Until I actually decided to put pen to paper, I didn’t realise just what a huge responsibility I would feel when writing a self-help book that was designed to help my readers. In fact, as I progressed, I felt a mammoth weight descend itself upon me and it refused to budge the entire time.
Each time, I wrote, it would sit on my shoulder and counter argue everything. ‘Are you sure this is a good idea’, ‘I don’t think you should say that’, ‘that doesn’t help at all’ were some of the things it would say to me.
At first, I found it frightening and I considered abandoning my project, until one day, I stopped and listened to the voice. I analysed what it was saying and came to the positive realisation that it was trying to help me!
To add to that was the fact that the help it was offering was impartial for it was on both my side and that of my potential readers.
Instead of goading me, this new-found friend was leading me to my goals
I couldn’t believe my luck at the good fortune for I had now become acquainted with this stranger who would soon become my guide and friend and my confidant. Instead of goading me, this new-found friend was leading me to my goals. What I learned was this:
There was a gradual shift in my thinking and at some point, my readers became my priority not what I wanted to say. This made me question how I wrote so that I was best understood.
My advice therefore is to choose your words carefully to make sure they will be understood by your chosen audience. Think about some of your target factors such as region, country, age group, sex etc. and mould your sentences accordingly.
Always have empathy as you write because I believe that this will be projected to your readers.
As you impart your advice, think about who your target audience is, ask yourself questions like ‘what problems are they experiencing?’ ‘what road blocks might they be facing?’ ‘How will my advice be different from what they might have read elsewhere?’.
write from the point of view of your readers
In this way, you will write from the point of view of your readers making your book appealing and, more importantly, helpful for your recipients.
Lastly, I believe that if your only purpose for writing a self-help book is for the attainment of money my suggestion to you would be to not bother. From this angle your writing will most likely be adversely affected rendering your book a flop from the outset. No one likes a fake person!
To Suggest – not order
Whilst I felt it was my duty to share my experience in the hope that it would help my readers, I became aware that I had to be careful about how I pitched my advice.
I knew that my advice was good because it had worked for me but I also knew that preaching would possibly not be the best approach.
The lesson to learn hear is that we must remember that there is a fine line between an ‘order’ which your reader may translate as hostile and a ‘suggestion’ which simply aims to plant a seed of thought.
In my opinion, the latter is more powerful and therefore more likely to work. Remember the simple facts, a good self-help book will be recommended and a bad self-help book will not.
I’d naively thought that all I had to do was share my tips, my experience, my solutions but I quickly realised that these things were just the tip of the iceberg – for lurking beneath the surface was much more that I had to learn about.
I was not some leading authority on the subject, I had a duty to further research my chosen topic so that I could offer alternative solutions to the same problem because we are not all the same.
Therefore, make it your personal business to read as much as you possibly can about studies that have been carried out in your field of interest and, if possible, talk to experts in order to glean as much information as you can.
In this way, your writing will be believable because you can back up your suggestions and advice by what the experts are saying.
This doesn’t mean that you have to believe everything you read, it is simply to ensure that you are not writing blindly, that you have considered the other findings and thoughts on your particular subject.
I talked to people – as many as I was possibly able to- so that I could listen to what those in the situation I was trying to resolve had to say. I found out what problems they had personally experienced, what their biggest obstacles were and whether they had managed to overcome any or all of them and how.
I asked and listened to what they were looking for and what they had found the hardest or impossible to achieve. Seeking out and listening to my target audience broadened my mind and helped me to add great insights and depths into my book that previously I would not have been able to do.
Find your inner guide
By this, I mean that you should learn to listen to your ‘inner critic’. Speaking to other writers, I believe that authors have a tendency to be plagued by the presence of this debilitating being.
If you’re not careful, this critic can become your arch nemesis, forcing you to question your ability and worse still it may even stop you from writing at all by placing an insurmountable obstacle in your path. Therefore, I strongly urge you to take a hold of your critic’s hand, assure him that you value his/her advice, believe truly that they are trying to help not hinder.
In this way, I hope that you will gradually find that the critic becomes useful for once it knows you are listening, it somehow starts to find answers for you instead of constant and sometimes crippling criticism. In short, it will start working for you not against you and that is a truly liberating thought!