Genre tips

Today’s #AtoZChallenge: Genres–How-to

The A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to post every day except Sundays during the month of April on a thematic topic. This year, my second year with A to Z, I’ll cover writing genres.

Today’s genre:



How-to: Books that guide users step-by-step through a process

Tipsa to z

  1. Pick a subject you are an expert on.
  2. Start with an outline. Research even if you think you know what you’re doing. View your topic through the eyes of those not ‘expert’ at it.
  3. Write. See if the steps are clear. Edit and rewrite.
  4. Update often (which makes ebooks more flexible). Things change. Change with them.
  5. This can be any form of media–book, video, comic, or another.
  6. The best how-tos blend a variety of media–a video with text overlays, a text with pictures.
  7. Don’t assume readers understand. Clarify.
  8. Make the ingredients as general as possible so all readers can find them.
  9. Don’t make your topic too specific unless that’s your audience. For example, if you’re writing about using screencast tools, explain it in general terms and then give examples with various popular tools (like Office Mix or Screencast-o-matic).

Popular Books

  1. Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.
  2. The For Dummies series
  3. How to Tie a Tie (video)
  4. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  5. On Writing by Stephen King
  6. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  7. Ted talks
  8. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Click for complete list of  2018 A to Z genres

More H Genres:



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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the upcoming Born in a Treacherous Time. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

64 thoughts on “Today’s #AtoZChallenge: Genres–How-to

  1. Pingback: #AtoZChallenge: Genres–High Fantasy | WordDreams...

  2. If you’ve ever done “Teach a Robot to Make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich”, you know how difficult it is to actually write effective How-To!
    I didn’t realize Tuesday’s with Morrie could be considered how to … I remember reading it as an inspirational story a very long time ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haven’t seen that one but I’m googling it. It sounds like a great example.

      I’m back–I love it. I post a ‘human robot’ activity every year during Hour of Code (December). I think I’ll use this one this year instead.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I sold something from the For Dummies series every day I worked at that famous brick and mortar bookstore. Also, The Complete Idiot’s Guide series. They get you started but don’t make you expert.

    This is probably the only genre I would write an outline first and then faithfully follow. Except I’m an expert on nothing, so no How To book from me. (You are all very lucky.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Jacqui – ‘how to ..’ find out where to go – intelligently without wasting time … I can think of two bloggers other than the professional ones … or ones I call put under that heading … you and Elizabeth Spann Craig … both always H for helpful and H for have lots of useful advice and guidance …

    Also this post expands our minds re the cross-over aspect … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I love How To books and posts. Love the step-by-step instructions and information which is pure gold. Tuesdays with Morrie… I have read that book from your list and it has some wise life lessons to learn.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ve put Stephen King’s book on my ever growing TBR list. This How-To is particularly interesting to me because I’ve been thinking about doing some How-To’s of scrapbooking videos. Thanks for the tips!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It is astounding just how many how-to videos there are on YouTube. I’m always going out there to find out how to do something, and Mary tells her knitting friends who have questions to look out there, because that’s what she does. I think YouTube is going to replace the printed word for how-tos in the not-too-distant future.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Now that spring break is over, I’m finally making my way through the master list and finding all my usual A to Z haunts again. 🙂

    I’m not a huge fan of how to books. Maybe I have issues with people telling me how to do things. But yes, this is all good advice for those looking to write one.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I love Ted Talks and have either read or have on my to-be-read pile a lot of those in your list. The only Dummies book I have, though, is Forensics for Dummies.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Yes I know what you mean. It can be insulting being too simplistic but probably better than losing the audience with unfamiliar jargon and concepts. Glossaries might help there I suppose.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Happy Monday, Jacqui. Nice to read you again 🙂
    The How to tips are good ones, and I think they’re all necessary, but I don’t connect books 5, 6 or 8 with that list. Covey is squarely in the self-help genre for me, Albom in the inspirational (if that exists), and King’s book is more literary memoir. Just my opinion, but I shudder to think of King’s book, in particular, being grouped with the dummy series. For one thing, King writes beautifully!

    H is for Hundreds and Thousands

    Liked by 2 people

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