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The Book Professor’s® Complete Guide to Writing Your Nonfiction Book

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A lot of us suddenly have a surprising amount of free time on our hands. If you want to start your manuscript today, here’s my process, start to finish. 

It’s Time to Stop Stalling 

[Note to readers: We have a special offer running through March 31, 2020. Check out the discount at the end of this blog post].

If you’re like most aspiring writers, you’ve probably considered writing a book for some time now. Like someone who stands at the edge of a pool, waiting for the perfect moment to dive in, you might only need a little encouragement. A little push. 

Well, this is it. Especially if you’re stuck at home right now due to COVID-19, I want to encourage you. Use these difficult days to fulfill a dream or propel your career forward. Write your book. 

Do you still need someone to convince you? Do you think, “Who am I to write a book?” Or, “It’s way too hard?” 

Consider the story behind some of the books my authors produced. 

For example, Executive Coach Mike Kitko had several false starts before he engaged the process I’m about to share. But after he followed it from beginning to end, he released an excellent book he can sell at every one of his speaking gigs. (It even helped him create two revenue-producing courses!) 

Beth Standlee is a gifted writer and speaker, but she struggled to organize her “creative chaos” into a book. This process gave her the tools to do so. With this structure in place, she was able to publish her book even while she navigated one of the most challenging periods in her personal life. 

Terry Lammers is a businessman who knows the secrets of buying and selling companies. But he never considered himself a writer. This process helped him produce the book, You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know. It found a place on the Forbes list, Best Books for Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. 

And we haven’t even talked about the Overcomers! Writers like Rich Daniels, Lindsey Jacobs, and Nancy Nelson learned to tell complex, rich stories that grew out of heartbreaking times. It took courage to say what they had to say, but in the end, the process they followed helped them release beautiful books that offer hope and help to others. 

You can do it, too. This article will get you started. But you can get even more complete detail from my book, Stop Stalling and Start Writing. Download a copy (or order the paper version) here. 

Ready? Get set. 

Write! 

1. Purpose Statement

If you want to complete your book as soon as possible, you may be tempted to start at chapter one. But a little pre-writing goes a long way. It keeps you from writing three or four chapters only to discover you’ve “lost the plot. 

Start with a purpose statement, which allows you to make choices that will drive your book forward. It follows this formula: 

The purpose of this book is to action for audience to result. 

Let’s break that down. 

Action 

First, what do you want your book to do for people? The answer to this question is vital because people don’t buy books; they buy solutions  

Audience 

Then, define your audience. It’s okay to be specific. The better you define your audience now, the more targeted your writing can be. It will also give you a way to market your book when you’ve completed it. 

Result 

Finally, what will your audience take away from this book? That’s the “result.” It’s the change your audience will experience when they’ve read it. 

This strategy works for any nonfiction book. All of my writers have focused their writing through this formula.  

But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean you can rush through it. Take some time. Freewriting will get you a long way. (Try writing with your non-dominant hand as well.) 

If you want to learn more and see some examples of purpose statements for a wide range of nonfiction books, read this article. 

ASSIGNMENT: Write your purpose statement. 

2. BookMAPs

We’ve talked about BookMAPs extensively on the blog, and I encourage you to read this article in addition to the one you’re reading now. This part of the process gives you the structure you need to write quickly and effectively, virtually eliminating writer’s block.  

You’ll start with BookMAP 1, your personal story. Here’s the formula: 

  • What it used to be like 
  • What happened 
  • What it’s like now 

If you’re writing a memoir, you’ll base your entire book around these three points. For most writers, however, BookMAP 1 will inform your introduction and give you many of the anecdotes you’ll need to fill out the rest of your book. 

As you consider each of these three points, spend time writing down what life was like during each of these three periods: 

  • Personally 
  • Professionally 
  • Physically 
  • Spiritually 
  • Financially 
  • Mentally 
  • Relationally 

Write all of this out and collect it in a single document. 

ASSIGNMENT: Create BookMAP 1. 

Next, you’ll work on BookMAP 2, which are problem/solution sets. Your book is about how you solved one big problem. Still, you’ll break that larger problem down into about several individual problems that each had a solution you discovered. 

