4 Popular Methods Used by First-Time Authors

Are you ready to write a nonfiction book? Congratulations! Nonfiction, whether in the form of memoir, self-help, or entertainment, is a wonderful tool to help others and share your story.

But if you’ve never written a book before, you may not know where to begin.

Happily, the internet age offers more resources than ever for aspiring authors to get started writing a first book. Whether you want to work in a group or alone, whether you have no writing experience or plenty, these resources can get you on the road to penning that manuscript.

1.    Writing Coaches and Classes

A professional writing coach can help you organize your ideas and teach you the foundations of good writing. As you work on your rough draft, they can help you select the best material and communicate clearly. They can also help you edit your work.

A writing class typically follows some sort of curriculum to teach and strengthen writing skills. It includes feedback from a professional writer and, usually, from fellow classmates as well.

The Book Professor® curriculum breaks the writing process into manageable weekly lessons. It covers everything from first idea to final touches, and can include editing and publication services. Our curriculum comes in three formats: individual coaching, group coaching, or working on your own.

Executive Group MASTERMIND

In the Group MASTERMIND class, you’ll join a cohort of 5-7 other writers under the direction of an assigned Book Professor® coach. Your group meets weekly via video chat to discuss the previous lesson and share you writing “homework” with one another. Group members, along with the writing coach, provide supportive feedback on each manuscript. At the end of the course, you have the option to pay for professional editing services from The Book Professor®.

Reasons aspiring authors choose this class:

  • Accountability. It’s easy to tell yourself you’re too tired or busy to finish your weekly homework assignment. The weekly video chats with other writers provide motivation to hit those deadlines even when you don’t feel like it.
  • Professional guidance. The experienced writing coaches at The Book Professor® will give you personalized advice on your writing.
  • Encouragement. You and your fellow authors walk through the writing process together. You’ll face similar challenges and help each other find solutions.
  • Publication. This program offers a shortened path to publication. Any manuscript completed in a Group MASTERMIND class is automatically eligible for editing by The Book Professor and publication through our sister company, Stonebrook Publishing.

1-2-1 Coaching

In this program, you work directly with The Book Professor® founder Nancy Erickson. Nancy guides you through the writing curriculum and personally edits the chapters of your book as you complete them.

Reasons aspiring authors choose this method:

  • Personal coaching. In this class, you don’t have to share your video chats with other writers. Nancy brings her full attention to your project for the duration of your call, and is able to deliver in-depth advice about your project.
  • Efficiency. Nancy’s focused attention on your project allows you to move through the planning and writing stages faster. For example, creating the plan for your book—what we call the BookMAP—typically takes 14 weeks. With 1-2-1 coaching, however, it takes just six.
  • Built-in editing. Unlike the Group MASTERMIND, which gives you the option to add editing services at the end, 1-2-1 coaching provides Nancy’s professional editing feedback as you write your chapters. This expedites your path to publication.

Self-Directed Course

The self-directed course grants you access to the same curriculum used in Group MASTERMIND and 1-2-1 coaching, but you work through the material on your own at your chosen pace. To ensure you get the most out of the curriculum, the course only grants you access to one week’s worth of lessons at a time—but then you retain access to all materials for life. Stick to the schedule and you’ll have a book in 12 months.

Reasons aspiring authors choose this program:

  • Independence. If you want to work completely at your own pace, this program gives you the same writing know-how without the group aspect.
  • Budget. This is the most budget-conscious of The Book Professor’s writing programs.

Some authors find independent work to be the best option. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll have to find a writing group or critique partner on your own.

2.    Ghost Writers

If you have a story to tell but wish you could hand the entire writing process to someone else, you might consider using a ghost writer. A ghost writer will take your ideas and write the book for you, but you publish under your own name and retain all rights to the work.

Important points to consider about ghost writers:

  • Significant cost. Talented, in-demand ghost writers will charge tens of thousands of dollars to produce your envisioned manuscript. When it comes to ghost writing, we advise against selecting a cheap writer. Cheaper ghost writers tend to be less experienced, which could mean a sub-par manuscript.
  • They do (most of) the work. You may provide vision, ideas, and some material, but a skilled ghost writer can do everything from research to outlining to drafting to editing. That’s less work for you!
  • They understand the publishing world. Ghost writers have written books before and seen them published. They know what works in a manuscript and what doesn’t, so they can provide valuable feedback on your ideas and help make your book stronger.
  • Legal matters. You’ll need to provide a contract for your ghost writer. Some may have a contract template they use, which you’ll need to review.
  • You still need an editor. Any ghost writer worth her salt should be a good editor, but no book should go to a printer or publisher without going through a professional editing service.
  • You’ll manage publication on your own. Finding a publisher and/or printer, cover design, ISBN number, back cover copy, marketing, distribution, and more will fall to you.

3.    Working on Your Own

You’ve probably considered this route. It’s common for an aspiring author to begin writing on their own and assume they’ll find an editor and publisher later. Is this a wise move? Well, it depends.

Factors that will make or break your success as a stand-alone writer include:

  • Your writing skills. Do you know how to narrow down your book idea and identify your audience? Do you know how to structure your book? Do you know how to make your prose concise and clean, and how to keep readers turning pages? Do you know how to use literary devices like imagery, scene building, metaphors, and more? If the answer is no, you probably need a writing coach or writer’s group to help you learn these things.
  • How motivated are you? When you get stuck in the middle of your manuscript and aren’t sure what to write next, will you make yourself keep going? If a busy schedule or unexpected life event derails your writing schedule, will you pull yourself back to it?
  • Are you willing to navigate publishing alone? As with ghost writing, once the book is finished, you’ll navigate all aspects of design, publishing, marketing, and distribution on your own.

4.    “Fast” Writing Programs

If you’re researching the ins and outs of writing, you’ve probably seen writing programs or methods that promise to help you write your book in a few short months, or even weeks.

This can appeal to those who worry about finding time to write. Carving out time for, say, twelve weeks sounds easier than writing for a whole year. A swift writing process also gives you something to show for your work and money sooner.

But don’t jump in too quickly. There are some important questions you should ask before joining one of these programs.

  • How developed is my book idea? If you’ve done significant work to figure out your book’s topic, audience, and structure, then writing it quickly is a more realistic goal. However, if you haven’t put in this work yet, you may need a program that builds in more time to develop your ideas.
  • Does this program include feedback and revision? There’s a reason we call first attempts “rough” drafts. All authors, even the professionals, revise their rough drafts to make the material flow better and the writing sound better. You’ll want to know whether or not this step is included in any writing program you join. If it’s not, you’ll need to prepare to do it on your own. Also get clarity up front about whether the program you join includes feedback on your work from an instructor or writing coach.

Here at The Book Professor®, we have a saying: “While you’re working on your book, your book is working on you.” Your ideas for the book, and your realizations about what works and what doesn’t, will evolve slowly as you work—and your book will be better for it. That’s why our curriculum includes the planning stage as part of the writing process, and it’s why we tell our authors to expect to spend at least a year on their project. It really will make the finished product better.

Start Your First Book Today

If you’re ready, why wait? The world needs your story. Contact The Book Professor® today to learn more about how we can help your writing process.