You’ve decided to take on a 30-day writing challenge, such as the Write Nonfiction in November (WINFIN) Challenge, also known as National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo). Now you wonder, “How the heck am I going to finish my project in a month?” Since many people who participate in such events want to write a book in a month, I’ve asked five book coaches to provide the answer to that question.
In this first WNFIN/NaNonFiWriMo 2015 post, you gain access to the best tips and advice these experts have to offer. Each expert brings different experiences and opinions to the table. Some suggest working on your project one way, while others take an opposite approach. Apply the tips that resonate with you to your November nonfiction writing project. See what works and what doesn’t. Stick with what works. In this way, you’ll not only start your WNFIN project but also finish it by the end of the month.
I asked the book coaches the following question:
How do you write a good and marketable nonfiction book quickly and easily under pressure of a 30-day deadline (or any deadline)?
Here are their answers:
- First, get crystal clear on your vision: what the book will do for your own life and/or business, what transformation or other results do you envision for your readers and how do you want your book to affect the world? This vision should guide your book concept–from clarifying a target market to guiding content and tone.
- Develop the structure up front. The more detailed your outline, the more time you’ll save later on. I like using colored index cards to organize content and move it around. Other good tools are Scrivener (writing software) or mind-mapping (check it out on youtube if you’re not familiar with mindmapping).
- Schedule very specific writing times in your calendar every day and treat them like an important business meeting or a hot date. If you must reschedule, pick the new time immediately–don’t wait.
- Write from what you know; save research for last. Research can be time consuming. Aim for a rough first draft in 4 weeks that leaves holes for any research (with a “note to self” wherever its needed). It’s much more satisfying to have a rough draft with holes in 4 weeks than it is to have 3 perfect chapters.
Awarded the Silver Stevie Award for Coach/Mentor of the Year 2014 by the American Business Awards, Lisa Tener specializes in helping experts and others write and publish a compelling self help book. Lisa teaches on the faculty of Harvard Medical School’s leadership and publishing course, national writers conferences and in her own award-winning book writing courses. She blogs on writing and publishing for the Huffington Post. www.LisaTener.com
- Create a storyboard that includes who your readers are; what value your book will bring; identifies what the pain is that the reader feels; identifies the scope of the problem; identifies/reveals what the causes and effects are to the reader; and, of course, delivers the secret sauce—the solution(s). Include the key activities you will include—quizzes, tips, etc. Add your working title to the mix.
- Start sorting into piles all those articles that you’ve been saving/storing/ripping out of magazines. Do this by printing them out. YES, print … them … out. I’m a huge fan of getting the visual going here. I don’t care where you spread the piles—a huge table, a floor—just spread out. Build your piles—the larger ones will most likely be chapters. Get your highlighter out. If some of the articles can cross over to another pile—copy them and drop in. This could take a few hours—a few days. But it’s the essential element in getting you off and running. Do you see any patterns?
- Find a spot that you can get to your piles quickly—one that others don’t get their hands on.
- Start writing. Pick up of your piles, get them organized and start writing—either dictating, keyboard or by hand. But START and save into individual files on your computer. Don’t mix it up as one document. Don’t worry that you may not be writing “in order”—you are developing a puzzle and all the pieces will come together—you just need to create them. Your Contents page will be one of the last things you finalized as you complete the chapters. Don’t feel that you need to start writing with a completed outline…just start writing.
Remember—participating in a 30 Day Write a Book marathon creates your first draft. Then you start fine tuning … Does it flow? Does it address the pain—offer solutions? You are now ready for the next step. That’s all the tweaking; the adds for callouts, illustrations, quotes, tips, etc. Then, of course, editing—ruthless editing.
Dr. Judith Briles is the multi-award winning and bestselling author of 34 books. Her latest are The CrowdFunding Guide for Authors & Writers, Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms. Next up is How to Avoid Book Publishing Blunders, Bloopers and Boo-Boos.
She’s the Founder of AuthorU.org and is known as The Book Shepherd. Her books and her mouth have generated in excess of $5,000,000 in revenues and taken her from Oprah to GMA to CNN to Time to People to the Wall Street Journal and she has survived the National Enquirer. Her websites are www.TheBookShepherd.com, www.PublishingAtSea.com and www.AuthorU.org and tune into her Monday morning Periscope, The Virtual Book Shepherd and her weekly podcast, AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing.
