Most writers fall on one side of the equation - they write either fiction or non-fiction. Those who write fiction are storytellers and feed off their imagination. To them, writing non-fiction sounds about as fun as penning an essay. Many wouldn’t even know where to begin.
Writing non-fiction is very different than writing fiction. I’ve written books in both genres and it does require a shifting of mental gears. Non-fiction can be just as fun though. Plus, being the author of a non-fiction book has its advantages, including credibility as an expert and more media opportunities.
Below are the basic steps for writing a non-fiction book.
1 - Pick a topic you know well. You could try your hand at something new, but with non-fiction it’s all about your expertise. Consider it this way - what could you teach others?
2 - Create a basic outline. Group subjects into chapters and create a basic flow of information.
3 - Research! No matter how well you know a topic, there is always more to learn. Take lots of notes. Jot down facts, figures, resources, links, etc.
4 - If you will be quoting any sources or using images, get permission. Information and photos on the Internet are copyrighted by law. Better to get permission than to get sued.
5 - Organize your notes. Everyone has their own style, but group the notes according to each chapter topic. (I’ve literally cut my notes apart, laid out sheets of paper with each chapter’s subject, and then placed the notes where they fit best.)
6 - Once your notes are organized, adjust your outline accordingly and add details. If you are seeking a publisher or agent, they will want to see a detailed outline first, sometimes even before you’ve written the book. If you are self-publishing it, this will help you stay on track with your writing.
7 - Begin writing! One of the unique aspects of non-fiction is the ability to start with any chapter in the book. Often non-fiction in what I call a fact form - a presentation of information. But some non-fiction, especially historical non-fiction, is written with a storyline. The subject of your book will help you decide which method will work best.
8 - Once you start the first round of edits, note what is lacking. What areas need more information or details? You also want to ensure the writing has voice. It may be non-fiction, but your personality and voice need to come through loud and strong. If it doesn’t, then yes, you will have a boring essay on your hands!
9 - Editing non-fiction is also different in that you’ll need someone who knows the material and can edit for content, not just grammar, flow, and structure.
They say if you want to learn a subject even better, you need to teach it. Writing a non-fiction book achieves just that and allows you to share your expertise with others. And there’s something really satisfying in sharing.
Now, who’s ready to write a non-fiction book?
L. Diane Wolfe
Professional Speaker & Author
Known as “Spunk On A Stick,” Wolfe is a member of the National Speakers Association and the author of numerous books. Her latest title, “How to Publish and Promote Your Book Now,” covers her publishing seminars in depth and provides an overview of the entire process from idea to market. “Overcoming Obstacles With SPUNK! The Keys to Leadership & Goal-Setting”, ties her goal-setting and leadership seminars together into one complete, enthusiastic package. Her YA series, The Circle of Friends, features morally grounded, positive stories. Wolfe travels extensively for media interviews and speaking engagements, maintains a dozen websites & blogs, and assists writers through her author services.