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How to Write a Nonfiction Book When It Hurts

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This year, our focus is to find 117 Solutions to our most difficult problems, an effort we call 117 Solutions in 2017. I’m encouraged by the response we’ve had, but I also feel humbled when I’m asked how to write an inspirational nonfiction book when it hurts. Not all stories are pretty, especially those about child abuse.

Sean Carney is one of my heroes. He’s a big, burly man, tough in a kind-hearted way, and he has the kind of laugh that would get you in trouble at church. Deeply generous, Sean lives large, and he shares his blessings inspirational nonfictionwith everyone around him. He should have died when he was 20.

Inspirational Nonfiction; A Painful Story

Sean wasn’t sick, but he grew up in a sick environment that was punctuated by regular incidents of the worst kind of child abuse, inflicted on him by his uncle. The son of a violent father and a depressed-to-the-point-of-being-disabled mother, he had to take the family reins when he was just twelve years old, getting his brothers up for school and cooking their dinner at night. It’s no wonder he became angry and violent, and at 13 he started using drugs: pot, PCP, crystal meth, alcohol, cocaine, and heroin. At 17 he became a father. By the time he was twenty, he was on the needle. Even though he drank and drugged, he could not escape the PTSD from the sexual abuse.

Sometimes you can’t tell when children are in trouble. Sean’s family looked like the richest people in town. He was an All-Star in Little League and hockey, he played army, went to the beach and played in the woods, and he was even a track star. He looked like the run of the mill mid-western kid, but Sean had a secret that burned a hole inside him. His rage was always just under the surface, and it frequently exploded.


A business owner since he was 17, by the time he was 20, despite his drug use, Sean’s strong work ethic made him a phenomenal success. But inside his head, the abuse still tormented him. He was full of self-loathing and felt he was never good enough. Angry to the point of planning his uncle’s murder, he was a loose cannon. How could he feel any different? Look what happened to him.

But that’s not the end of the story. Sean turned his life around, and he is writing an inspirational nonfiction book that will encourage other down-and-outers and show them that they can turn their lives around, too.

What’s the Purpose?

The purpose of Sean’s book is to show people who have lost faith in themselves and feel hopeless about their future, that no matter what’s happened to them or what they’ve done, that they don’t have to be defined by their past but can be prepared by it to live out their unique purpose and become the person they were truly meant to be.

There are over 27,000 reported cases of child abuse every year, but how many more don’t get reported? Hundreds of thousands of adults carry those scars, and I’m grateful that Sean Carney  stepped up to tell his story and offer hope and help to others. Living with the after-effects of child abuse is a problem, and Sean offers a solution. His inspirational nonfiction book may be painful to write, but it will be the voice of hope and help to those who have suffered similar situations.

117 Solutions in 2017

How about you? What do you know, what have you been through, what have you discovered or developed that can help others? What inspirational nonfiction book could you write that will bring hope to others? Please join us in our effort to find 117 Solutions in 2017!

The purpose of 117 Solutions in 2017 is:

  • To create a groundswell of solutions to problems that have, until now, seemed too big or impossible to resolve
  • To unleash the answers that are trapped inside of people
  • To change lives, save lives, and transform society
  • To use your life and your gifts and your resources to MAKE THINGS BETTER. Not because you must, but because YOU CAN!


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Book Writing Software Online tools for writing your book

3 great online tools for writing your book

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During the process of writing your nonfiction book, you will find that there are many potential pitfalls – organization, inspiration, and focus can all be roadblocks to your writing success. As a book writing coach, I guide aspiring authors through the process of writing and publishing their nonfiction books, and it’s my hope to help them eliminate some of the frustrations that they face during the writing process. To do this, I’m always looking for great tools to help my writers. Today, I wanted to share three great online tools for writing your book! If you know of others that you love, comment below! We’re always looking for new tools to help our writers be more successful.

Scrivener-book-writing-softwareScrivener Book Writing Software

Scrivener for Mac – $45.00

Scrivener for PC – $45.00 

Scrivener is more than a word processing tool. It’s a project management tool for writers. The software is fairly low cost and allows writers to outline their nonfiction book, to organize their characters and timeline, to storyboard ideas, and to write. The software offers templates for fiction books, non-fiction books, scriptwriting, poetry, lyrics, and all other project formats. Your final draft can be exported for a publisher, or published in an online format for ebook readers.

GoodNotes Writing App

Available in the iTunes App store for $7.99.

If you’re more of a hand writer or a doodler, then the app GoodNotes may be a great tool to help you get your ideas out and organized in a visual fashion. The app allows you to create images, doodles, and even add text. It syncs between iPhones and iPads utilizing iCloud sync. (Click here to learn more.)goodnotes software for writers



Evernote – FREE & Premium Available

Evernote is the best of both worlds – typewritten organization and handwritten creativity. Using browser tools, iPhone, iPad and Android apps, and the online/Mac version of the platform, you can constantly make and take notes, and organize research with total flexibility. While it’s not necessarily built for publishing or self-publishing, it can be utilized for writing and organization of thought – from scenes, to character sketches, to outlines and more. Click here to read a great blog on Lifehacker on how to use Evernote to write fiction. Many of the same tactics can be used in the writing of a nonfiction book.

