Want to write a book? You have various processes you could use.
The simplest: start writing.
More complicated: create a detailed outline.
Unfortunately, every book is different, so your favorite process may not work on the book you’re writing.
When you’re struggling, going back to basics helps—looking at the bones of your project. Try creating a list of titles; your subconscious mind may give you a title that solves a current challenge.
My favorite high-level process: using ASK. Oddly enough, ASK works on both fiction and nonfiction projects.
Want to write a book? Begin with “ASK”
“ASK” is a simple-to-remember acronym.
When you use ASK, it helps you to be aware of your book’s foundations while you’re planning, outlining, and writing.
In essence, ASK helps you to write a book worth reading; it stops you wandering forever in the dark forests of the writing and publishing process.
The ASK process is a foundation for your book
You have 1001 things to remember when you write a book.
Nail down your ASK, and everything’s easier.
📌 ASK means:
A: the angle. An opinion, a slant, a point of view.
S: the story. A hero; with a goal. Conflict.
K: the keeper. The point; the reader’s takeaway.
Let’s look at the process in more detail.
1. A: the angle; a specific point of view
Humans have opinions. We can’t avoid it, because we’re individuals. When you consider how different each person is from another, it’s amazing that we can communicate and understand each other at all.
Usually, we don’t think about our point of view, any more than a fish thinks of the water in which it’s swimming. However, knowing your point of view is invaluable when you’re writing.
For a nonfiction book, your point of view might be that of a beginner to a subject.
That’s great because beginner books tend to sell. Consider all the “for Dummies” books for example. Written for beginners, they sell many, many books each year.
Writing fiction? Think of your angle as that of the Point of View (POV) character; in a mystery, the POV character is often the sleuth. What’s his angle? Why does he care?
The angle you choose is up to you, but do be aware of it. If you ask yourself (in writing) about your angle, you may be surprised that yes, indeed, you DO have an angle. Writing becomes much easier when you know what it is.
2. S: the story. Who’s the hero?
Now: the story. Everything is a story: fiction, nonfiction, advertising, social media posts…
The hero of your nonfiction book is the reader. It’s helpful to create a persona of your ideal reader: you’ll have a better idea of what you need to include in your book.
Persona creation is common in marketing; it’s useful in writing too. But you don’t need to devote hours to research. Depending on your book’s topic, you could explore online forums and read book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
Try to imagine your ideal reader, and list:
- A fictional name (because they’ll become a real person to you).
- Their age and occupation.
- Do they have children? How many?
Next, think about the goals and conflicts (obstacles) which stand in your hero’s way.
Your ideal reader’s goals and conflicts: they’re the lifeblood of your book
Nonfiction or fiction, your hero has goals as well as conflicts.
You may not be used to thinking about nonfiction in these terms, but when you write a book, it’s immensely helpful.
An example. The book, The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage is a bestseller because it focuses on a conflict that some people experience: rather than taking action, they hesitate. Then they start thinking…
If you read some of the book’s reviews, you’ll notice that readers say that the book’s helped them to overcome anxiety and procrastination, and to get more done.
Goals and conflicts are the heart of The 5 Second Rule. Put goals and conflicts at the heart of your nonfiction book too.
In Write Fiction: 3 Easy Tips To Develop Your Characters’ Motivation Penny discusses characters’ goals in a novel:
In Pride & Prejudice Elizabeth Bennet knows her situation; she knows that she needs to marry for economic security because Longbourn House is entailed on her father’s cousin. However, she has smaller goals as well. She loves her parents and her sisters and does whatever she can to make them happy.
Finally, there’s the keeper; the takeaway for readers.
3. K: the keeper. What’s your gift for readers?
When you write a book, the keeper needs to be in the title if you can get it there.
Here’s the keeper in The 5 Second Rule: you can change your life in five seconds.
In Pride & Prejudice the keeper’s in the title too: Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice—they’re a warning to us. We’re like them: we’re oblivious to our faults.
Try using the ASK process
If you want to write a book, keep the ASK process in mind; if you’re currently writing, see if you’ve got an angle, a story, and a keeper.
And as always, have fun. 🙂
By the way, if you need help with your book, contact me.
The Easy-Write Process changed my life; I developed it over several years of struggling with writing. Try it: it works for all types of writing, whether you're writing books, blogging, or self-publishing.More info →
Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.