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How To Write A Nonfiction Book

Written by: Cori Wamsley, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

It sounds super simple, right? When you’ve been through something personally, when you’ve lived it yourself, all you have to do is write down what happened, and then you have a book… Right? Not so much.

Shot of a young woman writing in her journal at the beach

There is certainly more to your story than just a list of events. And you have to know a few things about what else is going on in the world where your story will be living because it’s not about you.


Yes, it’s your story, your experience, your words, but your story is about the reader and their experience.


But don’t slam on the brakes just yet. Here is a simple list of activities to go through when you decide that you want to write nonfiction—memoir, self-help, or whatever you’re referring to your book as. And that should take some of the stress off!


Gather ideas


If you feel drawn to writing a book, but aren’t 100% certain what you need to write about, start by listing some of your ideas. It doesn’t need to be a polished list. No one else needs to see it. It can be about as fancy as your grocery list. Just make a list of ideas to consider and move on to step 2.


Check out your peers


Some people call them “competitors.” I like to call them “peers.” These are the other books that your book will be compared to on a bookshelf, real or digital. See how other authors present ideas similar to yours. Look at the way they tell the story. Look at the book covers. You want your book to fit in and also stand out, so see what else is out there so you know how to position your book.


Determine audience and purpose


Yes, I talk about this constantly. If you don’t know who you want to read your book and why, then what’s the point of writing it? Consider the challenge that your ideal reader has, not necessarily their demographic. Though you could be focusing on a specific age group, you’ll be able to narrow your audience more by looking at what they are going through and what results they want to achieve. Knowing these things will help you identify exactly why you need to write your book and give you something to aim for when you’re working on it.


Plan the book


Author Alexa Bigwarfe says, “Without an outline, you’re probably wasting time,” ¹ and I couldn’t agree more. The first time I wrote a book, I had a romantic notion of how it was done. I sat down at my desk and wrote well into the night, until I ran out of steam… and then I had no idea what else to do. I didn’t have an outline to tell me what I was talking about at what point in the book or even why I was writing the book to begin with. It sucked. Every subsequent book was much smoother because I planned my entire outline first. How do you outline? Start by placing a series of post-it notes at the top of a poster board, numbering them as chapters 1-10 (or whatever number you want). Next, write topics that you want to cover on other post-it notes. Then, place them under the chapter post-its. Move them around if you don’t like the order! On additional post-its, write what stories you would share under each chapter. Throw out the ones you change your mind on. You can do the same thing on a piece of paper or on your computer. Just remember that everything can move based on what you think you need to share first.


Set aside time to write


This sounds utterly ridiculous, but you would be surprised how many people say they are going to write a book and then never get to it for years, yes, even after the outline is done! Keep this promise to yourself. Mark the time on your calendar that you plan to work on the book. Mark off a couple of hours a week. Or take Friday afternoons off to write. Whatever works for you, do it. And keep your writing appointments so you can make progress.


Actually write


Again, just sitting down at your desk or in a coffee shop doesn’t guarantee that you will get any writing done. We’ve all been guilty of pulling up social media or shopping websites and going down a rabbit hole for half an hour when we were supposed to be drafting something. If you need to adjust your energy or feel burnt out, do that for a bit, but then get back into what you wanted to work on. When you’re writing, you want to feel relaxed, in control, and happy, if possible. Megan Barnhard suggests, “To get the most out of your drafting time, you want to allow your inner five-year-old to emerge. You know, the part of your writing brain that wants to play and jump into mud puddles and have fun!” ² Exactly! I usually phrase this as, “Write drunk; edit sober.” Your writing time should be judgement free, so just open up and let out what want to come out. Be curious. Embrace wonder. And let your words out to play. Remember that whatever you are writing can be erased, deleted, or moved to another spot in the book. Don’t worry about it being perfect the first time. Don’t stop for research (just mark that you need to check something and come back later when you aren’t in the middle of flow). Literally, no one has to read your first draft except you, so write what comes out and then review or edit it later, with only a little bit of kind judgement.


If you have a book on your heart, then these steps should get you through the first phase of the process, along with a review or two from you, and ready to start working with beta readers or your editor to clean up, clarify, and smooth out what you’ve written.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


 

Cori Wamsley, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Cori Wamsley, CEO of Aurora Corialis Publishing, works with business owners who have a transformational story to share. She helps them quickly and easily write and publish a book for their brand that helps them create a legacy and be seen as an expert while building a relationship with the reader. Cori has 17 years of experience as a professional writer and editor, including 10 years with the Departments of Energy and Justice and 4 years as the executive editor of Inspiring Lives Magazine. She also wrote eight fiction books and one nonfiction book, The SPARK Method: How to Write a Book for Your Business Fast, and contributed to two anthologies. Her newest book, Braving the Shore, was released in June 2022.

 

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