To write a nonfiction book in 9 steps: Finish the manuscript! Writing

Almost everyone has thought of writing a book at some point – even if you do not consider yourself a "writer", you probably have a clue about a book somewhere in your head. But whether you've just had your light bulb moment or been thinking about a great idea for years, there's no time like it is in the present to learn how to write a nonfiction book!

Of course, there is no single formula because every author has his own process. No doubt you will find out what works for you on your car trip. Nevertheless, there are still some things that you need to know if you ever want to cross the finish line! We're happy to provide you with our very best tips, tricks, and other information in this all-in-one non-fiction handbook.

Sure, all authors would love a special writing room that offers inspiring, expansive views. The fact is, most of us do not have that. The other fact is that writing a book does not depend on a perfect place to write: it's about making the place you have Work for you, Remember, J.K. Rowling first started writing down the Harry Potter series on a napkin while sitting in a train!

Whether you write on the couch, at the dining table, in a coffee shop or in the home office, you'll find environments in which you can work, at least for a while, uninterrupted.

An important part of ensuring a trouble-free writing session is to determine in advance which writing tools you rely on. Write on pen and paper or in a word processor? Do you need a timer? Sticky notes to organize your thoughts? Think as fully as possible – and remember that writing a book from start to finish depends on how comfortable you can make your writing sessions. Your writing tools will play a key role.

In our contribution to the best writing tools, you'll find a complete collection of resources to help you complete your manuscript.

2. Nail your book idea

To pin down your book idea, you do not just have to be able to specify what it's all about – even if that's part of it. To really nail down your idea, you should be able to answer the three important "W" questions:

  • What is it about that
  • Why does it matter
  • who do you want to read it?

Once you are able to answer all these questions, you can fill in the gaps in the following sentence:

(The Who) reads my book about (what), because (why).

For example: "CEOs will be reading my book on work culture because it provides insights into the practices of the top ten companies that have been named 'Best Employers' in the US."

Let's break down the different elements of this equation and show you how to identify them in your own space.

That what

The "What" is the seed of your book. It's the beginning of something, and before it can become something else, you have to capture the essence of what you want to say.

Instead, think about how you would describe your topic to someone in a single sentence. If someone would now ask you, "Oh, what are you writing about?", Would the "what" be your answer. Whether it's a financial book for new business owners or a vegan cookbook, the "what" becomes the core of your book.

The who

When it comes to nonfiction, that is "Who" is all about utility: who will find the information most useful in your book? (Exceptions are reminders, in which case your readers may be looking for entertainment.) However, if you're writing a guide, an informative abstract, or even a historical book, your target groups are people who want to learn from you.

Regardless of your wheelhouse, finding a protoperson for the person who buys your book is extremely helpful. This should be your ideal client and is the key to reaching your target audience. If you think of a hypothetical reader, it's much easier to write specifically to them, which in turn makes them more inclined to buy your book.

The why

And finally the "Why." With the myriad of experiences and wild ideas people gather throughout their lives, we all have many books to write. As we see in the Reedsy podcast "Bestseller", as many as 81% of people believe they have a book in them. (Not in the truest sense of the word – that would be a lot of stomach ache – but in a sense "potential writer.")

So why should you write? This particular book? And, just as important, why are you the one who should write it? What makes you qualified and what makes you enthusiastic about this particular topic?

Your final answer to these three "W" questions will be the essential thesis that you work on throughout the book-writing process. Once you have prepared this, you can proceed to the next step: Outline.

3. Sketch your book

Creating an outline is one of the most important parts of writing a nonfiction book. In addition to your "three Ws," your outline will form a large part of the foundation upon which you will build your book. Even if you have never worked on a design before, or do not believe you need one (ie, if you're a waistband and not a plotter), you can not afford to see where you're headed.

Also, do not make the mistake of making each outline look exactly the same. There are several ways in which you can outline your book, which we "sketch" here. Feel free to experiment with them and work with those who are best for you.

The Mind Map

This is an approach for visual thinkers. Draw a large circle on a sheet of paper and insert your main idea. Then draw around this circle a series of smaller circles with supporting ideas associated with the main circle. Next, draw and join even smaller circles around your second series and bring in ideas.

