Make the Last, First


This is a photo of a shoe last. To make shoes, a pair of these have to be made first and then the shoe is formed around it.


I am getting ready to put out another nonfiction book called Living Today, The Power of Now. Currently the book is in the editing process and should be ready in a few weeks. I have also been working on a book about how to write a book for business called Write a Book to Ignite Your Business, A Why-To and How-To Guide. It will include a lot of the methods in book writing that I have learned over the years. Here’s a few of the things I learned works well for me as I am getting started writing nonfiction books

Putting a Fence around Content–Making the Last First

The second most important thing that I learned about writing better and faster was to outline my book before doing much of the work in writing it. .

When I was growing up, Dad used to have a saying which was “when you make shoes, you have to make the last first.” He said something about it being the wooden part of the shoe that was the basis of the shoes. I still didn’t understand what he meant until I actually saw a shoe last. The shoe last is the wooden form that you stretch the leather around to form the shoe. Having a last makes making shoes a lot easier. Without a last, your shoes are nothing more than moccasins because they won’t have that shoe like shape. The same goes for writing a book. Having a structure within the book helps a person write a book better and faster.

Putting a Fence around Content-Know–Your Book’s Conclusion

One of the most important things that I have learned about how to write better and faster is to begin with the end in mind. This reminds me of a story that I heard a number of years ago about an elementary school in New York City where for a number of years, the school didn’t have a fence around the school yard. In the book, the children would hang close to the entrance to the building and didn’t spend any time on the school equipment.

Finally, the school board agreed to put up a fence. An amazing thing happened. The children no longer hung out around the entrance, but played in every corner of the building up to the edge of the fence. When they had boundaries, they felt they had more freedom to play rather than less.

When I write my books, I like to know the end of the book soon after I start. I have learned that when I know the end of the book early on, I feel as though I have more freedom to write. If I don’t know the ending, I ramble in generalities. However, if I know how my book is going to end, I write more from the heart. I know where I am going with my book. In this case, I am less likely to go down rabbit holes.

Start Your Book’s Description Earlier Rather than Later

It used to be that when I wrote a book’s description, I would write it AFTER I wrote the book. Now I start writing it BEFORE I begin writing the book. As I write the book, I go back and edit the book’s description until I have exactly what I feel works best to hook the reader into reading that book. I write the description first by coordinating it with my book’s outline. Then as I write the book, I continue to edit and upgrade the description to make it more interesting. I do my best to hook the reader into reading the book. I do SEO research and find the best words to include in the description to make it search engine friendly. As I move into the editing stage of writing my book, I begin editing the description as well. By the time my book returns from “extra eyes editing”, I no longer frantically try to figure out what to include in the blurb on the back of the book. Instead, I have a well written description that does all the work that a description is supposed to do. The description is a short synopsis that doesn’t give away too much information that hooks the reader and supplies the right words that people use to find the book’s information from search engines.

Create Your Book’s Title

Another thing you should determine before writing my first draft is to determine a working title for my book. A number of ways exist for writing a book title. One thing that helped me decide what title to give my literary baby is to give it a name as see how well it fits. I know that my book’s title is important because it is my first tool for hooking the reader into reading my book. A good strategy for figuring out how to name a book is to go to Amazon and examine the titles of the current best sellers in that category. One technique that I sometimes use is to use is to use a catchy, even trendy title as the main title and then tell what the book will do for the reader. For instance, in my newest book, Write a Book to Ignite Your Business, A Why-to, How-to Guide, the book’s main title and subtitle work together to create a title that hooks the reader by telling it what the book will do for them. The title provides information about the book will teach the reader, without sounding boring. Boring titles often a a sign of boring books, at least that is what readers often think.

Begin Your Book with the End in Mind

Just as a shoemaker should make the last first, for lasting success, you as an author need to determine your book’s end audience from the beginning of the writing process. Start your book by knowing how your book will end, knowing what your book is about, having at least a rudimentary outline, designing a good book description and creating good working title not only make writing your book easier to write, doing all of these things also make it easier to sell copies of the book when it is finally done.


  1. You and I take different paths when writing a book. I’ve never done an outline on any of my books, and honestly, I rarely know the ending when I start. 🙂 Different strokes for different folks. 🙂

    • 1authorcygnetbrown said:

      Aren’t your books based on your own experiences even though they are fiction? Wouldn’t that give you structure even though you don’t have an outline?

  2. Great post, Donna. I agree we need to understand what we’re trying to say to communicate the idea. Yes, we can ponder along, but we need to have an end in sight, especially in a non-fiction book. Once there is a structure it can change if it needs to based on feedback, etc.. Having an outline doesn’t mean we can’t be flexible, it just means we aren’t wandering in the dark. Another good point you made about having a title and description sooner rather than later. Marketing begins before it’s finished.

  3. 1authorcygnetbrown said:

    Exactly, I agree totally. Getting something down on paper is always important so that you’re not staring at a blank page! Having an outline allows a writer to have something to at least edit. I am learning that it is never too early to think about how to market a book.

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