Day 4: Tell a story
From Laura Portwood-Stacer, founder of Manuscript Works
Angora goats have a 320-degree field of vision. (Photo by Laura Portwood-Stacer)
Tell a story about the most interesting thing you’ve encountered while doing the research for your book (or whatever project you’re working on right now). Your story might be about an ethnographic encounter, an archival document, a text you’ve closely analyzed, or some other kind of data that you’ve gathered. Imagine you’re relating your story to someone who isn’t familiar with your research yet.
After telling your story, try to articulate why this story was the one that came to mind when you were prompted to come up with the “most interesting thing” you’ve encountered. What makes it the most interesting, in light of all the research you’ve done and in light of your knowledge of the scholarly literature on your topic?
The purpose of this prompt is to connect with what is really driving you to share your research findings with the world. You’ve spent years immersed in your original research and the scholarly literature. Given all that you know at this point, you have special insight into each ethnographic episode, archival text, or piece of data that you’ve encountered. You know why it matters in a way that no one else does yet, because no one else has the exact same combination of experience and theoretical exploration that you are bringing to your topic.
The second part of the prompt (“why is this the most interesting story to tell?”) is intended to help you recognize and value your original point of view so that you can communicate it to others who may need to know why your research is vital and worthy of publication.
If you’re able to talk about your research topic in an interesting way and explain why yourself and others should find your topic interesting, you’ll set yourself up for success with book publishers and any other parties that you’ll need to rally in support of your scholarship, such as employers, grant funders, and others.
I specialize in helping academics write outstanding book proposals for scholarly presses, so I’m always thinking about how writers can learn to better communicate with publishers. To get free book publishing tips and announcements of upcoming programs, subscribe to my Manuscript Works newsletter.
Laura Portwood-Stacer, founder of Manuscript Works