“Good architecture is like a good therapy session, a good marriage, a good poem – gently and almost invisibly allowing you to be you, as flawed and as beautiful as you are.” – Robert Sullivan
The best architects design buildings that are works of beauty on the outside while supporting the work being done on the inside. The best books can create the same effect, blending form and function.
Yet the distinction remains; an invisible line in the sand between beautiful books like literature and novels, and functional ones from the nonfiction realm, like business books. Literature is expected to paint a pretty word picture: an emotional, imaginative experience for the reader. Business books are expected to educate and inform the reader on the subject at hand. Business biographies and even memoirs typically prioritize function over form.
There are mountains of books available, all demanding readers’ attention. Wouldn’t it be smart for business authors to up their game a little, and learn how to blend form with function to deliver an awesomely educational AND enjoyable reading experience? There is nothing in the official writing rulebook that says fiction and nonfiction writing must stay in their separate corners, like boxers in red and blue trunks. There is also no such thing as an official writing rulebook.
Business owners and entrepreneurs are some of the most voracious readers out there. Many are following the advice from countless articles that list “reading books” as one of the top daily habits of the uber successful. When the one percent aren’t making millions of dollars, hanging out on their private islands, and inventing things to change the world, they’re drinking in the sweet nectar of knowledge.
Authors: since you’re writing books anyway, why not go the extra mile and treat those readers to a REAL ride? After all, if people want to read cut and dry information, they’d read a blog post. People read books for an experience. In other words, you can have your novel and learn stuff too.
Hats off to the “business authors” who have done exactly what I’m talking about – blending form and function, fiction elements with nonfiction in “fable” style books. Authors like Patrick Lencioni, Steve Farber, and Bob Burg have masterfully crafted complete, well-written fiction stories that are jam packed with team development, leadership, and many other brands of business and life knowledge.
How can you follow their writing lead, whether in your self-help memoir or business book?
Start by taking inventory of your ideas, life stories, and personal and professional lessons that you’re considering putting into a book. Think of all the ways you educate and inspire others. See any patterns? Common denominators?
Next, choose a structure for your book that incorporates all this content into a flow that has form and function.
FORM: Creative elements, storytelling, your real life stories and lessons told through a fiction character as the narrator, a fable that makes your point within the construct of a made up story. The fun and beauty of writing!
FUNCTION: The business goals of your book like guiding the reader to your business offer, using your book as a tool to generate revenue through speaking engagements, events and products, and other ways of using your book as a launching pad for your grand entrepreneurial vision.
Finding a good structure for your book can be as easy as a Google search – no library visit required! Start by researching structures that work for the specific genre of book you’re writing. You can also branch out and look at how comparable books to yours are structured.
Remember, there is no one “right” structure for a book. Even for a business book, you have (my) permission to get as creative as you want with your structure. As long as it serves: a) your book’s content and message b) your target readers and c) your functional goals for the book
Finally, my most important piece of advice for integrating form and creative beauty into the function of your book to deliver information, is this: Read that which you wish to write. Read fiction, poems, novels, business fables like the ones listed earlier in this post, and other works that place your mind outside the boundaries of straight “nonfiction” writing.
After all, how can you do anything well if you don’t study it?