- In order to most efficiently draft a non-fiction book in a condensed period of time, I think the first thing we need to do is let go of organization. Instead, let’s brainstorm a series of sections – things that we know need to go in the book – and then begin to fill each section with material as if we were filling a bucket. There are always strategies for sorting through the material later and establishing sequence, causation, and resonance. But the time to write a first draft only comes once.
- During a first draft, we might get a glimpse of how parts connect, of the right title for a subhead, of how many subheads go in a chapter, etc. And we should keep track of those insights; sometimes we get ideas for what we are writing, and sometimes we get ideas about what we are writing – and both kinds are valuable. But even as we get those organizational ideas, we don’t act on them yet.
- Instead, we have to trust the process, and right now the process involves filling a series of buckets with any non-fiction dimension you think might work: quotes, diagrams, case studies, personal anecdotes, etc. Right now we are simply trying everything out… and sometimes when we come back to that bucket we might find we are on our way to a pretty tasty soup!
Stuart Horwitz is the author of Book Architecture: How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula. He is the founder and principal of Book Architecture, a firm of independent editors based in Providence, RI. Book Architecture’s clients have reached the best-seller list in both fiction and non-fiction, and have appeared on Oprah!, The Today Show, The Tonight Show, and in the most prestigious journals in their respective fields.
- Slow down and get organized. If you are in a hurry to finish your book, you can easily become overwhelmed and spend hours on Facebook instead of writing. To be more efficient, invest some time creating a solid plan for the content of your book. You can create a mind-map, an outline, or even use sticky notes holding the key points you want to make in your book. You need a road map for the content of your book to help you write faster and better.
- Select a sound track for your book and play that same music each time you sit down to write. It’s a subtle thing but helps to train your brain to get back into the creative flow of your book.
- Match your topic to your mood. You don’t need to write your book in order. Instead, go to your outline and select a section of your book that matches the feel of your day. For example, if you just finished a great session with a coaching client and feel on top of the world, work on a happy, upbeat part of your book. If you are having a frustrating day, select a writing section that talks about a problem or negative consequence. Go with your mood instead of fighting it and you’ll write with less resistance.
- Be willing to make some short-term sacrifices. If you are writing a book on a tight deadline, you’ll have to say no to some things, even if they are fun or profitable. Tell friends and family that you are going into your writing cave for a month and that you’d love to get together when you are finished. See if you can postpone taking on new work projects until after you finish your first draft. Writing a book is a big job and takes some time. People will understand if you need to be more solitary than usual while you are writing.
- Hold your book in sacred silence while you are writing the first draft. Resist the temptation to send out chapters for feedback, unless you are working with a professional editor or writing coach. Friends, family, and colleagues are not able to give informed feedback during the writing process. Waiting for their feedback and then processing it will just slow you down and mess with your head. You may be led to believe your book is awesome or dreadful, just from the comments of a well-meaning friend who has never attempted book authoring. Just wait for feedback until you are finished writing and you’ll move more quickly.
Lynne Klippel is the publisher of more than 200 non-fiction books, a best-selling author, and a certified business ghostwriter. Since 2003, she’s helped authors from around the globe write, publish and market their books. Her specialty is creating books readers love and which also grow their author’s business and revenues. Learn more about how Lynne can help you write a great book at BusinessBuildingBooks.com.
Mark Robert Waldman
- Don’t worry about creating refined or literary nonfiction writing. New York publishers pay the most for writing that falls between “average” and “great.”
- Follow Hemingway’s advice: Make your writing tight and taut, and get rid of the damned adjectives! Write your first draft trusting your inner voice, and then revise it a few days later. As William Zinsser wrote in his classic book, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction “Anybody who can think clearly can write clearly….[but] good writers know that very few sentences come out right the first time.”
- First paragraphs are the most important parts of your book. Each chapter must start out with your best writing, and the first sentence must draw the reader in. Each additional sentence deepens the journey, the promise, and the reader’s overall experience. If readers aren’t intrigued by the end of that first paragraph, they’ll put your book back on the shelf, and if the editor isn’t intrigued by the end of your first sentence, your proposal is likely to be rejected.
Mark Waldman has authored 14 books, including the bestseller How God Changes Your Brain, an Oprah pick in 2012. He teaches at Loyola Marymount University and is a world-leading expert on spirituality, communication, consciousness and the brain. http://markrobertwaldman.com/personal-coaching/book-coaching/
WNFIN 2015 Resources
Take the Challenge!
To learn more about how to take the WINFIN Challenge and participate in NaNonFiWriMo, click here.
Are you ready to take the challenge? If so, register here. When you submit your name and email address, you “register” for the event and gain access to the WNFIN forum.
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