Friday, April 8, 2016
What It Takes to Write a Non-fiction Book
Perhaps it’s because the majority of what a novelist writes comes from his or her imagination. Readers respect that. But those who write non-fiction books work just as hard—perhaps harder—since they deal in facts and can’t embellish those facts to enhance their story.
So what does it take to write a non-fiction book? It takes commitment and lots and lots of research. The subject you chose for your book has to be one that will appeal to a wide variety of readers. While other writers may have written about it before, you have to choose the right angle that will make your chosen subject seem new and exciting. In non-fiction, that’s known as a slant.
No matter how much you want to write a book, don’t start out doing that. First, your writing skills may not be up to it, and second, your organizational skills won’t certainly be up to it. And if you haven’t written and published articles, on the subject of your book or not, you don’t have the credibility publishers look for.
So you say, forget the publishers, I’m going to publish my book myself electronically. That’s all well and good, but unless you have a reputation as a writer, why should readers buy it. And after all the work you’ll be putting into it, you certainly want them to do that.
Writing a book direct from the starting gate is like going from grammar school to graduate school in one leap. Chances are highly likely that you won’t finish it, and even if you do, it won’t sell. You need to be comfortable with the writing process before you tackle a book. You should be sure you can actually write well enough to be able to focus your attention on other things, such as organization, process, and deadlines and not have to worry about your writing. .
Before you begin to write your book, you’ll need to plan it out. Writers call this blocking. While you may want to start with an informal list of what you want to include, eventually you’ll need to create a table of contents. The table of contents becomes your guide while writing your book.
But before you can even begin putting together your table of contents, you’ll need to do quite a lot of research. You’ll need to do two types of research—marketing research and content research. The first looks into what other books have bene published on your subject and when. The second digs for the facts you’ll need to produce the content of your book. Both are equally important.
If there are lots of books published on your subject, it may not do well because of a flooded market. If there aren’t any or few books published on your subject, it may also not do well because readers may not be interested in it. So you have to look for a happy medium.
Researching the content of your book is a big job that takes a great deal of organization. You may choose to do all the research and then write your book, or you may research one chapter at a time. Whatever you do, use your table of contents to help keep things organized.
If you’ve chosen to self-publish your book and before you start to write it, set a drop-dead deadline—one that you can work with—and work backwards to the present time. Include editing, copy editing, revisions, and extra time for the unknown and unknowable. If there isn’t enough time between then and now, change the final deadline or publication date
If you choose the publisher route, you’ll begin by composing a query letter and sending it out to publishers, that through your marketing research, you believe may show an interest in it. In this case, you won’t begin to write your book until you get a firm commitment from a publisher who will also set the deadline for completion of the manuscript.
There are two ways to write your book. The first is in chronological order, beginning with Chapter One. The second is to write it out of order, beginning with the easiest chapter first and working ahead to the more complex ones.
Edit each chapter as you finish it. This is much easier than waiting to edit your whole book. As you write, be honest with yourself. If you get that little pang of doubt, listen to it. Don’t con yourself and don’t fall in love with your own pearls on paper. On the other hand, don’t polish until you take all the luster off the page. Know when to stop editing.
However, the editing you do is to get the manuscript in the best condition possible. Even though you’ve edited your work, you’ll need to find a professional editor to edit it if you’re self-publishing. Otherwise, you’ll send it to the publisher who will assign an in-house editor to work with you on the final copy edit. Writing your book is only half of the process.
Unless your publisher gives you a short deadline, figure out how much time you’ll need to complete your book and plan accordingly. Writing can’t be rushed. You’re not trying to make the early edition. You’re writing a book, perhaps your first. Between writing times, do something other than think about the book. Leave space between work sessions. Take a day to review research, and then sleep on it. Write, reread, leave it alone, and sleep on it. Remember, your mind will be working on your book while you’re sleeping.
It’s important not to overdo it when writing your book. Don’t work for hours on end. Take frequent breaks and spread the work out over days and weeks. Also, eat well, sleep as much as you need to, stretch frequently, and exercise. This is work. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.