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    Book Manifesto: How To Zero In on The Book You Are Destined To Write

    book you are destined to write

    Do you know the hardest question for an author to answer?

    “What is special and unique about my book?”

    It’s not because you don’t know.

    It’s because you aren’t connected deeply enough to your vision and purpose.

    Or maybe you lost touch with the flash of inspiration that was once so clear you thought you’d never lose it!

    It happens to all of us.

    That’s why it’s essential to write your Book Manifesto, a brief but vital document that will anchor you throughout your writing process.

    Creating a Book Manifesto is empowering

    Writing a Book Manifesto will help you to:

    • Deal with the demons of doubt
    • Stay motivated to write
    • Understand (and be able to easily explain) what’s special and unique about your book.
    • Lay the foundation of your author brand
    • Zero in on the book you are destined to write

    Maxine’s story is a case in point.

    Maxine is a Life Coach who helps people escape from jobs they hate, and find out what they really want to do. She writes on the side.

    Not too long ago, the side began nudging her to center stage.

    When she first called me, she was both excited and scared about exploring the idea that had by then become an urgent push: she wanted to write a book.

    Her dream was to teach a method she’d developed for mid-life women struggling to make a major career transition. She hoped to use it to launch a national seminar series.

    Her deepest fear was that her method wasn’t special enough to merit a book.

    She also doubted her ability to write a book.

    I asked her to tell me more about her idea and background.

    During the eight years of her coaching practice—before coaching she had taught high-school Spanish for 13 years—she discovered that when her clients voiced out loud what they wanted as a daily practice, the barriers that stood in the way of their goal emerged one by one, and fell away.

    I suggested the exercise of a Book Manifesto to go a little deeper.

    Manifesto is the way to manifest.

    The practice and power of crafting a manifesto is well-known, and has been made popular today by writers such as Jeff Goins. and Chris Guillebeau. I was inspired by both.

    Find your true north with a Book Manifesto

    The Book Manifesto is an odd duck since its primary purpose is not publication.

    It’s a private declaration meant to focus and steer you, the writer.

    Creating a Book Manifesto can be enormously useful and inspiring in the early phase of book development—whether you’re working with an unexplored idea, an outline or chapter, or a 200-page rough draft.

    Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, a Book Manifesto can:

    • Reveal your true subject
    • Guide you to the kind of book you need to write
    • Help you hone in on your audience—the people who will really care about your book
    • Help you make decisions about what to include or ax
    • Deliver critical insights on style, structure, character and plot development.

    There is a popular fallacy that writers themselves tend to reinforce, especially fiction writers, that it’s none of their business why they write.

    I had a prestigious writing teacher I greatly respected who loved to rail on about the foolishness of wasting time trying to understand “where your writing is coming from.”

    My experience in writing my novel, and working with both fiction and non-fiction authors contradicts that advice entirely.

    Connecting with your “source” story, understanding the deep roots of your values, beliefs, and experience gives you access to your ‘well of life,’ from which only you can speak.

    It is what makes your message unique and powerful.

    The Big Question: What is your why?

    It was our second meeting and we were sitting in a quiet corner of my favorite coffee house in Santa Cruz, California. I turned on the voice recorder. I had explained that I was going to ask Maxine the question several times until she reached a place of completion.

    “Why do you want to write this book?”

    “I feel a strong need to share my method. I know it can help many women move through their fears and barriers, and make a real change”—she swept the air with her palm—“in months instead of years!”

    I asked again.

    She leaned in and said in a quiet voice. “You know, I don’t really have the time for it. I already have too many projects, the new garden, my grandson, my…”

    I sipped my coffee and let a few moments pass.

    “Why do you want to write this book?”

    “If I have a book, I can reach more people and expand my business. I’d also like to spread my work in the association I belong to, and maybe get some recognition for it.”

    She suddenly appeared uneasy and drank down her latte. She made a move toward her purse, as if she were getting ready to leave. “Do you think this process is really helpful?”

    “Why do you want to write this book?”

    Tears came to her eyes. “I think I need another latte.”

    She stood up, sat back down—and told me the story.

    Her mother was a strong personality who taught her that to succeed in life, she had to be beautiful. She spent a lot of time on clothes and makeup, and taught Maxine to do the same.

    As a child, Maxine loved the attention and the fun of it. By the time she got to junior high, she was the most popular girl because of her fashionable clothes, and her skill with makeup and hair.

    When Maxine was 12, her mother told her that she had arranged an operation to get Maxine’s nose “fixed.”

    Maxine was horrified, but knew she couldn’t say no to her mother so she pretended it was not that important. It doesn’t really matter, she told herself repeatedly.

