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Writing a Great Self-Help Book Takes Knowledge and Heart

I want to begin this blog entry by saying that nobody ever needs hand-holding while reading a how-to crafting book.

Except that, all of a sudden, I remember the time back in early high school when I tried to make my own Pride and Prejudice-style dress and ended up a tearful wreck. Clearly then, I need to revise my intended intro.

Nobody ever should NEED hand-holding while reading a how-to crafting book. Really, they shouldn’t need much hand-holding while reading any other kind of how-to book either. Or implementing the instructions to such things.

Additional guidance, sure. Some good-old comradery and complain-fests? Why not.

But if someone is sobbing hysterically about it (like I may or may not have done) or about ready to put their fist through a wall, there are probably some underlying issues that need to be resolved.

Perhaps a self-help book is needed.

How about yours?

Great idea! Though first, of course, you have to write it. And you have to write it with the understanding that self-help books aren’t just another how-to guide.

They push far greater goals, which means there’s a lot more on the line than acquiring a fun new skillset.

Make it followable.

As first mentioned in Tuesday’s writing Definition, the self-help and how-to genres follow the same basic structure. They’re step-by-step guides to show readers how to accomplish a stated objective.

The difference is that, self-help books have to be a lot more emotionally, psychologically and/or spiritually supportive. They’re not just promising some physical accomplishment. They’re encouraging something more significant. So they should include just as much encouragement as instruction.

Writing a self-help book involves telling your readers that they can do it. This is possible. They can make it!

This means that, yes, facts and figures are important. Most definitely tell your readers why they need to change, how they need to change, and what changing will do to and for them.

Moreover, those facts and figures should be organized, including orderly instructions that readers can follow – easily. Self-help books are not about elevating yourself as a writer, showing off your poetic skills or philosophical capabilities. They’re about elevating readers as valuable, worthwhile human beings with bright potential futures in front of them.

So when writing a self-help book, be clear. Just don’t be too concise, always keeping this next part in mind.

Your readers may or may not have a support system to back them up on the journey they want to take. If they’re alcoholics looking for a guide to get sober, they might come from a family and social circle of drunks. If they struggle with anger issues, it might be because they grew up in the foster system, disappointed by seemingly everyone they came in contact with.

You’re the only ally they know of. So spend some extra page space being that ally.

Give them a step or stage of the recovery process, then be honest with them. Explain the difficulties involved. Remind them to implement everything in stages instead of trying to tackle it all at once. Acknowledge that setbacks might happen.

But let them know they’re not failures if they fall. They’re human. And they’re on a journey toward something better.

Then give them the encouragement they need to get back up and get to it. That's what writing a great self-help book takes.

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