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How & Why to Narrow Your Book's Content

"I got one more for you: So there was this guy Marty and Marty couldn't see too well...."

It was the fourth story and our weekly call was running over.

But I didn't mind.

Don, my client, told the best stories. They were always interesting, many were hilarious and definitely book worthy. As much as Don loved telling his stories, I loved hearing them.

However, my final recommendation was to exclude the story he just told from the book. He was bummed, I was bummed, but I knew that it didn't fit.

A lot times when I'm working with first-time authors, the problem is rarely too little content. Usually, it's too much content and it's all good.

As you begin to release the book inside of you, you may discover that there's more than one book. And that's ok. The challenge however, then becomes what do you put in and what to leave out of the one you're currently writing.

If you begin writing before making the decision about content to include and exclude, chances are your book will lack a clear direction and you'll get lost in your writing. Even worse, your reader may get lost when reading it.

Editing and revisions also take A LOT longer.

To eliminate this problem, here's an approach to identify and narrow your book's content:

1. In one sentence, write the central message your book will convey. Your central message can be your core belief, the most important lesson or key information that you want to share with your readers.

2. Next, develop and write 3 to 5 supporting messages (one sentence each) that ties DIRECTLY to your central message.

3. Brainstorm a list of all possible topics you want to talk about, sub-topics, memorable moments, experiences, and lessons as individual content items. This should take several days.They can be related or unrelated to the messages. 4. Categorize each content item under one of your four messages. See how many you have in each category. If you have many more in one section than you do another or closely related stories, prioritize and choose which item is the strongest fit. Determine which content item would be most important not to you, but for your reader.

5. If you're struggling to determine if or how a content item fits, place the content in a parking lot until your outline is finalized. If it's still there after you complete a detailed outline, save it for another book or the blog where you can put excluded content as a bonus.

At the end of the day, it's okay to have content left in the parking lot. Rather than creating an outline to fit your content, the outline should simply be a defined container for content that fits.

This is just one of several steps to complete BEFORE you begin writing your book. You can find more in "Finally Get Your Book Done: A 5-Step Guide for Finding the Time, Focus and Consistency. To request a free copy go to

Alicia N. Ingram is a ghostwriter and book editor that helps aspiring authors start and finish their books. To receive more free information, inspiration and "The 5 Tips For Finally Getting Your Book Done" checklist, click here to sign up for the mailing list..

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