Each of those solutions has a list of features, which are the attributes and aspects your solution provides. Second, each of those features has a list of benefits. These benefits are “what you got out of that solution.” 

For most business books and how-to books, these problem/solution sets will define your chapters. Collect your problems, solutions, features, and benefits into one document.  

ASSIGNMENT: Create BookMAP 2. 

3. Write without Ruts

With your BookMAPs in place, you know what you’re going to write. Now you just have to do it. 

I recommend writers set aside time to write their book. Whether you can work every day or once a week, make sure you reserve this time for yourself. Then, do whatever you have to do to concentrate and write. 

Also, don’t double back and fix what you’ve written. It’s too early to determine what you’re going to keep and what you’re going to throw it. All of that is just a distraction. This first draft will not be perfect, but it does have to be complete. 

Write the book and be prepared to fix it later. 

ASSIGNMENT: Write your first draft, one chapter at a time, from beginning to end. 

4. Rewrite: Polish and Perfect

Now, go back through your book and see what you need to do to make every line work and every word sing. It takes some time, so don’t rush the process. But as you edit, ask yourself: 

  • Does this address my audience? 
  • Does this help my audience take action that will produce their desired result? 

If it doesn’t, no matter how much you love it, cut it. Your first draft was for you. You had to get it all on paper. But this draft if for your audience. This draft will make a difference in people’s lives. 

Also, this is when you’ll need to engage a professional book editor. No matter how proper your grammar is, your book will need a second set of eyes. And if you’re not a very strong writer, editors can help you keep your voice but fix your mistakes. 

ASSIGNMENT: Go back to the beginning and work through your book line by line. 

Is that really all there is to it? 

Yes and no. If you read straight through this post, it probably took you about five minutes. And it only takes a handful of hours to read my book on this subject. 

But writing a book takes a long time. I estimate forty-eight weeks 

And there’s more to a book than just writing it. At some point, it won’t make sense to work through this process all alone. I do a lot of big-picture editing for writers, helping them when they get lost and don’t know what’s next. When we finish, I bring in another editor to go through the book line by line and make sure we haven’t missed anything. 

The cover and layout are essential to the reader’s experience, too. There’s a tangible difference between a professionallydesigned book and a printed-out Word document. When you have someone do it correctly and beautifully, it will earn you an extra degree of credibility. 

But nearly anyone who has lived through a problem (and figured out how to solve it) can write a book. If you’re not ready to work through the process with me, that’s okay. Use this opportunity to get started. 

But if you’re ready to go allin, get someone who can walk you through this process, and work with a coach who can cheer you on, I’d love to work with you. Contact me here. 

A Special Discount through March 31, 2020

A lot of you have followed me for some time now, waiting for the perfect opportunity to write your book. Maybe a finished book means a leap ahead in your career. Maybe it means fulfilling a lifelong dream.

But if this current landscape of uncertainty has caused you to put your plans on hold, I want to make things easier for you.

I’ve temporarily adjusted the price and the terms of our Group Coaching Mastermind:

  • I’ve reduced the price by 15%—from $350 a month to $297.50 a month
  • After the initial payment of $297.50, I’ll delay your payments for three months

That means you wouldn’t make another payment until July! The course begins on April 2, so this offer will expire on March 31.

If this is a dream you were going to have to defer yet again, I hope this helps. You can take advantage of this if you go to our registration page here and use the coupon code WRITETIME.


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The Key Ingredients of an Effective Memoir

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Are you an Overcomer?

When author Lindsey Jacobs came to work with me, she had an incredible story. She went through a divorce but found her way, bit by bit, as she trained for a triathlon. That triathlon became a metaphor for the change she experienced as a person.

The book she wrote, Stronger: From Trials to Triumph to Triathlete, comes out of that particular slice of her life. Her story, along with her life change, culminates with the moment when she crosses the finish line.

Like many of the authors I work with as The Book Professor®, she had to face off with several problems. Over time, she found solutions to each of them. She could have communicated what she learned through a variety of genres:

  • A self-help book
  • A business book
  • A how-to book

However, Lindsey decided to write a memoir, or what I call an Overcomer’s Story. In an Overcomer’s Story, the author’s life has a strong and direct “point” to it. That point is the main takeaway of the book.

Here are the key elements to a memoir, and what you need to know to write one.

