Today’s post goes out to all those Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) participants writing a complete nonfiction book in 30 days or less. It’s also for all those who signed in as WNFIN participants with the hope of winning Rochelle Melander’s new book Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It)–but didn’t–because they wanted to utilize the tips it offers this month while they composed their book. (To see who won, read this post.)
Rochelle is my guest blogger today, and she offers five steps for successfully writing a book in a month. If you want to meet your WNFIN goals…or write a nonfiction book fast any time, read on! Her advice is invaluable.
How to Write a Book in A Month: 5 Steps to Success
By Rochelle Melander
I rarely say no to a writing assignment, especially one that comes with a check. But imagine this: someone asks you to write a book with a partner who lives across the country on a topic you know little about in just two weeks. Oh yeah, and those two weeks include the Thanksgiving holiday. (I know Stephen King writes on Thanksgiving, but I’d rather sleep late, eat Turkey, and read a book.)
In 2004, a publisher asked a colleague and me to write a book on global travel to developing countries in two weeks. My colleague had never been out of the country, and I had not visited a developing country. We spent a weekend interviewing 15 people who had traveled extensively, seeking information from them on content and structure. We spent a day outlining the book. And then we went home and wrote. We finished writing the book in nine days, edited it in two more, and did not do a stitch of work on Thanksgiving Day. How did we do it? These five steps will give you the foundation you need to write your book fast:
- Get structure. Writing a book is much easier once you have a structure in mind. Before my writing partner and I went home to write, we created a structure for the book. We knew exactly what would be in each chapter: a brief topical essay, practical tips, questions for reflection or discussion, and two short sidebars. Before you begin to write, create or discover your book’s structure. Visit your local bookstore or library and research how other authors have structured their chapters and books. Find one that fits your topic or modify one to make it work.
- Create an outline. There’s nothing quite so frightening to a writer as getting up in the morning, knowing one has a deadline to meet, and having no idea what to write. Though fiction writers often decry the idea of making an outline, the practice is essential for nonfiction book writers. Create a list of topics you want to cover in the book. Using the book and chapter structure you developed in the last exercise, create an outline.
- Do the book math. Full disclosure: I am not a math genius. I spent many grade school nights sobbing at the kitchen table as my math professor father tried to explain a mysterious math concept. Decide how long your book will be. If you have used another book’s structure as an example, use that as a guide. To find out how many words are in a book, count the words on a standard page and multiply that by the number of pages total. If you have created your own book structure, write a sample chapter and multiply that by your projected number of chapters. Save the total number; you will need it for the next exercise. And a hint: don’t attempt to write a book longer than 50,000 words in a month.
- Do the life math. A month provides plenty of time to finish a book—if you schedule it. But without adding writing time to your schedule, it may never happen. In fact, a study of women who did breast self exams showed that the women who knew when and where they would perform the exam were twice as likely to complete it. How much time do you have in the next month to write this book? Open your calendar and schedule your writing sessions. Be specific. (When you schedule, don’t forget to give yourself at least one day off a week. You will need that to stay sane.) Once you have the whole month scheduled, count up the number of sessions you expect to put in during the month. Figure out how much you will need to write each day to finish the book. Let’s say you have scheduled 26 writing sessions during the month, and you plan to write a 35,000-word book. In order to finish the book on time, you will need to write 1,350 words a day.
- Be flexible. Stuff happens. It seems that more stuff happens when life is threatened by am imminent deadline. While my colleague and I wrote furiously for two weeks, we both had to deal with sick children and the regular demands of life and work. I now know to schedule extra time in case of emergency. When I have a bit of extra writing time, I write more than the daily word count goal. Those extra words are like money in the bank, guaranteeing I will be able to take time off in case of illness or broken appliances.
Since that first marathon-writing experience, I have written several books fast. But I rarely worry about finishing on time. Once I have figured out the book’s structure and set a daily word count goal, I can focus on the part I really love: putting words on paper.
Writers, how about you? What do you do to get your books finished fast?
About the Author
Rochelle Melander is a certified professional coach and the author of 10 books, including a new book to help fiction and nonfiction writers write fast: Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) (October 2011). Melander teaches professionals how to get published, establish credibility, and navigate the new world of social media. In 2006, Rochelle founded Dream Keepers Writing Group, a program that teaches writing to at-risk tweens and teens. Visit her online at www.writenowcoach.com.
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