Learn to Write a Great Nonfiction Book

by janbking on October 10, 2007

Becoming an author is hard – for many reasons. I’m so sorry when I hear people, and I have to say particularly my women clients, say that they feel so stupid about the process. As if they should already know how to do this. If this were a natural skill, we would have better books in our bookstores!

Taking what you know, asking the right questions of yourself, and knowing how to read the answers are big parts of the internal piece of book development.

Then there is the knowing what to do with the information when you get it. It isn’t usually delivered fully developed as “The six great strategies to living a better life” – even if that is what you finally decide it should become.

Your first job is to get clear on what you know and what you think you know and be willing to test it against reality, with no judgment about the outcome. And reality, by the way, is not what your family or your best friend thinks. They are generally biased – either for you doing what you want or completely against you doing what you want.

Then it is time to get strategic. It is up to you how you are going to present these thoughts. What is your viewpoint, what is your passion, what message are you going to give to and live in the world?

Who are the people who will naturally be receptive to these messages? Not the people you so wish you could “fix”, but the people who are ready for change and want help and support in making those changes. The point of a book or a speech or a class is to transform, to give new perspective – to help people develop into the people they want to become.

Clear thinking leads to clear writing. But we virtually never start with clear thinking. We start with the question: “I wonder what would happen if…” Clarity of thinking usually requires writing, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting as you develop your thoughts. The average number of rewrites of any paragraph, page or chapter is eleven. If you are on rewrite number seven and wondering what’s wrong with you, the answer is nothing – you still have a few rewrites to go.

Practice makes perfect. Not really. Only more and more practice at a higher and higher level makes perfect. Why is it we are willing to practice playing tennis for hours and hours yet we think we should create a perfect thought, a perfect paragraph, a perfect book the first time out?

Rewriting is about rethinking and it is about smoothing, shaping, deepening, connecting and tightening. It is a noble pursuit and should be honored as a chemist who keeps tinkering with a formula is honored for all the time in the lab before the breakthrough that saves lives.

Honor what you are doing, give yourself the time and mental freedom to make mistakes over and over and over. No one can see it – only you (and maybe me if you share it). This is what it means to “do your best” in the book process. Don’t let yourself off the hook. Do it until you enjoy it!

If you’d like to learn the craft of writing, to really understand how to develop your thoughts into a great book, please consider joining us for the Writing the Nonfiction Bestseller three-session teleclass series, starting October 4, 2007. If you are an eWomenPublishingNetwork member, there is a substantial discount for you to take the class. Log into the Members Private Section for details.

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