This is what I call The Killing Question, the one that will completely derail your book, mute your voice, and end your message – all before you even start to write.
And guess what?!
I’m not even being melodramatic!
(Okay, maybe I am I little bit.)
I have had thousands of phone calls with authors over the years. We talk about their book and how they want their message to change the world. And, almost without fail, there comes the moment in the conversation that I just hate. It goes like this:
Author: Have you read XYZ book by so-and-so author? I want my book to be Just Like That One.
Me: No, I haven’t read it. (Heart sinking.)
My heart used to sink in my chest because MOST of the time I’d never even HEARD of the book, let alone read it. I was worried that the author would judge me and my literary choices.
But then I realized something more important:
When the author wanted their book to be Just Like That One –
it meant that they were willing to do ANYTHING to emulate their hero.
In love with a memoir but writing a process book? They’ll write a memoir about a story they don’t really want to tell.
Delighted by a sparse book with just 50 pages? They’ll pare down their message to the point that it doesn’t make sense, just to hit that magic page count.
Enamored by a process book? They’ll try to bring meaning, or worse and acronym, out of their life story so the reader can have a five-step system to follow.
Here’s how the Killing Question derails the book:
As an author, you’re suddenly trying to shoehorn YOUR story and YOUR message into someone else’s format or formula.
I once worked with an author as a ghostwriter how decided that all her chapters had to be exactly four pages long. The problem? One of her important concepts was actually much quicker to explain. I had to pull out all my old college tricks to pad the word count.
Two OTHER of her concepts were important but hard to explain. It was impossible to cut it down to just four pages. It didn’t make any sense at all.
We both left the project frustrated. Her readers never got to read the book because it is, to this day, unfinished. Keep Reading!