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Writing a book online: Q&A with Lindsey Jacobs

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Future author Lindsey Jacobs on finally sharing her story

Future author Lindsey Jacobs on finally sharing her story

In recognition of our upcoming Spring/Summer 2016 Group Writing Program kickoff, we wanted to take time to highlight our aspiring authors. Today, we are highlighting Lindsey Jacobs, a blogger and aspiring author who is writing her book, When Opportunity Knocks. Lindsey is a 40-year-old single mother and nursing student. She has completed the Ironman and is now driving for another achievement — to write her first book. Lindsey blogs about her experiences at

Tell us about your book. What inspired you to write it? 

How to write a book online lindsey jacobsI have always loved writing, and the dream to write a book has been alive in me from a young age.  I have written a couple children’s books (unpublished and sitting in my home office), and made notes for a fiction novel, as well as trying to keep up with my blog that I started about three years ago.  However, the book that I am now working on is not at all what I had in mind when this dream began.

As human beings we morph throughout our lives, and over the last couple of years it became apparent that I have an important story to tell about the challenges I have faced and overcome. While going through a very difficult divorce about four years ago, I took up a new hobby — the triathlon. I have been a runner since the ripe old age of nine, but swimming was something I always avoided.  A good friend of mine convinced me to give triathlon a shot and, somewhat begrudgingly, I did. Even with several marathons (26.2 miles) behind me, the 10k at the end of that very first triathlon was physically the hardest thing I had ever done. From there the challenge grew to complete a half Ironman, which is 70.3 miles. It ultimately grew to complete of a full Ironman, which involves a 2.4 mile swim in open water, a 112 mile bike ride in the foothills of Arizona, and ends with a full marathon, for a total of 140.6 miles. I did that on a November day in a little over 15 hours.

As I have taken on this new hobby, it has been very clear that the triathlon, specifically something as tough as an Ironman, is very much a metaphor for life because there are three distinct parts to it. Some things in life threaten to overwhelm and overtake us, much like drowning. There are other things that we can sort of “fake it til we make it,” even if we wipe out once in a while which, in my case, is like biking. And there are the things that we are passionate about that bring us joy. For me, that is the final leg of triathlon, the 26.2 mile run. Suffering  various forms of abuse in my life, as well as some tragic losses, has been a lot to endure. I have battled depression, anxiety, PTSD, you name it. But looking back, I can see how those things strengthened me and molded me into the person I am now, and am continuing to become. I learned a lot about myself on the journey to become an Ironman, and it is my sincere hope that the lessons I learned in that process can be an inspiration to others who may feel trapped in their life circumstances. It is never to late to break out of the box, put the past behind, and live a life that you love.

What made you decide to participate in our Group Book Coaching program?

lindsey jacobs writing a book how to write a bookIn the fall, just before I met Nancy, I became friends with Paul Gilbride, another St. Louisan who is also a client of Nancy’s.  We talked about our personal stories, and he became very excited about introducing me to his book coach. I, too, was thrilled with the idea. This sounded exactly like what I needed to do to jumpstart the book that was formulating in my brain. I wouldn’t have attempted an Ironman without some expert advice, so why would I try to write a book without it?

At the time Module One: From Concept to Concrete Plan was just about to start. I was nearing the end of my Medical Assistant externship and had planned to take a break from work/school during December before jumping back in to the Nursing program in January. I also knew that my first semester of nursing school would be a light load due to transferred credits, so the timing seemed perfect, and I was excited to get this project off and running (pun intended. 😉  )

The purpose of my book is to show athletic women, aged 30-45, who feel trapped in their current circumstances that they have many choices. I encourage them to choose a path of their own and push through their struggles and fears, so they can create a life that they love.

What has been your favorite part of writing a book online through the Group Book Coaching program?

My favorite part was working on my BookMAPs. As Nancy often says, “While you are working on your book, your book is working on you.”  This couldn’t be more true. I’ve done a lot of hard work over the last few years to become the person I want to be, but through the process of mapping out my book, I have had a front row seat to witness the progress I’ve made.

I think the part of the program that has been most helpful is how Nancy breaks everything down into manageable chunks. The very possibility of writing an entire book can be somewhat daunting. But I actually look forward to each assignment because I’m confident that while it won’t be easy, it is something I can do and enjoy.

I would absolutely recommend this program for other aspiring authors. I believe that each of us has a unique story to tell, but we sometimes hold back out of fear or lack of direction. Anyone who has ever had a dream of telling their story can benefit from this program.

What has it been like to take on the process of writing your first book?

