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Nonfiction Writing Technique: Pacing

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This summer while you’re working on your book, it’s important to keep techniques like pacing top-of-mind. Never heard of the term? It’s OK! Keep reading to learn how mastering this format will make your readers eager for more and keep your book at the top of their mind!

The term PACING in literature refers to the rate at which your story progresses. Your job as a nonfiction writer is to move the story along without losing your audience. It’s important not to go too fast, and you certainly don’t want to go so slow that you bore them to death. When you understand how to control the pace of your story, you’ve grasped one of the most important skills in writing.  Keep the following in mind when you write, and you’ll be a master at story pacing in no time.

story pacing1. Length controls speed.

Short scenes and chapters, terse sentences, and snappy dialogue all contribute to a feeling of intensity and speed. This is probably the easiest way to control your pacing. As your story nears the tense scenes, make it a point to condense everything. Limit the length of your scenes to 500-800 words, cut your scenes short at important moments, and switch back and forth between points of view.

Fragments, sparse sentences, and short paragraphs quicken the pace. Crisp, punchy verbs, especially those with onomatopoeia (crash, lunge, sweep, scatter, ram, scavenge) also add to a quick pace. Invest in suggestive verbs to enliven descriptions, build action scenes, and milk the suspense.

Harsh consonant sounds such as those in words like claws, crash, kill, quake, and nag can push the reader ahead. Words with unpleasant associations can also ratchet up the speed: hiss, grunt, slither, smarmy, venomous, slaver, and wince. Energetic, active language is especially appropriate for building action scenes and suspense and for setting up drama and conflict.

A fast pace means you trim every sentence of unnecessary words. Eliminate prepositional phrases where you don’t need them: For example, “the walls of the cathedral” can be written as “the cathedral walls.” Finally, search your story for passive linking verbs and trade them in for active ones.

2. Vary Story Pacing

As important as the high-tension race-‘em-chase-‘em scenes are, it’s even more important to vary your pacing with slow, introspective scenes. Without the slow scenes, your characters and your readers won’t have a chance to catch their breaths. Even the most exciting scenes lose their intensity if they aren’t balanced with moments of deliberate quiet.

3. Pay Attention to Details to Build Momentum

In film, directors often show scenes in slow motion to indicate that something dramatic is happening or about to happen. One of the best ways writers can mimic this technique is to slow their own writing down by piling on the details. Let’s say one of your characters is shot. This is an important moment in the story, and you want the readers to feel its impact. You can do this when you take your time and describe every detail: the look on the gunman’s face as he fires, the recoil of the pistol, the flash of the barrel, the horror that chokes the victim, and finally the collision of the bullet.

4. Control Your Tell vs. Show Ratio

Although “showing” your audience the blow-by-blow details is key to engage the reader and make them feel the tension, sometimes the best way to hurtle them through a scene is to condense certain actions into “telling.” Perhaps you want to use that scene where your character is shot, but you don’t want to linger on it. You want to do a quick flyby, shock your readers, and plunge them into the action after the gunshot. Instead of taking the time to show the details, you can thrust the gunshot upon the reader simply by telling him/her that it happened.

5. Manipulate Sentence Structure

The mark of a professional writer is his ability to control the ebb and flow of his sentence structure. The most subtle way to influence your story pacing is through your sentence structure. The length of words, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs all contribute to the pacing.

Long=slow

Short=fast

When it’s time to write the intense scenes, cut back on the beautiful, long-winded passages and give it to your reader straight. Short sentences and snappy nouns and verbs convey urgency, whereas long, measured sentences offer moments of introspection and build-up.

To write like a professional, you must master the art of story pacing. This is critical to the success of your book. Once you perfect this writing technique, you will leave your readers eager for more. It takes practice, but the payoff is worth it in the end.

What about you? Do you need help writing a book? Have a manuscript but don’t know where to go from there? We can help. Contact us today to find out how

 


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Nonfiction Writing Techniques: Conflate

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Do you know that word—conflate? Conflate means to combine or blend things, to fuse them into a single entity. It’s a helpful nonfiction technique where you merge several events or conversations or relationships and present it as one single event or conversation or relationship. It allows you to efficiently cover a span of time without boring your reader to death with the blow-by-blow details when all they really need are the pertinent points.

Do you know that word – Conflate? Conflate means to combine or blend things, to fuse them into a single entity.  It’s a helpful nonfiction technique where you merge several events or conversations or relationships and present it as one single event or conversation or relationship. It allows you efficiently to cover a span of time without boring your reader to death with the blow-by-blow details when all they really need are the pertinent points.