Memoir Ingredient 1: Honesty

I love memoirs. Lucy Greeley’s Autobiography of a Face and Jeanette Walls’s The Glass Castle are two of my favorites. Throughout each of these books, the author gives us a snapshot of a real and messy life told with absolute honesty.

In a memoir, the reader gets on the roller coaster with the writer.

This is not typically true of an autobiography. Autobiographies are usually a textbook-like, long (and tedious) highlight reel: “I did this, then I did this, and then I did this.”

I rarely enjoy those kinds of books. They create psychological distance between the writer and the reader. The author tells his or her story in a way that ends, “And we all lived happily ever after.”

By contrast, though a memoir can end in triumph, it doesn’t end with a fairy tale resolution. It ends like this: “And here I go on, still trudging this road. But I’m here.” Readers can relate to that kind of conclusion.

Memoir Ingredient 2: Hope & Help

As The Book Professor®, I only work with authors who want to offer hope and help to people. To make sure the final result will accomplish this goal, we always do two things.

  1. Create a purpose statement
  2. Define the audience

We talk more about these two critical parts of the process in this article. Those two “boundary lines” help inform every word the author writes from that point on.

When we build these two components, the memoir becomes more than pure entertainment. As the author tells his or her Overcomer’s Story in an emotionally descriptive way, the audience receives a sense of hope: “If the author made it through that, maybe I’ll be okay, too.”

Then, the “help” comes in how the person did it. These books still contain problems and solutions, but the author shows more than they tell.

The skinned knees and bruised elbows represent the problems the author faced. But he or she will then say, “I found this, and it really helped.” With a well-defined audience and purpose statement, the author can be certain that the book’s readers have faced similar problems.

Memoir Ingredient 3: Pivotal Moments

When I help authors structure their book, I use a tool I developed called BookMAPs™ (read more here). There are two of them, and each serves a vital role for the author. BookMAP 2 looks at the problem/solution sets the author discovered.

However, memoirs use BookMAP 1 to define their overall structure:

  • What it used to be like
  • What happened
  • What it’s like now

It’s the second bullet point, “what happened,” that makes up most of the memoir. It’s a series of pivotal moments where everything shifts, and through those shifts, the author’s life completely changes.

Sometimes, these pivotal moments can be “Aha!” moments, when the author decides, “I’m going to do things differently.” But most of the time, those pivotal moments come to us as a surprise. They can be happy surprises: You meet the love of your life, have a child, or fall into a career that’s perfect for you.

However, pivotal moments often come as a result of unwelcome surprises: A death, divorce, or job loss.

But as the author describes these pivotal moments, he or she can’t just recount the facts. The reader needs to experience all of what the writer has to offer.

Memoir Ingredient 4: Go Deep

Through BookMAP 2, authors will look at each of these pivotal moments through a variety of lenses. They’ll ask themselves what their life was like:

  • Professionally
  • Financially
  • Relationally
  • Physically
  • Personally
  • Spiritually
  • Mentally

For each of these, we take a deep dive into the “before,” the “during,” and the “after.” There will likely be more than one element that the writer has yet to consider.

For example, a pivotal moment might cause someone to learn about his or her relationship: “I don’t want to be around people who make me feel bad anymore.”

Or, it might be a financial change: “I tethered myself to this person because of the money, but I decided to put myself first. I may live hand-to-mouth for awhile, but that’s better.”

As the author writes, we look for ways to pull out these moments through sensory language. We want readers to feel what the author felt at the time. There, as the readers viscerally experience the author’s story, they experience more of the hope and help so crucial to the audience the author has defined.

Are you an overcomer?

Of all the genres of nonfiction books, memoirs can be the most difficult to write. The experience can be emotionally draining, and a lot of people think they can just farm the work out to a ghostwriter.

But here’s the thing. Ghostwritten memoirs rarely make a personal connection! The person who lived the story has to write the story for it to make an impact.

If you want to write a memoir, you don’t have to do it by yourself. At The Book Professor®, we don’t write your book for you. We guide you through a tried-and-true process. We become your sounding board. And we help you finish and publish a book that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with anything else on the market.

If you’re an Overcomer, I’d love to help you write your book. Let’s get your story out there!


Learn How to Write a Book