If you read this blog regularly, you’re familiar with what I call “pre-writing.” Briefly, pre-writing is what happens before you start writing.
In my opinion, whether you engage in pre-writing will make or break your book.
Why? Because you don’t have time to waste. You’re a busy financial advisor — or other financial professional — and you’ve got to spend the time that you’ve sent aside to write actually writing.
You don’t want to waste time going down rabbit holes, staring in frustration at a blank screen or writing around your subject.
In this blog, we’ll go over the necessary steps in pre-writing plus a few more effective strategies that will help you stay on track.
Strategy #1: Create an outline
An outline is essential. Not any outline, but an outline that systematically addresses your prospect’s deepest fears and the solutions address those concerns.
Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes and work through, in a detailed way, how you convert those prospects into actual clients. Those are the steps that you need to include in your outline.
If you’re a financial advisor working on retirement income planning, for example, then you start with the pain points that your audience worries about, such as:
Running out of money in retirement
Turning retirement savings into retirement income
Minimizing the impact of taxes in retirement
Deciding when to retire
Then you move onto the tactics that you use to solve these problems for your clients. Support each major outline point — there should be nine to 12 ideally. These are your chapters. Don’t worry if you don’t have catchy titles yet, you can figure those out later. with credible evidence, personal experience, client stories or examples.
Strategy #2: Use sub-heads
As you flesh out your outline, support each chapter with four to five sub points. Those are the sections of your chapter. If you’re fleshing out the point minimizing taxes in retirement, it could look like this:
How taxation works in retirement
How much of your savings are taxable in retirement?
What might happen to tax rates in the future
Shift your savings strategy from tax-deferred
Consider converting tax-deferred assets to Roths
These points can then be used as subheads in your writing. Four to five points a chapter works well because then your chapters aren’t too short or too long. Instead, they are right-sized for your readers.
Strategy #3: Support your points
Once you’ve got your sub-points and subtopics, it’s important to support those with information. But information alone won’t help you move your reader through the book. And your job is to help your reader understand their challenges more fully and introduce them to your solutions.
How do you do this?
This is what will make your book come alive. Don’t overdo it — you don’t have to support each and every point all four ways. But using a careful mix of these tactics will fully engage your reader, creating a richer experience.
Strategy #4: State your point directly
At the beginning of every chapter and every section — and every paragraph for that matter — state your point as directly as possible. You don’t want to leave your reader guessing as to what you’re trying to say.
Using active voice reinforces this directness. Because, after all, you do want your readers to take action based on your writing. Being clear and direct in your writing is very appealing, although it can take some skill.
If you aren’t sure if you are writing directly or clearly, ask your spouse, your goal buddy or a trusted colleague to read what you’re writing and explain it back to you.
Strategy #5: Write simply
Simplicity is another key to effective writing. You don’t want to sound like you swallowed a dictionary or thesaurus — believe me, you won’t impress anyone with your fancy vocabulary. Simplicity doesn’t equal simple. Dumbing down can easily come across as patronizing.
Clarifying and simplifying makes your writing as accessible as possible, especially since the average reading comprehension level of U.S. consumers is that of a 9th grader. It may sound crazy, but keeping your writing as readable, clear and simple attracts readers, because it reduces anxiety around the complex financial topics you’re explaining.
You can check on your writing level by using readability tools at www.readability-score.com and readable.com. You may be surprised that your writing scores at such a high level — in the teens, rather than lower.
Stay reader focused
You are writing for your reader. PERIOD. Nothing else matters.
That’s why you’ve got to stay organized and focused.
Without that organization — a roadmap, if you will — you have no destination to aim for, which means that you’ll wander indirectly from topic to topic. You can’t making digesting your points difficult — you need to state your points directly to the reader. If readers can’t follow what you’re writing, you will lose them.
Writing takes lots of practice — many professional writers who have written their entire lives still aren’t satisfied with their progress. So don’t be upset if writing your book doesn’t come as easily or as quickly as you would like.
If you are patient, organized and continue to write, your hard work will translate to a more effective manuscript and better use of your precious time.