The chapter outline (or "Beat Sheet")

Often, novelists are not quite sure how their novel will end. Fortunately, non-fiction writers already have a clear idea of ​​what their book is about. Write an "Introduction" and a "Graduation" header. In the introduction, write down the question that your book raises. Write down the answer at the end. In between, note the chapters you need to record (and the point everyone will take) to get the readers from point A to point B.

Or is the skeletal shape or the post-it approach more your speed? There's an overview for everyone out there – and we urge you to spend time finding the one that's right for you.

4. Research your topic

Depending on the type of book you are writing, there are various forms and sizes of research that are particularly important for non-fiction. Here are some different types of searches that are suitable for different genres. However, you can always mix and match them according to the needs of your area of ​​expertise.

  • When you write a treatise, You could start by interviewing yourself. Even if you think you already know each other well, you wonder about the blind spots that can be revealed through a simple interview. You can always be interviewed by someone else!
  • If you write a guide, Your research may include testing your own instructions or collecting all sorts of existing material on the subject – such as blog posts and previously published essays.
  • If you write self-help, You may want to address experts in the field, such as psychologists and motivational speakers. Or, if you're already an expert on this particular topic, you can interview yourself like a reminder!
  • If you write a story or biography, You're likely to spend a lot of time in libraries and archives-unless you're writing about someone who's still alive or about something that happened recently. In this case, you can collect the information yourself.

Free Course: Learn the secrets of historical research

Sign up for this free 10-part course! Enter your e-mail address and select "Writing – researching a historical book".

5. Know when to stop planning and start writing

Creating an appropriate overview and thorough research of your topics are important prerequisites to protect yourself from writing blockades and to ensure that you have actually completed writing your book. That is, there comes a point where planning gets delayed and you have to force yourself to start writing. Finally, you can continue to research your topic while writing.

If you keep coming up with ideas for your book, it probably means that you are well prepared to put aside your preparation work and concentrate on the essentials: the actual writing process. Let's get to goals, routines, and what to focus on in your first draft.

6. Create a write routine

Setting up a write routine is another important component in the actual completion of your manuscript. Here are the best measures you can take (or avoid!) To develop and maintain a routine.

Create word count objectives

Most authors think primarily about their writing progress in terms of word count. You set goals for the number of words you want to write per day, per week, per month to let them know if they are making adequate progress.

In terms of a reasonable rate of progress each author must define this for himself. However, if you are really determined to get this book up and running, you should aim for at least 1,500 words a week. That's 6,000 words a month and 72,000 a year – far behind the NaNoWriMo standards for a novel (50,000 words)! Remember that you can divide this up the way you want: 500 words per day / three days a week, a 1,000 words day + two shorter days with 250 words each, etc.

Plan non-negotiable writing times

In addition to the word count, it is important to set goals for your writing Time also. Only you can decide what's right for your schedule, but here are some general guidelines.

Consider both a) most of your free time and b) having at least a little free time. The trick is: do not dedicate every day to writing. Contrary to popular belief, you do not really have to write every day to complete a non-fiction book. It is important that you set a schedule and follow it. No matter what schedule you set for yourself, make sure that your friends and family members know about it – and that they know they can not plan other activities with you during your non-negotiable writing period!

Never skip two sessions in a row

Countless writing experts champion the two-session rule as the key to writing success. Here is the reason: skipping a writing session – whether you have a busy day or just can not summon the energy – does not mean you fell off the car, A missed day is a coincidence, an anomaly that you can easily balance in the next few sessions.

However, if you skip two sessions at a time, set a new routine for NOT writing. And not only that, you are always in default on your word-of-mouth goals. You feel like you can not catch up, and the pressure often causes you to stop altogether. So do not miss two consecutive sessions. Believe us, you will be glad you persevered.

Get an Accountability Buddy

Ideally, this is another author who understands what you are going through and may even be working on a project yourself. In this way, you can exchange suggestions, tips and strict lectures as needed.

If you do not know any other authors in real life, you can always join an online writing community! The advice and support in the forums of these writing websites can be an absolute lifesaver if you feel discouraged.

Track your progress tangibly

What do we mean by "tangible"? Instead of just entering data into a "written words per day" table, you can actually print the pages you've finished when you complete them. As you write, your stack of manuscripts grows – and in the end, everything is ready for the proof!

