Can you answer this question about your book?

I give a presentation called “The 5 Things You Need to Start (and Finish!) Your Book.”

Thing #1: You need an answer to this question:

Why does this book need to exist?

I do worry that telling people this off the bat will discourage them. It sounds like an intimidating question.

But I don’t ask it to talk anyone out of anything. I ask it to talk them into continuing.


The name of that presentation is “Start (and Finish!)” for a reason.

Starting is hard and finishing is also hard. (And also the middle is hard. 🙃)

Which means, as writers working on a book-length project, we’re often finding ourselves about to quit. When that happens, the answer can often be to take a break.

Sometimes, after the break’s gone on for a few days, you want to beat a path to the place where the fire of your book idea burns, so you can watch it and maybe poke at it a little.

I find that asking this question can help you do that.

Not, “Why am I doing this?” but “Why does it wanna be here?”

“Why does this book need to come out of me? Why can’t it just stay inside?”


So maybe for you, the answer leads to imagining a person you’ll help with it. It might lead to some kind of day-dreamy vision of a reader lifting your book off the shelf, opening and reading until a look of surprised knowing crosses their face when they read this thing that you say in only the way that you can say it. And they recognize something.

Getting curious about your particular answer to this question can sometimes lift you out of a muddy, stuck place.


PS: Once in a while, I ask a comically small seashell or an Amazon box or a piece of Tupperware, “Why does this book need to exist?” and I put it to my ear and listen for the answer. #GetSilly.

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