Writing Techniques and Strategies at Any Level
Are you writing a nonfiction book, creative nonfiction, or memoir, but aren’t sure where to start? Or maybe you’ve already started but feel stuck.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Countless authors have walked this road before you. Adopt the writing techniques and strategies used by published authors to beat writer’s block and make a manuscript shine.
Start with these 8 basic tips for writing a book, and check out our blog for more answers to your writing questions!
Techniques for a Strong Start
The first step to writing a book is not, in fact, to start writing. The first step is planning what to write.
If you start typing without a plan, you may run out of steam partway through the draft. It’s difficult to organize all of your ideas on the fly. Too many aspiring authors give up on promising projects due to a lack of organization up front.
Therefore, the first few tips for writing a nonfiction book will take you through the planning stage.
Start with a Purpose Statement
Step one: you need a purpose statement. A purpose statement explains why you’re writing your book and what you hope the book will do for readers.
Remember, people don’t buy books; they buy solutions to their problems. A purpose statement helps you identify your potential reader’s problem so you can write the solution for them. It lays out what you hope the audience takes away from your book.
Identify Your Audience
If you don’t have a clear picture of your audience, you can’t understand their problems and how to talk to them. To figure out who your audience is, consider the following prompts:
- How old are they?
- What is their gender?
- What’s their education level?
- What concerns/problems do they have?
- Do they live in one specific geographic area?
- What shared interests do they have?
Keep in mind that you may have more than one audience. Self-help books, for instance, are often read both by the people who need help and by loved ones who are trying to support them. Business books may target business owners and employers in a specific industry, but the principles might help those in other industries as well. Additionally, books are often given as gifts. Who is likely to gift your book to your ideal reader?
You want to have one primary audience in mind, but don’t forget about these secondary markets!
Map Out Your Book’s Structure
Plenty of authors have pieces of a book inside their head. They may think they can sit down, start writing, and fit those pieces together as they go. In reality, they’re likely to hit a stopping point several chapters in and not know how to proceed. This is traditionally called “writer’s block,” but it’s really more like “writer’s confusion,” because the writer doesn’t know how to get from idea A to ideas B, C, and D.
If you plan the structure of your entire book before you start writing, you eliminate this problem.
This is why The Book Professor® recommends BookMAPs. A BookMAP helps you organize your ideas into a framework. You will see how to order your material and how disparate ideas fit together in a larger narrative.
Learn more about the different types of BookMAPs to guide your project.
Block Out Time to Write
Finding time to write is a common struggle for authors. Jobs, families, volunteer work, and daily life can conspire to make your writing sessions few and far between.
That’s why it’s important to block out time to write. Treat this blocked out time as untouchable, just like you would an important meeting or commitment.
Some writers set the alarm two hours early every morning to get up and write. Some always write just before bed. Others block out part of the weekend. Whatever schedule works for you, stick to it. Otherwise, you may never finish your book.
That’s why The Book Professor® schedules weekly writing “homework assignments.” These assignments enforce a slow, steady approach to get your draft written.
Techniques for quality writing
The best story in the world won’t appeal to readers if it isn’t written well.
You may think that writing ability is a mysterious talent that some are born with and some are not. This is untrue. You can learn to write well if you put in the time and have the right tools.
If you want your book to keep readers turning pages, apply the following aspects of good writing to your work.
Do a Rough Draft First
Treat your first draft like a draft, not a finished product.
The goal of the first draft is to let your creativity loose and get all your ideas on paper. You can cut, add, rearrange, refine, and perfect later.
Finish a draft of the entire manuscript before you go back to start editing.
This is one of the reasons why BookMAPs are so important: they make the rough draft stage easier. You already have a general idea of what belongs in each chapter, so you’re free to write long and hard without stopping to second-guess big picture organization.
Also, it’s a good idea to research troubleshooting ideas in case you hit snags on that first draft.
Use the Literary Techniques of Fiction Writers
Who knew that things like setting, character, and point of view applied to nonfiction just as much as fiction?
- Summary and Scene: How much of your story should you condense and summarize? How much should you turn into vivid scenes that make the reader feel as if they were there? Balance summary and scene to keep readers invested in your narrative and turning pages.
- Setting: Help your readers experience the time and place where events occurred by taking time to lay out the setting. Your readers want to feel grounded in the story, especially if your book is a memoir.
- Sensory Language: When you write a scene, make use of the five senses. Describe sights, sounds, sensations, tastes, and smells.
- Point of View: Learn about different types of narrative point of view, including their advantages and disadvantages. Then choose the right one for your book.
- Pacing: Don’t rush through your story or drag it on too long. Learn how to pace your material to keep readers engaged to the last page.
Be Vulnerable with Readers
Do you think a nonfiction book is just a vehicle for sharing knowledge? Think again.
Unless you’re writing a textbook, your audience wants to know about you. They want to know why you have the authority to write on this topic. They’d like to get a sense of your personality.
This means sharing some of your personal story in your book.
For example, Mary Jo Rennert wrote a book for divorcees reaffirming God’s love for them despite their painful circumstances. To help readers trust her message, she shared her own story of divorce, including the pain of being blindsided by an unfaithful spouse. Mary Jo’s readers know that they are being guided by someone who has walked the path before them. They feel less alone.
It takes courage to be vulnerable, but it forges a stronger connection with your readers.
Work with Others
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: books are too long and too complicated to be written without a community of helpers.
Forget the stereotype of a lone genius at a typewriter. Real authors find value in sharing their work with others. It provides the accountability you need to get the work done and the feedback you need to improve as a writer.
Find your writing community through online writing classes, local critique groups, or even just one or two friends who love to read and write.
Ready to Get Started?
If you want to start your book project but need help learning and implementing writing best practices, check out the services offered by The Book Professor®. You’ll learn how to plan your book, how to keep readers interested, and how to edit your work to make it shine. You’ll also benefit from the support of writing coaches and other aspiring authors.
That book won’t write itself. Contact us today to get started!