How to Write a Good Book | Finding Audience, Identity, and Purpose

By Colin Sharpe

August 12, 2020

Hello, and welcome to the next step in our Exceptionally Silly Guide to Writing a Book From Someone Who Hasn’t Even Made it Big Yet [Working Title]. In this article/podcast, we’ll be focusing on how to write a good book. 

Now this one’s gonna be an interesting section, because what “good” is will be different for every single person writing a book. And that’s not only okay. In fact, that’s fundamental to writing anything worth writing. 

So for this article, we’ll talk about the things to consider to really feel proud of a book you’ve written. Cause ultimately, you’re the first and most important person that should be satisfied with what you’ve done.

After the last article, you might have a ton of ideas kicking around in your head for what books to write. Or you might have one that’s called out to you as THE option to pursue. 

If you’ve got a ton of options, this article will help you decide which one most resonates with you. And if you’ve got one AWESOME idea, this article will probably make your love for it even deeper. 

How To Decide If You Have a Good Book Idea

The key to this is actually very simple. Ask yourself three questions. 

  1. Do I have a clear purpose in this book? One that resonates with me, and I’m willing to put in effort around?
  2. Do I have an audience in mind for this book? Who am I looking to affect and talk to with this piece of writing? 
  3. Is there something fundamental to me, and my identity that I can apply to this book? 

We’ll talk about each in further detail below.

Do I Have a Clear Purpose in Writing This Book? 

Remember in our first article, when we talked about how you should be clear on your purpose when writing a book? Well, that can change as you’re coming up with ideas, so as you’re deciding on a particular idea, it’s good to make sure you still have a clear purpose

Is this book aiming to share some knowledge? 

Do you want to entertain and engage people? 

Is your purpose to bring about some sort of change? 

Or is your purpose some combination of all three? 

Within these major categories, you can get specific, and I actually recommend getting as specific as you feel comfortable. Write it down, even if it’s just a little note somewhere. It helps.

For example, for the Seventh Valkyrie, my purpose was to write an entertaining, engaging story that used emotionally complex characters and societies to subtly examine societal issues I see around me. 

Now you can say that even that’s a bit generic, but I don’t want to reveal some later plot points so that’s as specific as I’ll get. 😉

Another great example is To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar. Kendrick has spoken that his purpose in writing To Pimp a Butterfly was to explore the many facets of black culture, rap culture, and fame through his own personal story.  

If you haven’t listened, do it. Definitely on my Mt. Rushmore

Whatever your purpose, I seriously recommend taking a moment to write it down and get clear. It helps keep your eye on the prize and ensures that everything inside the book is cohesive.

Picking and Understanding Your Audience

So once you have a purpose, the next step is ensuring that you’re communicating that purpose to your audience in a compelling way. Now this, again, can be as specific as you want. 

I’ll anticipate some fear that I had a lot in my early days of writing, which is that it can seem scary and limiting to ‘confine’ yourself to a specific audience. So I think about it differently.

You’ve Already Limited It (Gasp!)

Think about what you’re writing. You’ve already chosen a language you’re going to write it in, whether that’s your native language or another one. And that’s limiting your audience. 

You’ve already picked a genre. So presumably you’re writing to at least include people in that genre. You probably have an idea of whether this is a kid’s book, a middle grade, young adult, new adult, or adult book. 

And that shouldn’t feel like limiting yourself. It should feel like understanding the best way to communicate to your readers. 

Think About Who Will LOVE Your Book

Now, every book has the possibility to be that transcendental work like Harry Potter or… god, 50 Shades of Gray that takes the world by storm, reaching far beyond its target fanbase. But no one has any idea which stories will do that. 

So rather than thinking about how many people you’re potentially missing out on, instead think about who you can find that will truly, truly love your book! Because if you can speak to them, they’ll spread the word, and that’s a much better path to success than trying to write something that pleases everyone. 

For example, with the Seventh Valkyrie I’m aiming for people looking for a story with a bit more character complexity than you sometimes find in fantasy, as well as people looking for something a bit more imaginative than your standard drama. A specific audience, but potentially a pretty broad one. 

Think about who will absolutely love your book, and speak to them, write to them. You’ll be surprised how much it helps focus your book. 

The Story Only You Can Tell | Your Identity As a Writer

Once you have a purpose for this book, and you understand your audience, the next — and I’d argue the most important step — is to understand what you can bring to this story that no one else can. 

Purpose and audience are nuts and bolts of a book. You are the soul of the book and without you, and your own signature left on each page, the story will feel flat, and could honestly be written by a committee, a focus group, or an algorithm.

Your experiences, your passions, your quirks, your own life story. All of these are food for leaving your own, unique stamp on this story. They are the fresh perspective no one else can offer. They provide the details that no one else could think of. 

Ask yourself: why are you the one telling this story? Why is it important to you? That little voice in your head that brought you this far, there’s a reason for it. Just let it show. 

Remember To Pimp a Butterfly? Kendrick embraces every aspect of his own story to weave a unique narrative that has a purpose and an audience, but also could NEVER be told by anyone else.

With the Seventh Valkyrie, I knew that my experience both growing up in New Orleans and traveling the world gave me a unique perspective on living in interesting places, one that could inspire a world that was worth exploring. 

Amsterdam, a fantastically inspirational place I visited on my travels

That, combined with my passion for understanding social differences and social issues, gave me the fuel to write this story.  

I challenge you to find that identity within whatever story you choose because it will transform your writing.

The Final Word

So the exercise I’d recommend after this section is to take that list of ideas, and find which ones resonate with you. The ideas that really resonate you will have a clear purpose, audience, and identity. 

Once you’ve settled on a story idea, really make sure that you’ve got these three ideas very clear. Write them out, scribble them down somewhere if you can. You’ll be surprised at how much it provides a sense of clarity as you set out to write a good book.

Note! Some people are of the belief that you just start writing the book and the rest comes. I used to be of that mentality, and then I wrote an 1100 page novel I ended up starting over. You might succeed, but you might not, and with a book, that can be a hefty investment of time.

My suggestion if you’re still unsure is this. If you’ve got raw ideas, or you want to ‘taste test’, try writing a key scene, or draft up a potential outline. If you can feel that purpose, audience, and identity shining through, you’ll feel very clear. 

From there, you’re just about ready to start planning a book!

Introduction and Table of Contents
Part 1 — Should I Write a Book?
Part 2 — Finding Things to Write About
Part 3 — How to Write a Good Book

Final Notes

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Love y’all, and until next time!

Colin Sharpe

About the author

Hey y'all, my name is Colin, and I'm the writer and creator of the Seventh Valkyrie Series. Born in raised in New Orleans, currently on a tour of the world writing wherever I go, and turning it all into stories. Hope y'all like reading them as much as I enjoy writing them!

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