What to write about
Stay at home and start writing
“I keep six honest serving men (they taught me all I knew); their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.” Rudyard Kipling’s well-known saying, which can be abbreviated to the five Ws and H, will serve you well when thinking about possible content to start writing about. They work as great prompts on a wide level and then also within each piece of writing. Let’s look at the wider level first.
Why write at all? What is your impulse and motive for writing a blog post, an article or even a book? Here are some reasons which may fit:
- To enhance and complement your business
- To educate people about your area of expertise
- To share your passion for your area of interest
- Or simply to have the fulfilment of having written something
This last one, in particular, applies to the possible prestige of writing something as substantial as a book. You will only stay motivated if you’re clear from the outset what your purpose is.
What to write about? In many ways, this is the key question, as obviously if you have no idea what to write about, that Word doc is just going to have a blinking cursor and white space for a long time. Before putting yourself in that position, jot down some notes by hand, sketch out some thoughts or even use the voice-to-text facility on your phone to create some notes and ideas.
If you are embarking on writing a book, a great way to kickstart the development of ideas and themes is to think of a title and a subtitle for your book. This will help you to visualise it as a real project and not just a vague ambition. If it’s just a blog or article, come up with a title and central point and then work on from there.
If it IS a book you’re contemplating, then, once you have your title and sub-title, think about the blurb on the back of the book and even visualise in your mind some cover ideas. All this will help to make it real and achievable.
Who is your blog or book aimed at? Build up a picture of your ideal target reader. You may even want to narrow this down to a particular gender, age-range and profession so that you can address your reader directly in your writing. As a visualisation tool, a bit like imagining your book’s cover, complete with title, blurb and cover design, imagine your blog, article or book has been published, and then think about the sort of reaction you would ideally like to be receiving about it.
Think of someone posting up a comment: “This book/article has…” and the key feedback you would like to be receiving. This could be how useful the advice is, how original and incisive the opinions expressed, how thought-provoking it was. This will help you to decide on the style and the content you are aiming for.
How are you going to take the plunge and get started? If you are planning to write a potential series of blogs, start with your strongest idea, the one you feel most passionate about or know most about. Make it easy to get going. Similarly, with a book, don’t necessarily start at Chapter 1, page one. Ease into the process by writing a key moment in the book first, even if that will end up appearing somewhere in the middle of the finalised book.
Writing that first blog or first passage of a book gives you a peg in the ground, something to base everything else around. Use its ideas and themes as the centre of a mind map and then draw out further ideas from it. If it’s a book you are planning, think as the sweet-spot a figure of 12 chapters in total. With your first piece of writing, you have created all or part of a key chapter. Draw outwards from there 11 further chapter ideas. Then stand back from all 12 and determine an overall theme which is emerging. Then cluster the 12 chapters into three sections: the beginning, the middle and the end. This may well not be an even four-four-four split to each section, but in this way, you will begin to work out a narrative arc to your book. Even non-fiction books need a strong narrative arc.
If it is a series of blogs or articles, then, again, 12 is a good number to aim at. This represents probably an ambitious series stretching into the future, but this would create a solid body of work to have in a blog section of your website or to have credited online as articles you have written.
When and Where?
Right now! As discussed in my previous blog, here at the end of March 2020, locked down at home as a result of the coronavirus containment measures, we may well all have some extra time which could be used constructively to start writing. The conditions may be perfect, so at least get started! As for where, well, if you’re not hunkered down at home, you’re probably not where you are supposed to be according to government guidelines, so where is less a question and more a no-choice answer.
The five Ws and H for your written piece
After working out the wider level answers about writing, you can then ask those same six questions within your individual piece of work. Why is this topic important? What is it about? Who will benefit from it? How does this piece about this topic work? Is there a ‘when’ to it ie is it a topical piece reacting to specific news or is it more universal? Is it in reaction to the coronavirus world crisis? As with ‘when’, is ‘where’ relevant to this? And where are you going to publish this?
So, start writing!
Hopefully, this may have inspired you to take the plunge. If you would like more support and guidance on the writing process, then please use the Contact form to get in touch.