’ll almost certainly include how-to chapters.
So whilst you might only start with an article, you’ll be learning (and mastering) a structure that will help you write the chapters of your book.
And your writing won’t be wasted.
You can publish your how-to article on your blog (or someone else’s). You may even be able to use the article when you begin to write your book.
3. Enjoy a mini success, and use it to spur you on
Finally, it’s much less daunting to write an article. You can start and finish in a day if you’re disciplined.
Then, once you get the hang of writing shorter pieces, you’ll feel much more confident when you sit down to finish a larger project.
Can you see how that works?
OK, but what do you need to actually do to write a good how-to article?
How to Create Content that Gets Read
Let’s pick apart the tried and tested structure I’ve used to craft this post; I think you’ll find it useful.
The essence of ‘how-to’ writing is to teach your reader something new so that they can change their behaviour, or change their outlook. And you’ll usually be doing this through some kind of instruction or demonstration.
These are the steps I go through each time I write this kind of piece, and the process I want you to follow when you’re writing.
1. Understand your audience
Writing is a conversation and successful writers can both stand in their audience’s shoes, and get inside their heads. They understand the need to make a someone care about what he or she is reading.
This can be tricky. Different types of readers are looking for different things. For example, some readers want detailed instructions while others are simply looking for inspiration to get them started.
And most writers start by writing what comes into his or her head. Which is an OK place to start but, if you can learn to put at least some thought into who you’re writing for, your writing will be stronger and will resonate more with your reader.
Which means it’s more likely to get read.
The easiest way to get started it to imagine that your perfect reader is sat across from you. Just follow the conversation: what does she or he want to hear? That’s what you need to write.
2. Pick your topic
Think about the difference between going broad versus going deep.
This article is broad for example. I could have written a whole piece on connecting with your reader, or on storytelling, or any aspect of this article.
Which one you go for will depend on what you want to achieve with your writing and who you are writing for.
You’ve probably read how our concentration spans are diminishing because of information overload. So isn’t shorter better?
When someone is deeply interested in a topic, they’re prepared to read a lot. So don’t go short for the wrong reasons. Instead, explore your topic in the amount of depth needed to achieve the goal of your article.
Aside from a quick text to agree where or when to meet, chances are you wouldn’t cut off a meaningful conversation with a friend after 140 characters. Don’t do it in your writing.
3. Explain how to do it
At the heart of your how-to article are the instructions that teach your reader to do the thing that you want them to do — the new behaviour, or the new way of looking at, or thinking about something.
Be complete but be precise. And pitch your explanation to suit your audience. Remember, this is about structuring your piece so it gets read.
- Don’t bore your reader by making things too simple
- But equally, don’t assume they know more than they do!
It’s not uncommon for people who want to share their expert knowledge to underestimate the amount they know compared with their audience. So do give this some thought. Simple is often better.
4. Polish your writing
Did you know that typically people only read around 30% of what you write? Your article is competing for attention – and it’s very noisy in the digital world.
Which is why you need to strengthen your writing and encourage your reader to stick around.
In How-To Writing for Entrepreneurs we show you exactly how to do this:
- Tighten your opening – ensure the start of your article grabs your reader’s attention. Its job is to get them interested and keep them reading.
- Use stories and examples – these really bring your writing to life. And because they give your how-to information context, you’ll find that stories make your writing stick and more memorable.
- Be as precise as possible – woolly, flaky information is not very valuable. Don’t hold back on the detail.
- Include subheads – break up your writing and make it easier to read with subheads.
Remember, if you go the extra mile, you’re more likely to stand out from the thousands of other articles on the internet and elsewhere, which will give you the credibility and the attention you crave.
5. Round off your thoughts
Finally, finish your article so it feels complete.
You’re probably used to being told to write a summary of what you’ve just written? No! That’s the wrong approach.
Instead, leave your reader with a closing thought or a reflective question to encourage them to think about or implement the information and ideas you’ve shared.
Ready to dive in?
There’s only one way to become a better writer, and that’s to practice!
And if you know you want to write a book, then ‘how-to’ articles are a great way to get the confidence to start, to create something concrete in itself, and also to build towards your ultimate goal of a book.
Master Your Thoughts to Write Your Book
Most people think the hardest part of writing a book is the writing itself. But that’s not actually true.
The hardest part is adopting a positive mindset where you believe the goal is possible for you. That’s right, you can talk yourself out of being an author!
In fact, most business owners never write the book that’s in their head. Don’t you be one of them.
Choose to be successful by starting small and using the techniques we’ve covered to write ‘how-to’ articles that stand out.
So tell me, what will you write first?
Grab a pen and your notebook (now!) and scribble down some ideas.
Remember small steps…
And if you’d like to go deeper and practice your how-to writing in a safe environment, where you can get feedback, we have all of this and more in ‘How-To’ Writing for Entrepreneurs.