How to restart a stalled book

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about how to restart a stalled book…

Is your writing project: sitting in the deep-freeze? Taking a vacation? In hiding under witness protection? Stalled?

All writers deal with projects that just won’t let themselves be finished. But a recent post on Jane Friedman’s writing blog offers some helpful suggestions under the headline: “7 Questions to Reboot a Nonfiction Book You’ve Been Writing Forever.

Here are writer Jennifer Louden’s questions:

1. What does my just right reader already know about my topic?

2. What do I know about my subject that I think everybody else already knows?

3. What don’t I trust my reader to know about my topic?

4. Who do I most want to reach and change with my book?

5. What does the reader I want to reach most urgently need to know?

6. What have I experienced around my topic nobody else has?

7. What is unique about my experience?

She wraps up with the following quote, which also echoes my advice about the value of using models.

“The best nonfiction resource you have on hand are the books on your shelves, starting with the table of contents and then studying chapters for the elements or templates that author uses to organize their material.

“Seeing structure as something you can borrow, where you can mix and match elements you like from different books—and doing so with your existing book in mind—is often a giant aha moment. Suddenly you can see a shape to fill in with your existing ideas and stories. It’s not just a gargantuan blob of words anymore.”

Understand that we all tire of our own writing projects from time to time, and we can benefit from a big kick in the pants. If you want to learn how to restart a stalled book of yours, begin by asking yourself the questions above, and then start looking for a model that can help set you on the right path.

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