Spare Your Readers the Unnecessary Details

Let’s say, for example, that you had umpteen conversations with your spouse about adopting a child over the course of two years. In the first conversation, you might have talked about the possibility of adoption. And you talked about that for a number of months. Then you moved on and had numerous discussions about foreign vs. domestic adoption, older child vs. infant adoption, same race vs. other race adoption. These conversations took another several months. Finally, after two years, you made the decision to pursue a foreign adoption of an older child.

Do you need to drag your readers through all those conversations and decision points?  Maybe and maybe not. It depends upon the purpose of your book. Let’s conflate writing tipssay your book is about helping a foreign-born child assimilate into a family and culture that doesn’t look anything like them, and how to be your child’s advocate to overcome the unique obstacles they will face.

Does the reader really care about the two years you spent discussing adoption, or do they want to get to the purpose? My guess is they want the meat of your message, not your method of arrival.

So how do you handle those two years of discussion? Conflate it! Use dialog to convey all the pertinent information, and boil it down to a couple of conversations. Here’s how you might approach it:

“I think it’s time we face the truth. We probably aren’t going to give birth our own child, but maybe we’re not supposed to,” he said.

“It’s hard to give that up,” she said.

“I know, honey,” he said, “but we’re not getting any younger. What if we changed course while we still can? We’re not too old to adopt. I know the process takes time, who knows how long? If we want to have a child, I think we ought to consider this. To move in a new direction.”

“I don’t know. Maybe you’re right. It’s practically impossible to find a baby here, so I don’t know if that would be any better,” she said.

“What if we don’t look for a baby?” he said. “There are lots of children who need a loving home. Maybe we should think about rescuing a child, instead of searching for an infant.”

“One of the women in my support group showed me a picture of the orphans in Haiti,” she said. “They gathered them together after those earthquakes, but there aren’t enough adults to take care of them. One little girl – she looked about seven years old – had the brightest eyes, but her smile, it wasn’t right. Like she knew she had to smile for the picture, but only her mouth moved. She looked really, really sad.”

You can CONFLATE two years of the backstory of how this couple decided on a foreign adoption into a single conversation, and move the action forward.

Tell Your Story Like One of the Great Storytellers

Here’s another example of conflating. Let’s say you are a teacher, and you have had numerous students with a mild form of autism. Your book is about the socialization of the classroom, and over time, you’ve learned how to help these special needs students open up and relate to their classmates. Why not illustrate that through the eyes of ONE child, not four dozen children? Why not show the experience through a single set of eyes, give that child a representative name, and use a single character to demonstrate your teaching methods?

Does this seem dishonest to you? Insincere maybe? Well, if it does, then consider this. All the great teachers were story-tellers. Jesus, Aesop, Buddha, Indian Tribal Chiefs. They taught their people valuable lessons by telling stories. Were the characters in the stories real or did they conflate a number of people or people types into one representative character?

You tell me. Who was the Good Samaritan? Who was the Prodigal Son? Does it matter? Did you learn anything about human nature through Aesop’s fables, even though the characters were animals? Are the lessons any less valuable because you can’t attach them to a specific person?

When you conflate, you tighten your writing and move your story forward. It takes practice, but your story is worth it!

Ready to put this technique into your book? Contact us today and we can help you take the next step!


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Best Practices to Stay on Schedule When Writing a Book: Stick To Your Schedule and Clear Your Head

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Earlier this year I talked about the importance of blocking out your time when writing a book and even provided an example of my schedule in a block format. But what good is having a schedule if you don’t stick to it? When it’s time to start, don’t make one more phone call; turn off your phone. If you want coffee, have it on your desk when you sit down at your appointed time. Don’t play games with yourself. If you’re tired, then do it tired. If you’re frustrated, then do it frustrated. If you feel stuck, then do it while feeling stuck.

Having said that, there could be something that stands in your way. It’s your brain. For example, it’s time to write, and you know what you’re going to write. But you just got home after a long commute, or you were balancing your checkbook five minutes earlier, or you dropped your kids off at school after a hectic morning. Your brain can’t simply shift from chaos to creative; it needs time to transition.

You’ve probably heard a lot about writer’s block and that some writers claim they can’t write a word because of it. That’s bunk. There’s no such thing as writer’s block. It simply means that a writer isn’t writing, and the only way to correct that is to write.

