Writing a nonfiction book this summer? Get it right with these 10 Quick Tips

Summer is the season when many people get inspired to write that self-help or business book they’ve been thinking about for months. And given that you may well get some down time during July and August, this could be just the inspiration you need to get your book out there…

10 Quick Tips to help you write that nonfiction book

Help to write your nonfiction book from Suzan St Maur on How To Write Better

Is this summer your time to get that nonfiction book planned and written? Here are 10 Quick Tips that will help you achieve your goal.

Here are my key tips, based on the hard-earned experience (and mistakes) I’ve fumbled through over creating 31 nonfiction published books (so far!)

1. Plan your nonfiction book very carefully and thoroughly. (NB: I believe this works for fiction, too, although you’ll find more sage advice about that here.) You will need to show a fairly detailed chapter breakdown and structure as part of the proposals unless you’re self-publishing, but in any case you’ll need this to work from. Take it from me – the more effort you put into planning and structuring, the easier it will be to write your book in the end.

2. Planning your nonfiction book carefully will also save you a lot of time in the long run, because with the plan it’s very simple and quick to shift things around and try out various running orders until you hit on the right one. That process becomes a lot more complex and time consuming once you’ve written the first draft.

3. Use your plan as a template for research before you start writing. From this planning document you will be able to see quite easily where you may need to research further, where you’re particularly strong on content, and where you risk going into too much detail.

4. However, don’t let that plan strangle your book. Having said all that about making the plan as detailed and as all-encompassing as possible, allow a certain amount of flexibility in it so you can move things around a bit as you go. Often you’ll find you do make some changes to the running order once you actually get down to writing it if, say, you run into duplications you hadn’t envisaged previously.

5. Split the whole project down into digestible chunks. Do not regard “the book” as one vast project – you’ll put yourself off, as it will seem like a gargantuan task. Instead break it down mentally into however many chapters you have planned, and think of it in terms of XX separate-but-linked projects.

6. By all means use a mind-mapping type of process if that works for you, but use it only to help you create your book plan – not as the plan itself. The plan needs to be linear, because a print book is, and even an eBook is usually read that way.

7. Many people advise you to write the first draft as a stream of consciousness and not worry about spelling, grammar, syntax, logic or anything else because you can sort all that out in the edit. Personally I prefer to get the text pretty close to final draft stage as I go along, because performing a major edit on a 40,000 word document is a pain. You will need to experiment though.

8. If you’re concerned that your writing style is a bit stilted, overly formal or just doesn’t flow, try dictating the text working from the book’s plan, then get someone to transcribe it and either you or an editor (see point 9 below), or both, can tidy it up afterwards. All but the most academic types of nonfiction book nowadays must be written more or less as people speak a) because communication of all kinds is becoming far less formal than it used to be and b) because people haven’t got the time or interest to plod through wordy text that may be perfect grammatically, but is as much to fun to read as an accountancy text book. Even a business book should be entertaining!

9. Don’t over-edit or over-agonise about your text. Sure, tidy it up but don’t re-work it so much and so many times that it loses all its personality and spontaneity. If you’re not very good at writing and editing get a pro editor to work on it after you’ve completed your first draft – and (here comes the advertisement because I’m very good at this) make sure the editor knows how to tidy it up without losing your personality and “voice.”

10. By all means show your manuscript to your friends, family and all other willing benevolent critics. But don’t let their views divert you from what you want to achieve. Remember that no matter how well-meaning, people who are asked for their opinion tend always to give one, even if they haven’t really thought about your book in any depth. Much as their comments may be useful, be sure to balance those against your initial criteria and plan.

There’s a lot more advice I could give but without knowing exactly what sort of book you have in mind, it’s probably not worth my droning on any further for now. The above is pretty general – hope it helps.

What plans do you have to write a nonfiction book?

Please share your ambitions with us here!