    In the summer before college, she agreed to breast implants.

    At 30, Maxine developed symptoms of silicone toxicity—it took her 10 years to recover, physically and psychologically. In therapy, she discovered the importance and validity of her own wants and needs.

    A 3-Step Process

    A Book Manifesto is an exploration to discover (and uncover) the passion, gift, and purpose at the root of your desire to write your book.

    If you don’t have all three, as any acquisitions editor or literary agent will tell you, you don’t have a successful book. (If you’re self-publishing, the same requirements apply.)

    • Passion: What is your deep(est) motivation in writing the book?
    • Gift: What is the unique perspective or contribution at its core?
    • Purpose: What is the problem you are solving (non-fiction); what is the human dilemma you are exploring (fiction)?

    Let’s look at Maxine’s experience.

    Once Maxine connected emotionally to her deepest motivation, several things occurred in rapid order.

    • She recognized the authenticity of her subject and her authority to write about her method.
    • Her doubts dissolved. She was seized by the imperative of writing her book, and she committed herself to it whole-heartedly.
    • She realized that she needed to write the book for herself first and others second.
    • She stopped giving in to the thief of creativity—comparing herself to other, “better” writers.
    • She saw clearly who her audience was: women whose background included an overbearing but beloved parent they couldn’t say no to (which just happened to be nearly half of her clients!)

    As a result of her new-found clarity and confidence, she decided to write a different kind of book—one that emphasized stories (her own and those of her clients) over methodology.

    She took this new vision and wrote it out in a one-page manifesto using the guidelines I provided, and posted it above her desk, where she could be reminded everyday what her book was really about and why she was writing it.

    Maxine is now in discussions with two literary agents interested in representing her.

    Claim your worthiness and discover your “source” story

    When you enter into the creation of your book, especially your first book, you step out of the familiar (and oh-so-comfortable) bounds of personality and identity—into a bigger and unknown world.

    Your book demands vision if it is to be sustained. It needs to be informed by a deep purpose that drives the work from beginning to end. This can’t be simulated or copied—or added later into your marketing materials.

    So before you begin, claim your worthiness and wisdom as a writer by connecting to your source story.

    This deep connection to yourself and your work forms the basis for your author brand and platform that are critical to your success.

    Don’t be afraid to explore your vulnerability and experience your deep fears.

    The usual impulse is to avoid this territory. But you have something substantial to share, so go deep—it will make all the difference.

    Are you aware of what drives you to write?

    If you have a book on your mind, or you’ve already started, are you aware of your source story?

    Take a moment to share your ‘why’ in the comments!

    About the author

      Sally Wolfe

      Sally Wolfe coaches writers to write from a place of clear vision and purpose. Sign up for her FREE author training “The Secret to Fast-tracking Your Book: Write from Your Core,” and free yourself to write with confidence.

    • Ohita Afeisume says:

      Dear Sally,
      I write to exercise a talent to prove to myself that I actually I take after my father who had great communication skills.-

    • Ohita Afeisume says:

      Dear Sally,
      I have often had a manifesto but never put it in writing. Thanks for your insight.

    • Kevin says:

      My books are collections of my poetry, so it’s a little different than a novel(la), short story, or how-to book—but clearly the rationale is essentially the same.

      I have at least a couple of WHYs:

      Why I write is to make sense out of what is happening in my life, and in the world around me.

      Why I write poems is that they often reveal more than a ‘standard’ journal entry would.

      Why I make books of my poems:
      • they give me a focus
      • they are ways to combine my different creative pursuits (writing, graphic design, photography)
      • there isn’t enough poetry out there that expresses emotions in a straightforward, honest manner, without contrived forms or structures, flowery language, or metaphors for the sake of metaphors.

      The individual books have had their own WHYs, the strongest of which was the first. My first book was the ‘divorce and separation’ book, in which most of the poems addressed the emotions accompanying break-ups. I realized that we really don’t get many chances to talk about what happens when relationships end, so we end up feeling isolated—when really it is something that everybody goes through at some point.

      My most recent collection (just completed a couple of weeks ago) focused on the idea that quiet on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean quiet on the inside (which is also its full title).

      And I’ll call it there, as I have a tendency to ramble when I’m not writing a poem.

    • pat says:

      Thanks for your inspirational “pushing.” I couldn’t answer why off the top without checking with myself. Finally, I got a why: to voice peculiar perspectives, explore courage to truly be self, and to evolve.

    • Don says:

      Thanks for reminding me to look at my purpose, gift and problem solved. This bodes well with starting an online business, too. Publishing my memoir two years ago gave me the incentive to take some of the ideas online.