I am still in the beginning stage of the first draft of my book, but it’s just a matter of time before I put the many thoughts in my head into words to create the book that is inside of me.

I am no stranger to setting goals. As a 40-year-old single mom and nursing student who has completed an Ironman, I think it’s fair to say that I am driven to achieve. I have always been goal oriented, but the process of pursuing this dream–writing my book–has reminded me that facing fears and being vulnerable are an essential part of living. We are only given one life to live, and we need to make the most of the dreams we have. Those dreams ebb and flow with time, and our needs and abilities change, but for me personally, I always need to be in pursuit of something–even if that something is as simple as being the best that I can possibly be. Just like a marathon begins with a single step, my book begins with just a single word. It doesn’t matter how slow I’m going, as long as I continue moving forward, one step at a time. I know I will cross the finish line.

Learn more about Lindsey at

To learn more and enroll in our Spring/Summer Group Book Writing Program, click here.


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Creating the best story structure for your non-fiction book

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Creating-a-story-nonfiction-book-writing-book-coach-how-to-write-a-bookWhen it comes to crafting your personal exceptional story, it can be difficult to know where and how to begin. I’m here to help you design your story so you can start writing and get your story out into the world. As a book coach, my life is spent working with individuals who have a story to tell, and helping them share that story in a way that moves people to action. 

What is your story?

All of us have our own story, and people are truly interested in hearing it. Every day, each of us are asked questions such as:

  • What do you do?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • Where did you go to school?
  • Do you have kids?

You see, even if people are not directly asking about your story, these types of questions are all indirect ways to try to learn more about you and the story you have to tell.  

Physiologically, humans are wired to enjoy and relate to stories. Stories have been a part of the human fabric since the beginning of time. People like to listen to stories, relate to them, and remember them. Find your story and give people what they crave!

It’s important to understand the difference between telling your story and presenting your resume. You cannot tell your exceptional story by reciting a list of your accomplishments or delivering an elevator pitch. You need to dig deeper. Your story will communicate who you are, so you need to figure out exactly who that is and how to showcase that person.

Start with the foundation of your story

Before you start writing your story, you need to answer two questions:

  1. What is the purpose of your story?
  2. Who is the audience?

Stories can help you cross racial, social-economical, political, and religious, boundaries; they are that powerful. I believe there are two key things all people need: hope and help. Your story has the power to offer hope and help to others. Your story can change lives and have an impact on society, but you need to decide just what kind of impact you want to make. What do you want your story to communicate? What change do you want to invoke in the reader? How will your story help people?

Knowing your audience is essential. Your target audience will determine what you tell them and why. Cater your story to grab the interest of your audience, so that you can deliver a helpful and memorable story. Take a look at my blog post, How to Define an Audience for Your Book, for a more in-depth explanation of how to tackle this important task.

Outline the three parts of your story to lay the plan for your nonfiction book

Obviously, all stories have a beginning, middle, and end, but the three parts I suggest you consider are these:

  1. What it used to be like
  2. What happened
  3. What it’s like now

Start with what life was like before the change happened.  Were you happy? Overworked? Unfulfilled? Paint a picture of your “before” and set your audience up for the change.

The “what happened” section is the turning point in your story. It’s your pivotal moment, the bridge that connects the before and after. Something happened that caused a change in your life, and that’s what you’ll share with your audience. Some changes are internal, such as an “aha!” moment that directed you to take action or make a change, but some people need more of a push. External changes are things that force us into change, such as the death of a family member, birth of a child, a divorce, loss of a job, or some other life-altering occurrence. What happened to you? How did it force you to change and why?

Create closure in your story

Next, tell your audience what it’s like now. Where are you in your life? How are things different?

If you’re struggling with how to wrap up the impact of your life or a specific chapter in your story, consider these six areas of your life and how they have been impacted by the events you shared in your memoir or business book:

  • Spiritual
  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Emotional
  • Professional, 
  • Financial

How have these areas of your life been affected?

If you take these three aspects–What it Used to be Like, What Happened and What It’s Like Now–put them together, and seal them with a solid purpose statement that clearly communicates the purpose of your story, you will have a solid design in place.  

You have a story to tell, and people are ready to hear it, but whether or not they will relate to it and remember it depends on how well you tell it. How you tell your story is just as important as the story itself. I can help you craft your story and work with you when you have trouble writing. Don’t let fear of writing keep you from sharing your story with the world!

If you need help to write your book, consider working with me as you write your first book. Details below!


nancy erickson book coach book coaches How to Become an Author: Module One 1About Nonfiction Book Writing & Publishing Expert Nancy Erickson

Nancy Erickson is better known as “The Book Professor,” a writing and publishing consultant who specializes in helping aspiring nonfiction authors bring their book ideas to market. Nancy works as a book coach assisting authors that write self-help books, biographies, business books, and other nonfiction books through online courses and book coaching. Contact Nancy with questions or to have her speak at your upcoming event by clicking here.


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