You can also do something silly, but funny, such as: For example, create a calendar and stick a sticker on it for every day of writing. Or you put a marble in a mason jar for every 500 written words, and when it's full, you go out for dinner. Rewarding certain milestones is a particularly effective way to stay motivated. And in that sense …

For more detailed tips on creating a writing routine, see this author's Reedsy live webinar, ghostwriters, and writing coach Kevin T. Johns,

7. Write your first draft

Once you have yours what why, and whoYour notebooks are filled with research that has been translated into an absolutely solid outline, and you have developed a realistic writing schedule. There's nothing left to run: It's time to sit down and write your first draft. Luckily we have many tips to help you!

Refine your "author's voice"

When it comes to defining the abstract theme of author language, author, and writing coach, Gabriela Pereira says, "You need to understand that it's somehow rooted in your personality. There is an element of your voice that will be an integral part of your personality. "

Who you are is of the utmost importance when it comes to non-fiction. When you publish nonfiction books, ask readers to trust your credibility to talk about the subject. To build trust with readers, you need to build a relationship with them. The relationship between the author and the reader is primarily made by the reader, who is connected to your "author's voice" – the personality that you incorporate into your writing.

How can authors develop their written voice? There are a few exercises that you should try out: Pereira suggests journaling and a "retelling exercise" in which nursery rhymes are rewritten in the voice of a famous author such as F. Scott Fitzgerald or Virginia Woolf. This helps you to get a sense of the voice as it is a fairly straightforward concept. In addition, the natural tension between your own voice and the voice of the author should give you some idea of ​​what your prose should sound like.

Do not work while on the move

Put away your red pencil and build a glass box around your "delete" key. You do not need every single word, phrase, and sentence to construct well first. You just have to put them on the side. Concentrate on publishing all content without censoring yourself or wondering if what you write is good / interesting / insightful / factual enough. Trust us, you will have enough time to pick later.

Develop methods to overcome the writer's block

Studies have found four general reasons for writer's block1) self-criticism, 2) self-confidence that their work is not as well received as others, 3) lack of inspiration or 4) lack of motivation.

If you do not feel like writing, the chances of solving this creative problem are further behind.

  • Self-criticism: Go back to What, Does this idea still hold? Are you still invested in the property? Remember why you wrote the book at all.
  • Self-confidence: Go back to How, Rethink the outline you have created to guide the reader from beginning to end, and the lessons and tips that are included in each chapter.
  • Lack of inspiration: Go back to who, Familiarize yourself with your ideal reader and imagine how it connects to your book. Use that as your inspiration.
  • Lack of motivation: Go back to Why, Think about why you want to write this book and why readers consider it valuable.

In addition, much of avoiding writer's block is in managing your expectations. Your first book will not be your main work and it should not be – you have plenty of time to get there in your career as a writer! Do yourself a favor and do not compare your writing with literary giants: this is neither yours nor your work fair.

Second, remember that not every day is full of creativity and inspiration and you are not always able to transfer the value of the world around you to the page. In fact, the ability to stick to a routine if you are not in a creative mindset is the hallmark of true Writer.

Put the reader first

After all, this is perhaps the most important piece of advice we can give you: Remember Always put the reader first, As first author this is especially difficult. First, you want to prove your stylistic skills. On the other hand, you are not yet used to structuring your letter. This combination will cause your main ideas to get confused.

To counter these tendencies, you should constantly and consciously think about yourself. Keep the language accessible and the speed pretty fast. You may feel compelled to write long, tedious metaphors to clarify your point of view, but the narrative should always take precedence – because that interests the reader.

Okay, the hard part is theoretically over. However, refining and deciding what to do with your book is not a walk through the park. Now we'll take you through what you need to edit your book and eventually publish (if you've chosen this path). Come on, last push – let's go!

8. Revise your manuscript

The vast majority of manuscripts must undergo several rounds of revision before they reach their final form. So do not hold back, it's time for reckless editing. And if you do it yourself, ask a friend or hire a specialistIt is important to know what exactly needs to be repaired. Here are our best tips on the machining process.

Eliminate sticky words and amplifiers

If you want to bore your readers, you just have to fill your book with sticky phrases. A sticky sentence consists of more than 45% glued words – these are the 200 most common words in the English language.

Glue words

There are some exceptions to this rule, but a sentence with more words glued together than not tends to meander unnecessarily. Let's take a look at this example from Lisa Lepki, publisher of the ProWritingAid blog:

A sentence with 64% glue words: "At that moment, Karen went to the middle of the stage with her violin and looked across the room at the crowd."

