Friday, October 17, 2008

How to write a non-fiction book in 60 days: WCDR talk

Talk Presumption
You want to write or are writing a non-fiction book – perhaps one that you will self-publish; you can edit and proofread your book or will hire someone to do so.

Who is Writing Non-Fiction Books?
With the growth in Print on Demand (POD), public speakers, seminar leaders, consultants, technical trainers, financial planners, real estate agents, lawyers, nutritionists and fitness experts, people who have lived interesting, and not so interesting, lives, are all writing non-fiction.

Super Powers Not Required
- Writing a book can feel intimidating and overwhelming when you are facing the blank page: Where do you start? Where do you go next? How do you structure it? What do you put in; what do you leave out?
- Non-fiction book writing does not have to be intimidating; anyone who can write can write a solid first draft of a non-fiction book – in 60 days.
- I have written 11 books and short reports — each in less than 60 working days. It can be done. It is being done. You can do it – as long as you follow the process.
- Working days: If you devote about 4 hours a day to writing your book, you can write it in 60 days. If you devote about 4 hours one day a week, it will take you 60 weeks, but still 60 working days.

What Does it Take to Write a Book?
- It takes an idea. If you do not have an idea, it will be difficult to write your book.
- It takes purpose. Your purpose should be clearly defined so you can focus your writing and achieve what you set out to do.
- It takes knowledge of your reader. Determine what your readers know, and what they need to know.
- It takes organization. Organize your thoughts before you start to write.
- It takes time. It should take no more than about four hours per day over 60 days to focus your book idea, outline your book and write a solid first draft.

Day One
Scan books thematically related to the book you want to write: how to, autobiography, health and nutrition, business development… Look at how they are structured in terms of chapters and topics. Where they start, how they progress, where they end… what they cover. Spend some time on this over the first 30 days. Also, jot down a working title that encapsulates the subject you are writing about.

Days 2 – Pre-writing Exercise I
- Two pre-writing exercises detailed in the book — Freefall and Undirected Freefall — were described. Participants engaged in a a Directed Freefall exercise.
- You can probably write about 200 to 250 words in 10 minutes using Freefall. There are about 25,000 to 50,000 words in a non-fiction book. Do the math:
- 25,000 words / 200 words per 10 minutes = 125 10-minute chunks or 21 hours.
+ It takes less than a day to write a 25,000-word book.
+ It takes less than two days to write a 50,000-word book.

Days 3 – Pre-writing Exercise II
Participants were given a brainstorming writing exercise known as Clustering to help them get organized. Clustering (also known as brainstorming, mind mapping and word association) helps you put down on paper everything you know about and associate with a topic and sparks themes and ideas related to your topic that you might not have otherwise thought up.

Day 4 to 6 – Understand The Writing Process
The writing process you use to create your book includes five steps:
- Preparation: Establish your purpose. Assess your audience. Determine the extent of the detail required to achieve your purpose.
- Research: Determine if the research will be internal, external or a combination of both.
- Organization: Select an appropriate method of development so your writing unfolds in a logical manner. Prepare an outline.
- Writing: Write from your outline, expanding your points into sentences and paragraphs.
- Revision: Revise to ensure your document is clear, concise, focused and supports your purpose. Check your spelling and grammar. Have someone edit and proofread your work.

Day 7 & 8 - Research & Get Organized I
- Extensive external research is not part of the 60-day book writing process. If you are an expert in your field, most of the research you have to do is internal.
- Select an appropriate method of development so your writing unfolds in a logical manner. Logic depends on your subject, your purpose and your reader — what the reader already knows and what the reader needs to know, and the order in which the reader needs to know it to achieve the desired purpose of the book.
- Jot down 15 to 20 points that answer the following: Where do you start and why? Where do you go next? And then…? And then…? And then…? And then…?
- Order the points to facilitate learning. In other words, arrange the topic points and any related sub-points in the order in which you think you should present them.

Day 9: Get Organized II
- Get 20 or more sheets of 8½ by 11 paper or flip-chart paper.
- Pick a key word or phrase that represents the subject or topic of your book.
- Cluster it. Extensively.
- You may want to Cluster several different words and phrases that represent your topic; don’t be concerned about overlap in your clustering.

Day 10: Get Organized III
- Based on your Clustering, create a Table of Contents or major topics (big picture) outline of your book; organize the Table of Contents base on the appropriate method of development or logical flow you have selected.

Days 11 to 31: Producing Outlines
- Based on your Clustering, create chapter by chapter linear outlines of your book:

Chapter 1: Major topic of chapter
1. Major point 1
a. Sub-point 1
i. Secondary point A
ii. Secondary point B
And so on until you have a detailed outline. For instance, if you were writing a chapter on “the benefits of outlining”, your outline might look like this:

Benefits of Outlining
1. Provides logical structure
a. Gives you a detailed road map
2. Ensures all major and minor points are covered
a. Produces greater clarity and focus
b. Helps you detect errors in logic
3. Removes stress of trying to hold on to all you know while writing
a. Allows you to write quickly in manageable chunks
b. Ensures you do not lose your train of thought when you take breaks
4. Facilitates the approval process, if one is required

Days 31 to 60: Write
- Write from outline point to outline point, chapter by chapter, until you complete you book; if you devote 2 to 4 hours a day to writing, you will write a chapter a day.
- Do not edit your book until you have completed it. But if you absolutely have to edit, do not edit a chapter until you have completed it. Then move on and write the next chapter.

Once You’ve Written the Book…
- Once you have a final manuscript in hand, you can look for an agent or publisher or you can self-publish your book using Print on Demand. But ensure you edit it and proofread it first, or hire some one to do so.
Note: There is a chapter on print on demand in How To Write A Non-Fiction Book in 60 Days. You can also read more about POD in my blog. For POD topics go to: www./

Paul Lima is a freelance writer and writing trainer. He is also the author of:
How To Write A Non-Fiction Book in 60 Days and other books on the business of freelance writing and business writing.

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