Writers Block Strategy—Clear Your Head

You can write, and you can write at any time and any place. I even contend that you can write your book in fifteen-minute increments if all you have is the back of a napkin and a pen. Your biggest challenge isn’t finding time to write; it’s clearing your head to do it.

Here’s a little exercise that will help you do that. Read it through a couple of times and then give it a try. It’s a simple guided meditation.

Close your eyes.

Take a deep breath. Breathe in . . . and out, in . . . and out.

Keep your eyes closed.

Picture a paperclip.

Fasten it in your mind.

Look at it, feel it, regard it from all angles.

Now let the words that describe that paperclip explode in your mind. Shiny, smooth, cold. Continue to find words that describe the paperclip for thirty seconds. Exhaust your vocabulary.

You know that paperclip. You know it from all angles. You see it before you.

Keeping your eyes closed, remember your first kiss.

Feel it, smell it, taste it, love it, hate it, welcome it, resist it.

Your kiss, that kiss, you remember it don’t you?

Now open your eyes, and for the next five minutes, write—in detail—about that moment of your first kiss.

If you followed that guidance, in less than one minute you were able to clear your mind by putting all your focus on a simple, inanimate object. Then you switched your focus to something else that was memorable, and you were prepared to write.

This technique can work for you every time you sit down to write. You don’t have to limit your item to a paperclip; any simple item will do. I like screwdrivers, coffee mugs, picture frames, staplers—whatever. The trick is to fully visualize the item and let the descriptive words pop. Then, when I turn my attention to what I need to write, I’m no longer thinking about email, budgets, employees, or pets. I’m fully focused on my subject matter. Try this exercise next time you sit down and write and get ready for the creative juices to flow!

What about you? Are you ready to take that step and start writing your book and put these strategies into action? Contact us today and we can help you take the next step!

 


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Extended Value of Working With The Book Professor

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You got your story out of your head and onto paper. Your book is finally finished. Your finished book can now become the launchpad through which you deliver your message across multiple venues. When you follow our methodology to construct your book in chapter silos, you can take those chapters and repurpose them for articles, workshops, seminars, keynotes, online courses, video training, podcasts, etc. Exciting times!

But how will people know that your book is available? How will they find YOUR book amongst the masses? Writing your book is the first hurdle; getting others to notice it is the next!

Well, look no further. Through our partnership with the prestigious Smith Publicity, we are proud to offer Book Marketing Services for all of our clients. That’s the extended value of working with The Book Professor!

Get Attention for Your Book and Impact Sales

Learn one-on-one from book industry experts—on your schedule, and tailored to your genre and level of expertise—specific and actionable techniques to drive awareness to your book and author platform. Marketing your book can be overwhelming. These services are designed to take away the fear and put in the fun.

How It Works

 

Social Media Consultation Service Offerings-$325 each

Our packages are completely customized to your skill level and needs. For example, if you’re a social media beginner, one of our experts will work with you to create your platform from scratch and teach you the basic rules of engagement. If you are already well-versed on a social media platform, but would like to execute better, our advanced experts will custom-craft a plan to work with you to optimize your existing site, incorporate your book into your postings (without offending followers), decipher analytics, and/or understand potential advertising options.

Before your call, you complete an author questionnaire that gives your consultant time to research and tailor ideas specific to your book, genre, and goals. You will also receive educational handouts or “homework” before the call(s) to help ensure your session(s) are as jam-packed as possible. At the end of the service, you receive handouts to help you continue developing ideas and techniques.

If you or someone you know is interested in marketing their book, reach out to us and we will help make it happen!

 

 

 

 


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How to Stay Organized When Writing a Book-Block Out Your Time

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Call me strange, but I dont exactly know what time is. I do know that Ive been a slave to it for much of my life. My life, like yours, is filled with so much: things I want to do, things I need to do, and a lot of things I dont really want to do but must. Theres always a race against the clock, which leaves me feeling scattered and torn, like a scarecrow with his stuffing pulled out. At the end of the day, there isnt much left, and whats left doesnt feel like me.

I assume that you’re a busy professional and you’re not looking for extra things to do. Life is busy enough with work, but when you layer on the more important things like faith and family, there’s no wiggle room, no gaps where you can sneak in a major project like writing your book. And yet it’s something you want to do. You want to make a difference.

You actually have the time to do the things you want to do like write your book if you learn to organize your time.

