A Broad Overview of the Work You'll Do

A Broad Overview of the Work You’ll Do

This curriculum is divided into two main phases: Phase I (working ON your book), and Phase II (working IN your book).

The main goal of Phase I is to allow you to get a handle on your book as a whole, distill its main objectives and intellectual contributions, and figure out how all of its pieces fit together.

The main goal of Phase II is to give you a concrete, repeatable revising strategy to systematically match your prose to the plan you produced in Phase I, chapter by chapter, section by section.

Introducing Phase I: Working ON Your Book

When you begin your Phase I work, you’ll quickly realize that at the dissertation stage, you couldn’t possibly have anticipated all of the threads that would ultimately develop—you had to write the dissertation to see what emerged.

But because you couldn’t have planned how everything would work together until you actually wrote your dissertation, you’ll now find that your current manuscript is amoeba-like: the book stretches to contain your chapters.

When you take a closer look at your chapters, you’ll also begin to realize that while they all relate to your book’s topic, they are hardly parallel. That is, they differ in size, spacing, orientation, and scope.

To do the most justice to your ideas, however, your book needs the opposite structure. Whereas your dissertation was the amoeba-like sum of its chapters, your book’s objectives dictate your book chapters’ structure, scope, and order. In short, your book should be structured from the outside in.

So, our main task in Phase I of this work (working ON your book)—the core of this curriculum—will be to create a plan for your book, like this:

In this model, each chapter works in service of your book, not the other way around.

But articulating the plan is much more difficult than it sounds. It involves making major decisions about what your book (and, consequently, each of your chapters) does.

Making this plan—which I call “setting the path”—also means eliminating other possible paths. You’ll realize that there are 2,384 different paths your book could take, and that you must fully commit to one path that serves your book’s contributions.

It’s this very process of eliminating paths and justifying the one you choose, though, that produces confident writing.


Your overall work in Phase I (working ON your book) is divided into five main objectives:

I. Your Book, on Its Own Terms

  • Your Book, an Overview
  • Reviewing and Aligning Claims, Scope, and Structure

II. Clarifying Your Book’s Main Ideas

  • Drafting Your Book Learning Objectives
  • Revising Your Book Learning Objectives

III. Transitioning to the Chapters

  • Evaluating your Chapters and Ensuring They Serve Your Book
  • Ensuring Your Chapters are Parallel and Revising Your Book’s Structure

IV. Aligning Your Chapters with Your Book

  • Drafting Your Chapter Learning Objectives
  • Revising Your Chapter Learning Objectives

V. Committing to Your Book’s Path

  • Tying Up Loose Ends
  • Putting It All Together

At the end of Phase I (working ON your book), you’ll experience mixed feelings. You’ll be optimistic about your plan and have a renewed enthusiasm for your book. And yet you’ll also see the distance between your future book and the manuscript you have now. In short, you’ll see this: 

Straightening that all out is where Phase II (working IN your book) comes in.

Introducing Phase II: Working IN Your Book

After you complete Phase I (working ON your book), you will begin Phase IIworking IN your book, guided by a concrete, repeatable set of systematic steps you can take to revise and reshape your book’s current contents to fit your plan, section by section, chapter by chapter. I call the framework you will use to complete the Phase II work “The Tour Guide Model.”

I’ll give you a more in-depth introduction to Phase II after you complete the Phase I work.