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Each Chapter Better Than the Last: 3 Super Writing Tips to Rock Your Self-Help Book

Lisa Tener, Book Coach
Thanks, MJ Miniati for the photo you took last week!

I’m in the midst of editing Micaela Karlsen’s manuscript for A Plant-Based Life, on deadline for her publisher, AMACOM Books. She sends a half chapter and I’m turning this one around in less than a day.

What’s making it easy is this: Each chapter reads better than the last. Despite her rush, she’s incorporating what she learned in the previous chapters to the current one.

Here are a few techniques making this chapter particularly compelling. Try them with your own writing:

  1. Putting herself in her readers’ shoes–or skirts in the case of this dietary/lifestyle book: The writer anticpates the challenges her readers will run into–sympathizing, encouraging and providing responses to their challenges.
Tip: Imagine a specific reader and write to that person as if you were having a conversation. Click To Tweet

2. Simplifying and Chunking: She’s chunked content into charts that provide information at a glance. At my suggestion, she moved a huge chunk of a chart from chapter 2 to 3. She’s also broken down larger chunks into smaller sections with playful titles that will be meaningful to readers.

Tip: Some of her chapter headings use questions readers might ask themselves. Try this. Humor can work well, too, here.


a plant based life book cover3. Start Positive and Keep Stoking the Fire: Transformation takes work. If you’re writing a self-help book, your readers have plenty of opportunity to resist change, beat themselves up or self-sabotage. By starting each chapter–and many sections–with a positive, inspirational story or a bit of cheerleading, you help your readers fill their tanks before using any fuel. When they waste a bit of fuel on sabotaging or doubting themselves, there’s still fuel left in the tank from your earlier efforts. This makes it that much easier for readers to make some of the changes your book suggests.

Tip: This writer starts the chapter by reminding readers what they have already accomplished by chapter 3 and encourages them to know that this is a big leap. After the cheerleading, she also acknowledges the challenges they may be facing. Then it’s time for an inspirational story to help readers know they can do it, too. editing

Have a favorite writing tip? Please share below as a comment.

Have a writing question? We’ll take those, too. I love to answer readers’ questions.

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

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