Maybe you’ve been itching to share your vision or unique system with the world, but are having trouble getting started. No wonder! Your average prescriptive nonfiction book runs in the neighborhood of 50,000-70,000 words, a rather intimidating number for folks who never considered themselves writers…until they had something they really wanted to write!
In part 1 of this two part series, you discovered three ways to start writing your nonfiction book using some visualizations and other creative methods. I encourage you to try them out whether you consider yourself a particularly “left-brain” thinker or not. Now, here are two more tips to get you started writing your nonfiction book with focus, direction, and clarity.
Play With Index Cards
When I say “outline” do you think of roman numerals and the fifth grade? If you’re still at the starting gate with your book, try a more flexible approach by using index cards instead. Start by making a list of questions your ideal reader (see Part 1) might ask about your book’s primary subject, as well as any topics you want to address. Write each one on a separate index card. When you’re finished, organize the cards into groups where questions touch on similar subjects or where the answers or topics will dovetail. This works best if you lay the cards on a flat surface such as a table or the floor; if you have a large blank wall and some Fun-tack or tape you can also arrange them vertically. Don’t be afraid to move cards around as you decide on groupings—it’s the visual and tactile nature of this method that makes it so useful, because it can free your brain from the paralyzing fear a blank screen often produces.
Write a Book Proposal
If you already have a pretty clear idea of what you want to write, why not start with a book proposal? The large majority of nonfiction book deals are made on the strength of short proposals, not finished manuscripts. Beyond a few sample chapters, you don’t need to write a manuscript at all if you’re seeking an agent or publisher. But even if you intend to self-publish, working on a book proposal is an excellent way to back into writing the book itself. That’s because an effective proposal will require you to do research and invest serious time thinking and writing about where your book fits into the marketplace, who will want to read it, why you’re the right author and why now is the right time to publish it, and, of course, what exactly the book will deliver to readers. By the time you’re finished writing the proposal, you’ll have a much clearer vision of and a strong grasp on what you want to write and the most effective way to write it for your target audience. Now that’ll get you off in the right direction!
I hope you find these methods useful! Let me know what works for you by commenting below. And if you haven’t already, don’t forget to get a copy of my free white paper on how to write a successful nonfiction book proposal.
Founder of The Writer’s Ally, Ally E. Machate is a bestselling book collaborator, award-winning editor, and expert publishing consultant who loves using her insider knowledge and experience with the publishing industry to lead serious authors toward success. She and her team live to help make great books happen, whether that means showing a writer how to improve a manuscript, get an agent, or self-publish; or coaching an author on growing her platform to sell more books. Since 1999, she has supported hundreds of authors on their publishing journey and takes pride in serving as their books’ best ally.