What do I write about?
If you don’t know what to write consider starting with creating a list of topics that you could write about. Look at all the areas of your life. Do you have some good tips for being a soccer coach, or nursing a child through a long illness, or volunteering, or managing a board of directors, or building a company, or being a clown for kids’ parties, or cooking for family with food allergies or health issues, or growing giant pumpkins. Do you have a company or family history that you want to write? You get the idea.
Once you have your list, your next step is to decide which topics you are most passionate about. Writing a book takes time, so you want to choose a topic that you are going to stick with over the long haul. Do you have experience in those topics? Can you find the research? If you see a lot of positives surrounding one of your topics, that’s the place to start.
For my own non-fiction, once I chose my topic, I began with brainstorming. I wrote my topic in the middle of a blank page and then drew lines outward to any ideas that came to me around that central idea on the page. I didn’t worry about making any choices, just wrote down whatever came to mind, thinking about what a reader would like to know about this topic, and what I knew about the topic. Some things that I wrote down prompted their own ideas and their own branches of lines.
I left that page until the next day so that my brain could come at it in critical instead of creative mode. When I looked at my messy page, I could see that certain items belonged in groups together, so I grabbed some colored pencils and circled words and ideas that fit under one category in the same color and then I grouped other words and ideas in another color. Now I had a really colorful mess, but I could see the general topics that my book was going to cover.
I took that page, and from it, I typed a list of my topic groups. For my teacher’s guide for Macbeth, for instance, I had topics such as Shakespeare’s time, poetic form, history of the real Macbeth, King James and witches, themes and symbols. I grouped all of those under one bigger category background to the play. Another group of topics revolved around the analysis of the play itself, plus possible homework questions. Those fell under a larger category, scene by scene analysis. The third section of the book included journal topics and how to write an essay. And the final section was going to be a list of online resources. I now had four major sections with subheadings that gave me a very good organizational tool for writing the book.
Writing the First Draft
The next step was to chip away at my list one small piece at a time. Did I write my book in order? No. You can only to do so much scene analysis before you start dreaming in iambic pentameter, so I would do a some scene analysis and then switch to researching the real Macbeth, and then think of some journal topics. The nice thing about having an outline, is that you can write out of order, just tucking what you’ve written in the right place in the document as you go along. (I do this for fiction, too.) As a former teacher, I had my own resources that I’d built up over the years, but there was still lots of original writing and research to do.
I typed my document in Word and used Styles to set up my major and sub-headings. I also clicked on the Navigation Pane under View, so I could always see how my book was being built in chapters and sections–a very satisfying process. Using Styles for my headings also made it easy to create a Table of Contents, which Word will do for you with the click of a button–check under the References tab. If I made any changes, I could always go back and update the Table of Contents.
Here are some other nonfiction writing links to help you:
November has been National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for many years now, but if you want to jumpstart your nonfiction writing, here’s a site that promotes writing your nonfiction book in a month. http://writenonfictionnow.com/about-write-nonfiction-in-november/wnfinnanonfiwrimo/
Nine Things You Need to Know Before You Write Your Non-Fiction Book another guest post by Nina Amir. When you visit this site take advantage of Joanna Penn’s offer of her free book Author Blueprint 2.0. Her newletters and updates always contain valuable information.
Tips 1-5 for Nonfiction Book Writers by Quentin J. Schultze
If you’re looking to write a series of short Kindle books, here’s a great resource to get your project launched. I took Kristen’s Kindle in 30 Challenge and ended up with 7 books to show for it, and I’m not done yet. http://thebookninja.com/kindle-challenge-boot-camp/
Take advantage of what I’ve learned about writing and publishing by checking out my personalized writing coach options. Arrange for your free 15-minute telephone chat to see if I’m the coach for you.There’s a writer inside all of us, let me help you find yours.