July 16, 2019

Focus Your Book Proposal with 3 Questions

Focus Your Proposal on These Questions

Focus Your Proposal on These Questions

Have you ever heard (or said), “I know who my readership is, but I am not quite clear on what I want to say to them?”

If you are at the planning or proposal stages, and if this is your sentiment, then you may need to do more research on your readership.

Working on your manuscript–writing a non-fiction outline or a fiction synopsis–can be stimulating, whether you plot first or write in a flow.

Lee Warren is a Christian manuscript editor who also offers coaching. He has an excellent blog post with 3 questions to focus your writing and proposal work, whether you are working in fiction or non-fiction (he offers illustrations for both fiction and non-fiction):

1. What are you trying to say? (What is your message in 25 words or less?)

2. Who are you trying to reach? (Who is your target readership?)

3. How are you planning to say it? (What readership cultural reference points will you use?)

These questions are about focusing ideas, picturing a particular group of readers, and using their language to communicate. Speaking these out loud, getting others’ reactions, and then writing down a paragraph answer (and posting it near your writing desk) can keep a project focused.

I find with first-time book authors that they are clearest about the first question and least clear about the last one, even when they are writing for their cohort or peer group. On the one hand, this lack of clarity about the cultural reference points keeps many early drafts from achieving symbolic depth (fiction), or specificity or clarity (non-fiction). On the other hand, digging deeper into the world of your targeted readership can also clarify what you are trying to say.

My best authors begin by answering in writing these questions and then revising the document every few weeks (like before undertaking a revision or rewrite). Then, when faced with writing their proposal, they already have answers to key questions.


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