Preparing to write a book is a bit like getting ready to cook a four-course dinner for important guests.

There’s nothing worse than being knee-deep in prep and suddenly needing to run to the market for a little more of this and that. Or, worse, finding out that you can’t make what you wanted to because you can’t get that ingredient anymore.

As every good cook knows, you need to make sure you have everything you need up front, from a pinch of cinnamon to a cube of real butter; from a prime cut of salmon to a fresh bunch of cilantro.

Like the ingredients in a great recipe, those that make up your book will vary, depending on the kind of book you’re writing, its theme, style, and other factors.

But whether you’re writing an autobiography, memoir, a book about your company, your invention, your relationship with a VIP, or any other topic that involves your story, you can save time, energy, and heartache by gathering up all the necessary ingredients in advance—and even some you may not think are necessary right now.

These may include:

  • Articles you’ve written
  • Articles about you
  • Articles about your topic (your company, invention, relationship with a VIP, and so on)
  • Articles about other people that also offer information about you
  • TV and radio programs, posts and podcasts you’ve written or participated in
  • TV and radio programs, posts and podcasts about you
  • TV and radio programs, posts and podcasts about other people that offer information about you
  • Transcripts of speeches you’ve given
  • Transcripts of speeches given by others that include information about you
  • PowerPoint presentations you’ve given
  • PowerPoint presentations given by others that include information about you
  • Your journals or diary
  • Your calendar
  • Letters, telegrams and cards you’ve written and/or received
  • Family bible or other item recording family names and dates
  • Your emails, tweets and social media postings relevant to the topic
  • Company newsletters, white papers, manuals or other documents on your topic
  • Legal documents containing details of your deals, inventions, collections, and so on
  • Photographs of you, your family, friends and associates; your residences, offices, factories and other places of business; your inventions, awards, artwork, prized collections, and so on
  • Books and other items to use as references or sources of quotes

You can further prepare yourself by chatting with family members, friends, business associates and others in search of stories, photos, documents, or other relevant information. Even distant relatives you haven’t spoken to in years can be helpful. They may have the perfect story or anecdote, a classic picture or family document, or an old tape of an interview with one of your ancestors.

Obviously, this list of “ingredients” is not exhaustive, but it should give you an idea of the kinds of information you should gather before you begin writing a book in which you feature prominently.

You may not use everything you find. In fact, once you’ve nailed down your theme, a good chunk of it might become irrelevant. But it’s much better to start the process by filling the larder with everything you could possibly need, then choosing exactly what you need to create your masterpiece.

Just ask any great cook!