Writers of fiction in some ways have an advantage. A story forms in their creative minds, and they are able to regurgitate it onto the page or screen, arrange the pieces into a cohesive pattern, and the work is almost complete. When writing non-fiction, more effort is needed. The information does not simply unfold, even if you are an expert in your field. All writing is work; but writing non-fiction is particularly difficult.
Nevertheless, non-fiction is necessary. The world needs information; cold facts written in a warm and inviting way. As a small business owner or solopreneur, you cannot share your expertise or products with the masses by way of fiction, unless fiction is your business. Producing a non-fiction work that relates to your particular business niche is a great step to establishing your professional voice and acumen among your peers as well as consumers. Therefore, it is a route worth exploring in earnest.
Choose a Topic
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you must choose your topic carefully. Some research is in order here to ascertain what topics relating to your business niche are popular and those that are rare. Along with choosing a topic comes choosing a goal for your book. What do you wish to achieve? If you simply want to sell books, choosing a popular topic may be best. If you want to explore some aspect of your business that others find difficult or seem to avoid, choosing a rare topic may be in order. The latter will help establish you as an industry expert in your niche faster than jumping on the train of popular topics with everyone else. Your goal will guide you to a topic.
Create a Structure for Your Content
While you may not be able to utilize a plot diagram as with fictional or narrative writing, some sort of framework is always advisable. Begin by composing an outline or table of contents. Brainstorm your topic and list all the necessary aspects that require attention in order to fully understand it. This process may also help you to narrow your topic choices. Some topics may be much too broad to cover in a single volume that consumers would find usable. Do you wish to write a 600-page treatise on all aspects of content marketing, or would potential clients or customers be more drawn to “How to Turn Your Website into an Inbound Lead Generating Machine?”
A definite structure or framework will help you plan research and when the actual writing process begins. It is a formal list of what will be included and in what order it will be treated in the actual book. It also allows for idea arrangement, refinement, and even elimination at an early stage before too much writing is already accomplished. Better to cull ideas now than after writing 3000 words about useless ideas.
Perform Adequate Research
If you are already an expert in your field, you are somewhat ahead of the game because you know what you are talking about. However, you cannot be your primary source. Unless you are a virtual guru in your industry niche, no one will take your word that “this is the best thing or way.” You must back up your ideas with solid research and facts. Being an experienced professional simply gives you an idea of where to locate solid sources of information, not the ability to “do it all off the top of your head” when writing a book.
Researching the topics from your framework before writing allows for a smoother writing process later. As you actually begin to write, you may encounter something that requires a bit more research or study, but you can simply make note of it and keep writing until later. This does not pose a huge problem or break in writing; it will simply be a small hiccup. And it usually occurs in the writing process. However, your initial research will provide the bulk of what is needed for writing.
Gather and Organize Materials
Collate your research notes, transcribed interviews, lists of URLs, copied notes from books or other sources, and every other item and place them together. Using a tool like Evernote or Scrivener allows you to store all your information close at hand in a digital format that is easily accessible and transferable. The same thing can be done roughly with Word documents or with Google Docs.
In short, get as much of what you need to write your book in an easily accessible format and location so you aren’t searching for it when you should be writing. Use boxes, hanging folders, accordion files, computer folders, or cloud storage; whatever works best for you. But organize and protect your work.
Create a Writing Schedule
Create a writing schedule to keep you on track. Find those pieces of time in your calendar and block them off. Make them sacred. Nothing short of an emergency should steal you away from writing during those scheduled writing blocks. If you write haphazardly, your writing will be disjointed and irregular. Moreover, if this is to be an important tool or asset for your business, why not get it into circulation as soon as possible?
It is also advisable to carve out a space dedicated to your writing. Find a comfortable place free of distractions with all your tools and materials at hand. Dedicate this space for your writing and use it for nothing else. Secure comfortable lighting. Provide a timer to help keep you on schedule. If possible, write every day until the project is completed.
Get Early Feedback
Early in the writing process, or even before you begin, secure objective feedback from knowledgeable partners or experts. They can help you discern what is worth writing and what isn’t. It’s always wise to be sure you are heading in the right direction before getting too far. Nothing stings worse than writing a useless book.
Maintain the feedback process throughout your writing. As each section is completed, or a particular topic is addressed, obtain the opinions of trusted sources. This includes about the writing itself as well as the content. Working with an editor throughout the process is crucial to guarantee great writing. Do not try to save funds by skipping feedback or editing. You will pay for it later with poor sales and quality.
After making a strong beginning, be sure to finish. It has been said that all the libraries in the world could not contain the books that have been started but never finished. Don’t let yours get shelved before being printed. Complete the work. Get it out there. Then write another book, and another, and another. Non-fiction works can be a valuable asset to your business and brand. They require work and diligence, but few things are as satisfying as a completed work in your name that provides a quality service to consumers and clients.
Do you have a standard process you follow when beginning a non-fiction book? Why not share it with us in the comments? We’d love to read and share your successful steps with our other readers.