The same sentence, reformulated with 45% verbs: "At that moment, Karen appeared on stage with her violin, her eyes wide as she watched the growing crowd."

As you can see, the same picture becomes clearer and more concise by reducing the adhesive words.

Manage inconsistencies with a new perspective

When you write your first book, it can easily happen that some inconsistencies occur. One of the main goals of editing is to eliminate them.

However, this is quite difficult if you are just finished writing. You are so familiar with the topic that gaps in logic automatically close in your head. Besides, it is self-evident that you feel a little "valuable" in writing, and you may not be willing to admit mistakes.

For this reason, it is important to wait before editing. This applies to all editing modes. However, this is especially important if you are looking for inconsistencies during line processing. You should try to set aside your manuscript for at least a week, ideally longer before examining it for potential pitfalls and overall cohesion.

If you do not want to wait or trust your own judgment, you can get someone to look over your manuscript with new eyes! Friends and family are a great resource, but look for beta readers or hire one of the aforementioned pro editors.

Do not try to fix every problem at the same time

Nowadays we are all expected to perform multitasks without errors, but take it from us: Do not perform multitasks for your editing. If you do it yourself, it is best to break the editing tasks into a list and complete each element separately.

For example, your first task might be to search for glued words and irrelevant adverbs, and your second task might be to resolve outdated sentences. Your third task will be to look for inconsistencies and so on and so forth. Doing all this at once will certainly cause oversight – and exhaustion. So just take them individually. Here you can download a comprehensive checklist for editing.

Free Course: The most important information for editing

Sign up for this free 10-part course! Enter your e-mail address and select "Edit – How to Work Like a Pro".

9. Write the second draft

Edit everything done? That means you're ready to rewrite: the part where you actually turn your first draft into the second one. It is a magical process, although it requires a lot of work. Here are some things to think about when you take the penultimate step of writing a nonfiction book.

  • Does my book have an overarching narrative?
  • Do my points naturally flow from one to the other?
  • Can I further consolidate my arguments?
  • Does my book offer a unique perspective?
  • Are there any weaknesses that I should focus on – or should I consider cutting?

In addition, you should be sure …

Nailing the opening hook

Like reducing phrases, nailing the hook is another simple but crucial correction that you can make to your manuscript. This is because both editors and readers tend to make quick judgments. If you have moved in from your cover sheet so far that you get to the first page, the first lines are the next test. If they do not exist, they may give up.

Consider the following opening lines:

"Louvain was a boring place, said a guide in 1910, but when the time came, it made a spectacular fire." – The war that ended the peace

"The traditional disputes of philosophers are largely as unjustified as unfruitful." – Truth and logic

"In the fall of 1993, a man came who turned up a lot of what we know about habits on a scheduled date to a lab in San Diego." – The Power of Habit

"We're going to die, and that makes us lucky." – Unweaving The Rainbow

By using strong statements or interesting anecdotes, these hooks instantly create an intrigue. That does not mean that you should exclaim here from Clickbaity, conspicuous used car dealers. Instead, look at the aspects of your book that naturally arouse people's interest and engage with them.

Consider your conclusion

Consider the overall impact of your end. Have you worked through all the issues that you have raised in this book? Will the readers be satisfied with your solution? (You may need to ask other people for their opinion.)

As opposed to rewriting your hook or intro, revising your conclusion can also involve flipping your book back to insert other parts and elements. You may find that you have not integrated a specific topic so that it flows into the conclusion, and you are asked to edit it later in the previous chapters. Again, do not be afraid of the workload: consider it as what makes your book the best it can be.

Bonus: Publish your book (if you like!)

Congratulations to you – you have written a non-fiction book! 👏 But your journey is not over yet: Now you can decide what you want to do with it.

Although we've titled this step "Publish Your Book," you do not necessarily have to do that next. Maybe you wrote a non-fiction book to prove you could. Nevertheless, it is good to have the information you need if you ever decide to follow this path.

Here is a selection of our best resources for traditional publishing and self-publishing, in the order in which they are most likely to be used.


