This is part of the Claim Your Authority series.
You feel the urge to write a book. You’re haunted by an idea or a cluster of ideas, but have no clue how they will hang together in a meaningful way to form a book.
This is a common problem: most people are trying to write a book from a surface level. As a coach, I’m always helping my clients dig deeper to find the core of their impulses.
Connecting to the heart of your book provides a powerful anchor to make what you’re expressing in your book easier.
Here’s a simple but profound exercise to target the heart of your book so the ‘what’s it about’ question will no longer haunt you.
Values + themes + stories = the heart of your book
Okay, let’s look at a strategy to dig deeper to connect with the heart of your book. Remember the last CYA post where I asked you to identify a short list of your values? Get those out.
We’ll use a target to map stories, themes and values. At the core are your values. The next ring represents your themes. The outer and most visible ring stand for the stories you’re telling. Here’s an example of the model.
In my novel Chasing Sylvia Beach, here’s the top layer of story:
- My character, Lily Heller, is bored and aimless
- Lily wants to be a writer but doesn’t know how to get started
- She looks to the life of Sylvia Beach as a model for a life of meaning and influence
In the next layer we find the themes:
- Desire to live an interesting life
- Desire to express something creatively/be a writer
- The heroine’s journey – who am I and what am I doing here?
Finally, we see these values I hold:
As you do this, you should experience some ‘aha’ moments, where you access the deeper levels of your work.
Once you are connected to the core of your book, it’s easier to make the time and space to write it.
Homework: Try this process to connect with the heart of your book. You can do this on a big piece of paper, dry erase board or use index cards…whatever method you like.
I suggest three different colored index cards, one color for themes, another for values and the third color for stories.
Play around with the cards, seeing how they connect to form the heart of your novel or non-fiction book.
Depending on how you think, you may start from the center (values) or the outer ring (stories). Let this exercise flow organically and don’t worry about figuring it out in a linear way. Take your time with this and let the process be yours.
Try any of these three approaches:
1. Start with your values and work your way to your themes, then the stories that represent the values that are deeply meaningful to you.
2. Identify the themes or topics that keep recurring in your writing and match them with values, then find stories that express those values.
3. Look at the stories you tell often. What themes are inherent in them, and what values are you expressing when you relate these stories?
If this seems confusing or daunting, leave a question below and I’ll help sort it out.
This is one of the juicy exercises we’ll do together in the Claim Your Authority retreat on July 10th – 12th, 2012, on the Oregon Coast. Together we’ll work through this to clarify the core of your book to make it easier to write. Reserve your spot before March 30th to get the early registration discount.
How does identifying your values help you write your book? What did you learn from doing this exercise? Let me know in a comment below.
Download a pdf of this article to make Claiming Your Authority easier.