TOP 7 Writing Tips for Nonfiction Writers
If you're thinking about giving it a go as a nonfiction writer, there are 7 nonfiction writing tips you should know about right upfront. Nonfiction consists of self-help, technical writing, historical fiction, memoir, etc. These tips will definitely save you a ton of time, energy, and headaches over nonfiction writers who choose to "wing it" and not get all their 7 nonfiction writing tips facts straight.
Tip #1: Do You Have a Story?
This tip is important because if you don’t have a story to write about then you can stop right now. Not kidding either. How do you find your story? You can listen to podcasts, read headlines, do some “news-jacking”, or read some of your favorite blogs to help find what to write about.
For my nonfiction book Out of Darkness I found this story as I was writing my memoir Pinpoints of Light: Escaping the Abyss of Abuse. It was the first half of my Pinpoints of Light book and I discovered that this really needed to go into a different book.
Tip #2: Why?
Finding your why is critical to your success because, without a reason, your story will fall flat. It will become a running list of facts. It is the foundation of the book and without it, there is no direction. Here’s how you find your why:
Search for answers
Can it help anyone else?
Will it help you, your mindset, your business?
Is the story is so powerful it must be told to save the life of another?
This is most helpful to find this out at the beginning so that you don’t waste your time.
Tip #3: Readership: Who cares about this story?
This tip will help you because you are talking about your readership. Readership is a huge transactional relationship. Meaning that readers are exchanging their precious time to engage in the words that you have written. The readership is reading because they find a connection with you, with your words, or that the story is impacting change in their lives that is influencing generations.
It's critical to remember your readership when developing nonfiction information. If you are in education and you are writing about the latest research about a surgical procedure, it must be clear in order for the reader to apply the technique and save a patient’s life. No pressure!
Tip #4: Research, Research, Research!
You need to know this tip because if you can’t back up the facts or vet the information, is it truly nonfiction? Use your resources, internet, librarians, and dig to find what you can about all that you can. Research can even come from interviewing people who have had years of experience in the field. Their information is vital to help form facts and strengthens perspectives. Backing up what you say is a crucial part of vetting, especially in these times.
Tip #5: Map it Out and Outline it.
Who likes to start a road trip without any plans, directions, money, or reservations? If you are that carefree, I’m not so sure that nonfiction writing is a great idea for you. I’m kidding! I’m kidding. For nearly all nonfiction mapping out or putting together a narrative out of a pile of research can feel overwhelming. If this is happening, please return to tip number two to consult “why are your writing this in the first place.” I like to post my why on a yellow sticky note right at the top of my screen to help me stay on target.
For the outline with nonfiction is crucial to help keep things on target and in progression. I find that I start with an outline that looks like this:
Summary of story Gripping introduction
What is unique about the book and how to sell it to my market. Benefits, benefits, benefits.
What will the writing structure look like: hero’s journey, three-act play, 7 point structure (hum….we just went over these) just to mention a few.
A bullet point list of stories to add throughout the book. ***without stories your book is a bunch of facts that the reader will not really care about or remember.
Chapter titles and their 3-4 sentence summary (this is a crucial step). (Bonus tip* Put the chapter title and the summary at the beginning of the chapter as a quick reference to you as you write. You can take it out later).
Running chapters without the summary
If you need supports and help with coming up with ideas, outlines, headlines, hooks, and other supports I use incredible software that is game-changing support to any writer out there. It allows you to structure the nonfiction book in such a way that you can actually get through the mountain of work that writing a book is. Click below to find out more.
This is an outline that will get you started. I have more that I add to the outline, but I can’t share all my secrets here. But you are welcome to more as you work with me.
Tip #6: Goals
Here's what this means for you. Set writing goals. There are many ways to approach writing goals:
Word count goals
Completed chapters and so forth.
For me, it is really important to set a time to write and then work on the project within that time frame. As a reward, I go back and find out how many words I have written. The word count is always more then I expected. I am very competitive and setting word count goals causes stress and stops my flow. So, for me, this reward system allows for flow to happen. Set the writing goals that will work for you and stick with them.
Tip #7: Chapters Start Where?
What do I mean by chapters start where? It is simply this, start where you are, and write from there. Don't neglect this tip because you will be able to optimize flow if you do. If you feel like you have a chapter that must be told, write it. If you have a strong outline you will know where it is to go and then you can slip it into there. This can also help prevent writer's block.
Remember that writing is a process and is messy. Can you be fine with the mess? I hope so otherwise your writing career will be long, hard, and not filled with joy. It is a learning journey that is not supposed to have any kind of perfection with it, well, until the end.
Overall, these 7 nonfiction writing tips put some real power in your corner as a nonfiction writer. But don't forget, there's a lot more to 7 nonfiction writing tips success, especially if you want to get more clients who need help in writing their nonfiction books. So don't let this article be the end of your journey, but rather the beginning of your quest for more knowledge.