    • april says:

      Hello Sally,

      I came across your article from a twitter feed and when I clicked on it right away your words jumped off the page. It was so profound and insightful especially due to the fact I’m writing my first book and it is the scariest thing I have ever done, well the second scariest thing. Becoming a mother has been the first scariest for me. But I have dreamt of writing a book for over 15 years and now I have finally found the courage to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard!

      I am a survivor of Intimate Partner Violence. I was in abusive relationship for over three years and nearly died until one day I found the courage to finally leave. So you ask what is my Why for writing well I write because there is a child, woman, and even man who will probably never get the chance to speak about the abuse they experienced. I write because I truly understand what it feels like to have my voice silenced due to immense shame and guilt because I loved someone who made a choice to abuse my love. I write because I can’t stay shut when I know 1 in 4 women will be abused in their lifetime. I write because I know what it’s like to find my voice again. I write because I am alive….

      Yours truly

      April- Survivor

      • April, thank you so much for sharing your deeply personal story. Writing a book is the most healing and triumphant thing you can do. And the miracle of it is that your understanding and experience will be a shining light for others! I invite you to join my Book Manifesto course – it’s free (if you haven’t already). You can sign up at http://www.bookmanifesto.com

    • Thanks for sharing very well written

    • Debra says:

      Sally I have heard of these manifestos, even have the one Jeff G. wrote but never understood why it was so important. I mean what was the purpose of writing one out? Before I just wrote because it was something I have done sense Jr. High, something that was apart of me and when I don’t write – whether fiction or non fiction- people who know me and are around me notice. Then I read this great post this morning, before I had a chance to wake up and “justify” my thoughts and reasons and the question “why do you want to write this book hit me between the eyes.

      the first thought that came to the top of my head without thinking and analyzing was this—-

      “I want to be heard as an adult when I wasn’t heard as a child.”

      I write fiction and I can see that the stories and characters I create are bit of myself that never had a voice- until now.

      This is something I will ponder and consider all day so thank you

      • I love your manifesto: very clear. “I want to be heard as an adult when I wasn’t heard as a child.”
        Now tell that story–crystallize those moments and allow them to be experienced (and healed) through your characters.

    • LOVE THIS. Off to write my Manifesto now! Thanks so much.

    • Kimsea Sok says:

      Thanks for sharing…! The above is a nice education story about writing eBook.

      I’d that I’m currently writing an eBook called “How to Become A Jobless Blogger”. I finished almost 50% of whole writing, but I feel like it was a bit mess thus I keep relax and skip writing for while.

      I feel like demotivated continue my writing. Thanks for sharing your topic, I make sent about writing and now maybe I found the best way for continue my eBook writing

    • Kris says:

      I just started writing a book today so this is quite timely. Thanks for this!

      • Hello Kris, We all experience lack of motivation. It’s just part of the writing life. The more we can stay connected with our why, the more we can overcome resistance. Keep on writing.

    • Sally, what a fantastic and fascinating post!

      It came at a great time, too, because just the other day I was hit with an idea for a book that would benefit the people who land on my site each day.

      To give you some background, when I first started blogging, I wrote a post about suicide. I included my own personal story in it, too.

      That post hit the number one slot in Google Search, and I have over 400 people a day being directed to Wording Well to read to that post.

      I was finally struck with the idea of how to not only help these folks more in-depth, but also how to add another revenue income — write a book and sell it via that post!

      Ingenious, right?

      I mean, these people are not likely to become clients of mine, or even sign up to grab my free blogging ebook, but they might decide to buy a book that will improve their lives.

      So I started an outline.

      And now I’ve made my final decision.

      I’m going to write that book.

    • I am having my memoir published in November called Deliver Us From Evil. It’s about my Mormon bishop father severely abusing my sister and me when were young children. There are so many twists and turns in the story that it turned out well. It was due to the fact my sister and I wrote an outline that took weeks to write and for a year I never detoured from that outline in facts and motivation that I must “get it right.” I think it was my purpose for writing this story and my focus and motivation which never waivered. I was driven. Thanks for such great articles like this that help us with our writing. I love Write to Done

      • Brilliant idea! And what a great way to support people when they are in so much pain. I cannot imagine how much pain someone must be in to want to take their own life. You’ll be writing from your own story and that will make all the difference. In gratitude, Sally

    • Anabelle says:

      That’s a really interesting approach to a book. I’ve been on the edge of a book for a long time–but not quite there. I just know I have to write something. But I’m not writing anything for now. I’m blocked.

      I’ll check out your free training!

      • I appreciate your sharing your vulnerability, Anabelle. Opens the door.

