Think of a writing guide like a map to get you from the start of your journey to the end. In this case, you are traveling from the beginning to the end of your manuscript. However, you want to produce a manuscript that becomes a marketable nonfiction book—one that sells well in its category once published. A writing guide helps you accomplish both of these goals.
How to Create a Writing Guide
To craft a writing guide, use this six-step process, which has been adapted from my book, The Author Training Manual: Develop Marketable Ideas, Craft Books That Sell, Become the Author Publishers Want, and Self-Publish Effectively. Then use the process each time you sit down to write.
- Create a folder on your computer called “[Your Book Title] Writing Guide.” Place within it the following 3 documents:
- An overview of your book, including a book pitch, a book description or synopsis, a list of reader benefits (even for fiction)
- Your book’s table of contents
- Your book’s chapter summaries—actually chapter-by-chapter synopsis for both fiction and nonfiction (preferred)—or a synopsis (just for fiction)
- Create chapter documents and place them in the Writing Guide folder. Open a document for each chapter. Copy and paste that chapter’s summary, or the section of your synopsis that pertains to it, into the document twice. Leave the first summary intact. For nonfiction, break the second duplicate summary into bullet points or subheadings with spaces in between. (If you find it easier, you can determine what questions you need to answer, what benefits you need to provide, or what solutions your need to provide to address the topics about which you need to write.) For fiction, break the second duplicate summary into scenes, shorter dramatic arcs, or flashbacks. Do so with separate sentences, short phrases or paragraphs with spaces between.
- Before each writing period, open your writing guide and review the first three documents. Do this to remind yourself of the book you want to create and to stay focused on your idea and the promises you are making to readers. In particular, read the pitch to stay focused on your book’s topic or the story you want to tell. Refer to this anytime you feel lost, stuck, or off track. Refer back to the list of benefits to remind yourself of the value readers expect from your book and to be sure you deliver it.
- Write using the bulleted chapter summaries. Open a chapter document. Review the complete summary at the top to remind yourself of the content of that particular chapter. Then, write your chapter moving from bullet point to bullet point, section to section, scene to scene (writing in the space underneath each) until you get to the end of your chapter.
- Reread your chapter summary or synopsis. When done, skim over your draft chapter and determine if you achieved all your stated goals. Did you cover everything in the summary? If not, make notes on what you left out so you can add those points in your second draft.
- Return to your “[Book Title] Writing Guide.” Reread the pitch, book description, and list of benefits and consider whether during your writing period you delivered on the promise of the entire book in this particular chapter.
Use this guide to easily and quickly write your book. With the process, you craft a marketable manuscript as well. Leave me a comment to tell me about your results.
Is that a book though ? is there any Art in it or is it merely a formula ? Is success how many books you have sold, or is the ability to create and transmit something beautiful worth more than that ?
Nina Amir says
This guide produces a marketable book–one that targets your ideal reader and produces something unique and necessary in a cateogry, and the process of producing a marketable book is both business planning and creativity and craft.
Success is relative. Publishers gauge it on book sales, as do most authors. Some authors gauge it on reviews, or impact, or on the fact that they are leaving a legacy for family and friends. That part is personal. But the publishing industry gauges success on sales.
hi nina. thank you again for all your wisdom and tip and such
i am going to try this. i need to get to work without all these distractions 🙂
i need to do this soon since i am going to to Nanowrimo in nov and attend your university before then also thanks bunches
Nina Amir says
Yes, this guide will help you Donna Marie, as you write your book in November. Remember that NaNowriMo is fiction. NaNonFiWriMo is nonfiction.
Elizabeth Cottrell says
This is a fantastic system, Nina. I have started something similar with Scrivner, but you’ve given me a bit more framework to use that will really help. Thank you.
Nina Amir says
Thanks so much, Elizabeth. I really appreciate your feedback. Let me know how it works for you!
Stacie Walker says
I must say that your guide to creating a non-fiction manuscript is simply AMAZING! The process of creating a manuscript seems a lot less initimidating. I have always struggled with developing a manuscript for a book idea. Not anymore. You have played a huge roll in altering my way of thinking. I appreciate you. Thanks so much for pointing writers and aspiring authors in the right direction. I look forward to reading your upcoming content.
To Your Success,
Nina Amir says
Thanks for your lovely comment, Stacie. I’m glad I’ve inspired you and that you found the guide helpful. Good luck!
Suzanne Stormon says
Thanks so much for the easy to follow guide. I use Scrivener but I think this system could be adapted for it. It would help to keep me focused.
You are a real model for me. Good luck with your mom and take care of yourself.
Nina Amir says
Yes, you could use this with Scrivener! Thanks for your kind words.