Once you learn the process, you can use it to create anything you like.
To give you an overview, let’s look at the steps you take.
1. Decide on your audience: what do they need?
Before you do anything else, even before you go idea hunting, it’s vital to consider your audience, and what your audience needs.
A tip. To make creation easier, and cut down on the research needed, the audience you choose should be much like you. Although it’s possible to relate to almost anyone, getting familiar with an audience you don’t know takes time. In eight hours, most of your effort goes into creation, rather than research.
Once you’ve chosen your audience, think about what your audience wants and needs. If you’re writing nonfiction, what challenges do they have?
On the other hand, perhaps you’re writing fiction — a short story, novella, or a serial — in your eight hours. With fiction, you consider your audience too. You want to entertain them, so think about what movies and TV your audience watches. What books do they read?
2. Develop the framework for your project, and write
A “framework” is an outline, but it’s much more, too. With the right framework for your book, you’ll zoom through your project quickly.
In our Team Up writers’ sessions, we’ve been discussing productivity, and our biggest challenges in writing more.
Productivity is a challenge for most authors. We can be busy, without being productive — we write and write, but we can’t seem to meet our deadlines.
Productivity: focus and write more
The biggest challenge? Distractions. No one in the group found concentration and focus easy. However, without focus, there’s little chance that we’ll write as much as we could.
Of course, some things are more distracting that others. It’s hard to turn off your phone; it’s a little easier to avoid Facebook. Various apps help you to avoid distractions, but goals work better, so that’s our first tip.
1. Set overall goals and daily goals for your project (Scrivener, and other writing apps help)
Scrivener makes it easy to set word count goals for a project, as well as for each writing session. Ulysses offers a similar feature; I know that other apps do too. Check the Help files of your favorite writing app.
When you know that you need to write a certain number of words in your session, you avoid Facebook and similar distractions until you’re done.
2. Sit down in a chair, open the document you need, and write 50 words
The hardest part of writing is getting started. So, as the old saying goes — place your butt in your chair.
Then write 50 words. You can write 50 words even on your worst day, when you have a blinding headache.
Keep up this process until it becomes a habit — it’s easier if you schedule your sessions, and sit down in the same place every day.
3. Handwrite or dictate your first draft (or choose a writing method that’s fun for you)
Few things are scarier than a blank computer screen.
Get some words onto the screen, any way you can. I either handwrite or dictate my first drafts.
On days when I’m feeling resistant to writing, I handwrite several pages. It helps that I have a fountain pen addiction, and enjoy writing with pens. Think about what you enjoy when it comes to getting those initial words.
I know one writer who writes her first drafts on her phone. She’s very productive, writing several books a year. I couldn’t write on my phone, but it works for her.
4. Know what you intend writing each day before you sit down
Not an idea in your head? Yep, this happens to me too.
However, over the years, I’ve learned to avoid this disaster by outlining several scenes ahead. For me, and for other writers too, this scenario, in which you’re trapped like a deer in the headlights, leads to procrastination… and your productivity dies.
By nature I’m a pantser. I’m happy to start writing when I know the basic story question of a novel, and my main characters. Then I create a mind map or two, and a rough outline of the next four or five scenes.
Unfortunately on some days I realize that — oh no… I’ve nothing outlined. My mind maps suddenly seem dreary and uninspiring.
On those days, I drop back two or three chapters. I reread those chapters, and then I’m good to go — I’ve got inspiration for the next several scenes.
If I’m in a panic because I know that I need a majorplot twist (if the midpoint’s coming up, for example, and I realize that I haven’t laid the foundation for it); I might go back to the beginning of the novel, and reread until I’m inspired again.
5. Back yourself to success: no one else will, until YOU do
Without a doubt, the biggest productivity killer for authors is a lack of confidence. Sadly, self-confidence ebbs and flows. No matter how many books you’ve written, every book is a new experience.
One way to gain self-confidence (maybe the only way) is to back yourself. After all, no one else will, if you don’t.
Backing yourself is a decision. I’ve no idea how an author gets to the point where he makes the decision: I will succeed.
Whenever I’ve asked an author when he decided that he’d back himself to succeed, he said something like:
“I don’t know…” (sounding surprised);
“I decided that I would succeed, no matter what…”
“I got sick of my doubts — so I decided to ignore them…”
Decide to back yourself. You don’t need anyone’s validation. It’s your decision, and you need to make it for real productivity.
Onward. Happy writing. 🙂
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Last week I chatted with a friend I haven’t seen in years. Back in the day, we contributed to the same magazine. The last I heard, he was writing a nonfiction book. Of course I asked him how the book went — was he traditionally published, or indie?
“I wish,” he said. “Neither. I gave up on it — it’s a mess.”
He asked me whether I had an outline or a template or something which worked for nonfiction.
Of course I do. I sent it off to him; maybe you’ll find it useful too. It’s beyond simple.
Want to write a nonfiction book? Here you go…
Create an outline. If you hate outlines, I don’t mean the kind of outline that your English teacher harassed you into creating when you were 12.
The kind of outline you need to create is one based on components.
Non-fiction is much easier to write than fiction because nonfiction books contain similar components.
Let’s have a look at some of them:
• A foreword. This is similar to an introduction, but a foreword is usually written by someone other than the author of the book. It helps if you can get someone famous to contribute the foreword. (They’ll expect payment.)
• An introduction. This is optional. If you can’t think of anything to put in an introduction, leave it out. Think of including an introduction if you want to tell your own story: how you came to get the information you’re about to share.
• A “How To Use This Book”page. This can be short, or quite long. For example, if you’re writing a book on yoga, you could use this chapter to give four or five exercise routines, compiled from the various poses that you discuss in the rest of the book.
• Chapters with problems and solutions. If you were writing a book on dieting for example, you could write seven chapters all posing a typical problem, and then provide solutions for each problem.
• The last chapter is the wrap-up. In this chapter you’ll want to give readers instructions on where they go from here, and you’ll also want to include an inspirational message.
• A glossary is useful if it will be necessary for readers new to the subject area. For example, if your ebook contains a lot of jargon with which your reader may be unfamiliar, give explanations of terminology here.
• An index. I’m always disappointed when an otherwise excellent book, that I’ll be referring to again, omits an index. I know creating an index is a hassle, but if you think your readers will use it, then go the extra mile and include it. MS Word makes this simple enough, and so does Apache OpenOffice Writer, which is free.
What you include in your nonfiction book is up to you
It’s your name on the cover, after all. And self-publishing means never having to explain yourself. 🙂
On the other hand, what if you want to go the traditional route, and hunt for a literary agent? In this case, your agent and editor will want input into your book, preferably right from the outline stage.
This can be a challenge. A few months back I worked with an author who hated the changes her editor asked her to make. There’s a simple answer to this: “Don’t make them,” I suggested. “If you think a change is pointless, just say no.”
She’s a new author, so she thinks that her editor is all-seeing, and all-knowing. I pointed out that as the author, she came up with the idea. She had a concept for her book, and knew her audience. It’s perfectly fine to refuse an editorial request. If an editor really wants a change, the editor can make a case for it, and the author might decide to make the change. Or not.
I hope this simple template helps you to write your next nonfiction book — have fun. 🙂