        • Congratulations on your upcoming memoir. Sounds like a powerful story Deborah! Best, Sally

    • Thank you for your perceptive ideas about the book manifesto. I’ve written a few relationship stories because I wanted to tell them as I felt they had to be told. The desire to write was everything. I wrote six to eight hours per day five to seven days per week until I’d written about 200K words over ten months (I eventually deleted 20K words from the manuscripts and I didn’t flinch). I began this campaign of devotion four months after I retired in Jan of 2011. I had not prepared anything that could be called a manifesto on paper: I carried it in my head (using paper is much better for reference purposes).

      It wasn’t until I really felt true absolute personal devotion to write something that I wrote on paper my “why” of needing to write my story: THE GOOD SOLDIER. I served in the infantry in Vietnam from Oct 1967 thru Oct 68. After forty-seven years I had to tell my story so that other Veterans can realize that PTSD does not have to control our lives. It’s also for the families of Vets so that they may realize what many of us experienced but haven’t spoken of for all these years. Many of us are in our late sixties thru late seventies. During my year in VN, I knew 27 young men who died serving their country. My quest in writing my story is for self-help (mine and anyone who was there) to reach out and find the good life we once thought was impossible. Freedom comes with a price, but why do so many combat service members pay their portion for the rest of their lives?

      I must write daily to release pent up thoughts or else I feel confined in the creative process. Knowing that we as authors may create any situation from a galaxy of possible story lines is a satisfying haven.

      Thank you for your ideas on writing. Paul C. Steffy

    • Sally,
      Thanks for reminding us all the need to get to the reason we write.

      The biggest reason why I write is mainly to help me understand the world through other people’s eyes.

      In trying to understand the world around me, the one I’m wholly apart of, I write. Stories allow me to find resolution to conflict, compassionately try to understand others, and interact with the world through their eyes through imagination.

      The most salient point you made, was that in the purpose of the manifesto, we are better able to explain to your self and others the objective of your writing.

      Thanks again for sharing!

      • Your story moves me, David. Thanks you. Writing IS healing—and, as you say, it is also freedom! What a gift we’ve been given, this writing bug.

        • Yes, the “desire to write is everything.” I so connect to that. It’s a fire that blazes and we obey it. How wonderful that you have used it as a tool for healing and clearing out the trauma and processing “life” on a daily basis. It is the same for me. There’s a validation that occurs that nothing else but writing fulfills. BTW Paul, I did reply earlier to your comment but I think I clicked in the wrong place. Sorry about that. Meanwhile, keep on keeping on.

    • Hey Jason–thanks for sharing your experience. it’s SO easy for that to happen. Our creative vision is fragile, or should I say it is our perception that is fragile, gets pulled in so many directions that we lose track of the passion that guides our true purpose, and that inspired us in the first place. Hooray for reconnecting!

    • Jason says:

      Thanks for this. Mahalo.
      I needed to step back and revisit all of these key points.
      It seems I’ve lost my focus since I’ve started writing–which has lead to a lot of writing that feels “disjointed.”

      It’s coming back into focus. And I’m grateful.

    • Virginia says:

      This hit me right where it needed to. My upcoming series of eBooks, Permission Granted, are based on topics to ‘act on your own behalf’ in a wide variety of aspects of daily living. I’ve received little encouragement in my 64 years ‘to go for it’ whenever I mentioned something I was interested in. As a result, I have rarely pushed myself to do what I really wanted to to. I don’t bemoan it, I was aware but didn’t move past the inertia to change things like I might have. My desire is to remind people that they have so much already, nurture it and watch all areas of your life flourish.

    • Hidden from others but not from yourself! That’s what I love about writing–there’s nothing more powerful for developing self-awareness and perspective!

      • Fantastic! So glad to hear it! This writing business can be lonely. I love giving and receiving support from my fellow writers. We all need to fires burning. Thank you.

    • Thanks for the focused insight, Sally. Perhaps many of us intuitively write by what you describe, but were unable to verbalize the “why.” You did a great job bringing clarity to our intuition.

      Most of my books, even those in the planning stage, arise from dealing with a well-hidden inferiority complex through high school and early college. Knowing that terror gave me a direction in my writing, even into ebooks seemingly removed from that internal depression.

      Thanks for your writings.

      John Hitchcock

    • Thanks for the invitation, Sally. My WHY is this – the book is the reason I’m here. Contemplating it and writing it is the process of becoming, and so it’s primarily for me, not for others. I’d LOVE other people to enjoy it and get inspired, but it’s mostly for my own growth. I guess I’m like Maxine (my mom’s middle name…)

      • That’s a big why–thank you for sharing. Just curious: fiction or nonfiction?


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