If you want to publish your book yourself, but do not know where to start:
Self-publication of a book (free course)

All considerations and requirements that apply to self-publishing:
The essential checklist for self-publishing (blog post)

After publishing yourself and ready to start marketing:
How to Create the Ultimate Book Marketing Plan (blog post)

Traditional publishing

Would you like to get a publisher before you start your non-fiction book?
Submitting a non-fiction book proposal (free course)

If you are looking for a representative to represent your book, do the following:
To write a query letter that agents can not resist (free course)

A comprehensive overview of traditional publishing:
Traditional Publishing 101 (free course)


Give your book the help it deserves

The best editors, designers and booksellers are on Reedsy. Sign up for free and meet her.

Learn more about how Reedsy can help you make a nice book.

Before we get started, we should make sure that you really have all the information you need to write and answer some of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) an aspiring writer faces before writing his first manuscript.

Five frequently asked questions about writing a nonfiction book

FAQ # 1: How long does it take to write a nonfiction book?

In general, most authors need between six months and a year to write a book. That being said, the pace of each author is different. Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 In 2.5 weeks while Gone with the wind It took 10 years for Margaret Mitchell to finish. Use this post about writing speed to gauge what your appearance will look like.

FAQ # 2: How do I choose the title of a nonfiction book?

Your book title plays an important role. Together with the book cover it gives the reader a first impression. A good title should fascinate and seduce the reader and reinforce the genre or central theme of the book. Read more tips on selecting a book title – or whip our book title generator!

FAQ # 3: How do you get a non-fiction book published?

This is a question without a simple answer. That does not mean that it is so unanswerable: it just means that it is not easy to explain it in a few sentences (and we want to start writing a non-fiction book as soon as possible!) Fortunately, we have separate and thorough guides that will give you more comprehensive publication advice. If you want to publish a book yourself, read this post. If you hope your title is read by a traditional publisher, click here.

FAQ # 4: How much money can an author earn by publishing a non-fiction book?

Another tricky question! Das Einkommen eines Autors pro Buch kann zwischen einer und mehreren Ziffern variieren. Und es hängt von einer Vielzahl von Variablen ab – darunter, ob sie sich selbst oder traditionell veröffentlichen, ihr Genre, ob sie eine bestehende Fangemeinde haben oder nicht – und sogar vom Timing!

Wenn Sie selbst veröffentlichen, können Sie damit rechnen, 70% des Umsatzes mit E-Books und 50% des Umsatzes mit gedruckten Büchern zu erzielen. Wenn Sie den traditionellen Verlagsweg einschlagen, können Sie damit rechnen, 7% des Umsatzes mit gedruckten Büchern und 25% (oder weniger) des E-Book-Umsatzes zu verdienen.

FAQ # 5: Wie viel kostet es, ein Sachbuch zu veröffentlichen?

Dies hängt wiederum von der Veröffentlichungsroute ab, die Sie einschlagen. Wenn Ihr Buch von einem traditionellen Verlag erworben wurde, übernimmt dieser die Produktionskosten für Sie. Wenn Sie vorhaben, Ihr Buch selbst zu veröffentlichen und in hochwertige Bearbeitungs-, Design- und Marketingdienstleistungen zu investieren, müssen Sie mit Ausgaben zwischen 2.000 und 4.000 US-Dollar rechnen. In diesem Beitrag werden die verschiedenen Kosten im Zusammenhang mit der Eigenveröffentlichung eines Buches detaillierter beschrieben – und es wird sogar ein Preiskalkulator mitgeliefert!

Letztendlich liegt es an Ihnen, was Sie mit Ihrem Manuskript machen. Aber ob Sie sich in einer Truhe (oder in einem unberührten Ordner auf Ihrem Desktop) befinden oder diese für alle sichtbar veröffentlichen, wissen Sie nur, dass Sie etwas Erstaunliches erreicht haben – etwas, von dem Sie vielleicht nicht einmal geglaubt haben, dass es nur wenige möglich waren vor kurzen monaten!

Wieder einmal gut gemacht. Und wenn Sie sich für eine Veröffentlichung entscheiden, können wir es kaum erwarten, zu sehen, was Sie erstellt haben. 📖

Bevor Sie fortfahren, dürfen wir unseren letzten Tipp nicht vergessen: Wenn Sie fertig sind, setzen Sie sich mit Ihren Top-Tipps mit uns in Verbindung, damit wir sie diesem Beitrag hinzufügen und anderen aufstrebenden Autoren helfen können, ihre Ziele zu erreichen. Oder wenn du schon welche hast, hinterlasse sie in den Kommentaren unten!

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