Everyone’s met one. She two with pigtails or he’s four with hair sticking up on one side, but the one thing they have in common is “Why?”
Eat your vegetables.
Wash your face.
Yup, it’s human nature to ask why.
We want to know the reasons behind each line item in the local government budget, or–really– why should we eat those vegetables?
Yet the “why” is the one element beginning writers often overlook when writing their books. They’ve got the expertise, and do a thorough job with who, what, when and where. And let me tell you, they crush the how– it’s the bulk of an entrepreneur’s expertise– how to use the great system I’ve come up with, how to lose five pounds in two days, how to improve your life or keep an orchid alive. (That last one’s a mystery to me!)
Writers answer those questions well, but why (See what I did there?) do they leave out the “why?”
Let’s go back to the questioning kids. If you’ve been around the younger generation for a span of one holiday meal, you were tempted to say– or actually found the words coming out of your mouth– “because I said so.” It’s ok. Take a deep breath. It’s natural to want to assert “I’m an authority and I know this is right.” And as an author, that’s a beautiful impulse that’s going to get you far. That said, a child may fall for “because I said so,” but your readers will not.
They want to know why your weight loss system will work better than the three previous ones they’ve tried, why your products or strategies will have an impact in their lives, why science supports your method, why French Fries are the next big thing… you get the idea.
Why is an essential question to answer for your reader.
Why questions are also the hardest to answer.
Think about it: the reason so many adults are tempted by the “because I said so” route is because we’re grasping for answers.
Why is the sky blue?
Why is the moon sometimes round and sometimes a C?
Why aren’t all the cars red?
It’s mind-dizzying! Even when we know the answer, it can be difficult to articulate. But that’s exactly what we must do for our readers.
We must break the process down into its smallest elements and explain each one. In order to do that, we must have a deep understanding of our why.
And there’s the rub. Of course we know what we’re talking about, we know it inside and out. That’s why we’re writing a book on it. But the breakdown, finding the right words to explain the why, or sometimes even finding out which why questions are priorities– those are the writing areas that pose the challenge.
I’ll be addressing the process to dig deeper into your why in my next post. I’ll also be walking writers through in-depth exercises on just this topic at my upcoming Entrepreneurs’ Writing Retreat, Book It! Your Publishing Roadmap to More Sales, More Speaking Engagements and More Credibility, in Delray Beach, FL this March. There are fewer than ten spots left, but I’d love to have you join us. Drop me a line and I’ll fill you in.
Not ready for a retreat, but want to stay posted on more writing tips to bring out your best writer? I’d love to share my weekly writing tips with you, and hear about what you’re writing. Sign up for weekly tips here.