We are finishing up this week with the second post about turning your blog into a book. I’ll be sharing tips that will give your writing impact. I wish I had known these tips when I wrote my first book, but I did learn many of them in the coaching process. These are the essentials my coach Inger used when she tied my posts together, created transitions, and added needed material to tell my story. I hope this will be helpful to you in turning your posts into a book–or just making your writing more compelling.
How to Start
In the last post I told you the book must have a beginning, middle, and an end. It also needs a theme, plan, and outline. The theme is an unbroken cord the reader follows throughout the story. You will tie all the relevant events into this theme. If some of your posts don’t fit the theme, save them for another project.
Each chapter also needs to have a beginning, middle, and end and a single focus illustrated with many different points. Each illustration should center on the focus of the chapter. In planning, start with a theme sentence or paragraph.
Thinking ahead, you’ll need to have the ending of the book in mind from the start. As you work on each chapter, keep the end of the book, the resolution, in view.
What’s Your Hook?
Start the book with a dramatic scene, a high point of conflict or drama to hook interest. Inger, who I mentioned in Part 1, coached me through the rewriting of my first book, Consumed by Success: Reaching the Top and Finding God Wasn’t There. I wrote that book chronologically, starting when I was young. I had not idea about starting the book with a dramatic moment and flashing back on earlier experiences that brought me to that place. But that’s what she coached me to do. (Professional editors can make all the difference in the world!)
Think about a dramatic scene you can start the book with and ask yourself: am I showing action and conflict? Will the reader want to know what happens next?
Keep Things Moving
All the points in the body of a paragraph must relate to the theme. Keep the story moving forward by connecting and relating all the parts to the theme. You want to go from general statements to a specific statement, and back to a general to keep the flow interesting. The conclusion has a summary, a restatement of the theme, and a strong ending. You want to make sure that the takeaway at the end is kind of a full circle, and that it shows what God has done in your life. Vary sentence lengths to raise intensity. When you want to show quick action, shorten the sentences or use a fragment of a sentence, maybe even a one-word sentence or paragraph.You must fully expand on your ideas and your paragraphs need to be organized to tell the story.
Make Every Word Count
In a book, writing has to be tighter and more polished. You can’t get away with sloppy colloquialisms and exclamation points and lots of ellipses like you can in blog posts!
Beginning writers often add words that aren’t necessary. They think it makes them seem more “writerly.” Eliminating words you don’t need makes your writing tight and polished. William Strunk, Jr. who wrote a book called The Elements of Style, he’s a professor of English at Cornell University, he says “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer makes all his sentences short or that he avoids all detail and treats his subject only in an outline, but it requires that every word tell.”
Every word needs to matter, so choose the simple word over the complicated one every time.
Use concrete action verbs and picture nouns. Put the most important words at the beginning of a sentence.
We all have “crutch” words. Watch our for those repeated favorite phrases such as actually, truly, honestly, to tell you the truth, I recall, etc. One way to tighten your writing is to eliminate the word “that.” If you highlight the word “that” in your Word document, you’ll see how often you use it. Many occurrences of the word can be eliminated.
Use Fiction Techniques to Draw the Reader In
This applies to both fiction and non-fiction.
WRITE IN SCENES
Non-fiction books can use scenes effectively when describing incidents and telling anecdotes. What is a scene? Gloria Kempton defines a scene as a “dramatic account of a heightened moment in your life in which you learned something about yourself, about life.” You came to a realization.” Major scenes will feature a dramatic aspect of the conflict.
SHOW, DON’T TELL
Editors and writing coaches often say, “Show, don’t tell.” This is writing in a way that puts the reader right your story through action scenes, and descriptive uses of the senses and emotions, rather than just exposition. Dialogue and description with concrete details help you show, not tell. If you describe what you saw, smelled, felt, and heard the reader is placed right in the action. When I wrote my first book I didn’t use dialogue or description of concrete details because I didn’t know any better! With description, use it sparingly, depending on your genre. It sets the stage, but if you use too much, it slows down the action. Dialogue moves the story forward. If it’s obvious who is speaking, you don’t need to constantly add, “He said,” or “She said.”
WRITE ACTIVE, NOT PASSIVE
Watch out for passive word construction. Is, was, are, been, would, could, has, had, and have are usually passive. Active verbs describe something the subject does. Find all the “to be” words and replace them with active, vivid, engaging verbs. I
LEAVE ‘EM HANGING
You may want to use cliff hangers to keep readers turning pages. Have you ever binge-watched several Netflix episodes in a row of some detective show and noticed how at the end of every one you feel, “I gotta find out what happened … what’s next?” That’s a cliffhanger, and you need to use those in your book. Don’t tell them everything at the end of a chapter. If you end a chapter in the middle of an action, it’ll force your reader to keep on going.
Tie it Up with a Bow
Now for the ending, tie it up with a bow! Bring your theme full circle. Make sure the takeaway at the end reaffirms the theme and answers the story question you have posed at the beginning of the book. In your resolution, show how you have changed, or how the issue has been resolved. Bring your theme to a conclusion.
In my book Full Circle: Coming Home to the Faithfulness of God I wrote:
“I have let go of all the false to find the true. In doing so He has brought me true lasting love and returned my family to me. The little girl who once cried out ‘look at me … see me’ is now saying ‘look what the Lord has done!'”
The beginning of my book talks about me as a child being so needy for attention from my dad and trying to get him to see me. The end of the book ends with the fulfillment of that need and shows how my life changed. Here’s where you need to show God has worked in your life and how you have changed.
Three Options for Telling Your Story
Do you have a blog you want to turn into a book, or a series of sermons, talks you have given, or workshop content? Here are three options:
THE FIRST OPTION:
Do it yourself, educate yourself, and figure it all out.
THE SECOND OPTION;
Work with an experienced coach to walk you through the process. A good coach will give feedback, critique you along the way so the project stays on track. That’s what I did with the rewriting of my first book.
THE THIRD OPTION:
Have someone write your story for you. In my memoir, Full Circle, my collaborator, Inger Logelin, took my content and did the work for me.
In these three options, it’s important to have a professional editor work with you. As opposed to a friend, an editor won’t just say, “Oh, this is great!” as a friend might.
At Redemption Press, we help authors determine what makes the most sense for their situations. If you have the time, going through the coaching process may be the perfect thing for you. With my first book, being coached on the rewrite was the best thing for me as it taught me how to be a better writer. I knew I wanted to write more, so it was worth the investment of my time.
I would encourage you to ask God which direction He wants you to go and how He wants you to spend your time. Sometimes we need to have other people jus in and do the work for us; sometimes we need to just learn and do it ourselves.
Let us know if we can help you in this process. We want to help you make your message the best it can be!
Source: Inger Logelin
I just read your two-part piece on how to turn a blog into a book. It was great advice. I plan to revise my E-book “Christian Principles – Food for Thought” based on some of your advice.
J. Dee German (From the Gridiron Conference)