Time Blocking

I use a method for organizing my time called time blocking. Time blocking is exactly what it sounds like. It’s organizing your time in blocks so you can be most efficient—not just in your writing but in everything you do. It requires you to look at all your responsibilities and organize them into specific blocks of time so you can accomplish everything on your plate.

After you organize your calendar in time blocks, you must enforce it. This takes discipline, but it’s very effective once you get the hang of it.  Here’s my calendar as an example:


When I was first introduced to time blocking, I thought, Good grief! I’m going to have to get up at 5:00 every morning to get everything done! I don’t suggest that your weeks be as long as mine are but, on the other hand, if they need to be while you’re writing your book, then so be it.

Notice how I block my time. You can see that I devote blocks of time to my tasks—not just fifteen minutes here and there. I organize my time so I fully complete one thing before moving to the next.

Take a look at the blocks called content. I often say that books don’t write themselves—and guess what? The classes and workshops I teach don’t write themselves either. I have to schedule time to plan, write, deliver, and produce my classes and presentations. So I figured out how much time I needed per week to do that writing and allocated it across the week in specific blocks.

While I’m working on content, I’m not answering the phone—it’s turned off. And I’m not checking email. I close it so it doesn’t ding me to death. And I’m not futzing around online, either. I’m writing content, and that’s the only thing I’m doing. I don’t believe in multitasking.

I can hear you say, “Well, of course, you can block off time to write. That’s your business.” And you’re right! But if I want to take care of myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I have to start my days at five in the morning to get in that extra activity. Do you think I want to get up that early? I really don’t. But taking care of the other parts of my life is a priority, so that’s what I do.

To write your first draft, block five hours each week for sixteen weeks. That’s four months to your first draft! When you keep your eye on the prize, writing your book suddenly seems more doable.

 

What about you? Now that you have the tools to block out your time, what’s stopping you from writing your book? Contact us today and we can help you take the next step!

 

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The Book Professor Mission: Tell Your Story-Solve a Problem

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May I share my philosophy as owner of The Book Professor with you? There are so many problems in our world, so many confounding issues, that we don’t even know how to name them anymore, much less solve them. But we do know what doesn’t work. Top-down solutions from government and other institutions don’t solve these problems. In fact, in many cases, they make them worse and spawn further problems, don’t they?

Don’t despair. I firmly believe that our problems – every one of them – can be solved.The answers are trapped inside of people like you, and when you simply share your experiences and what you’ve learned, what you know, what you’ve discovered, or what you’ve developed, you can actually change lives, save lives, and transform society.  

Two Things People Cannot Live Without: Hope and Help

People need real hope, not some platitude that says, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” You can offer real hope when you tell your story and show others what you’ve been through and how you came out on the other side, how you endured your trials and survived them – changed, but also whole.

People also need real help, not empty counsel that says, “this, too, shall pass.” If anything, that makes you feel even more isolated and less understood. Real help is when you show others the steps you took to get from where you were to where you are now. It gives them something concrete to model, so they can walk through their own situation.

People like YOU who have the answers, and other people, in some cases, are literally dying as they wait for your answers. At The Book Professor, we’re just the hallway that can connect you.

Be The Solution

The time is now. What do you know, what have you learned, what have you overcome, or what have you developed that will help others? We help people write high-impact nonfiction books that will change lives, save lives, or transform society. We’re already eight months into 2018, and 2019 is just around the corner. Imagine if we had 219 solutions in 2019 to some of the worlds biggest problems!

 

What about you? Will you be one of the 219 solution finders?  If you or someone you know is ready to tell your story and solve a problem, please contact us today and we can help you take the next step?

 


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Book Coach Tip: Decide To Write

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Some people are lifelong learners and love the process of going from not knowing anything in a subject area to becoming proficient. That makes sense to me as a book coach. We all want to be the best we can be at what we do. But along the way, we have to learn a lot of little things that can either make us the best at what we do or, if we choose not to learn them, will keep us in the pack of average Joes.

But here’s the deal with me: I only want to know as much as I need to know to use a tool for my intended purpose. I don’t want to learn every single one of its features and functions or try to discover how to use the tool in new ways that I hadn’t considered. You know why? It’s because I’m not a natural lifelong learner. I don’t like details; as a book coach, I love ideas.  I don’t want to learn how to use something; I just want to use it.

In fact, I detest the learning curve. I generally try to find every possible way around it, so I can get on to the using stage. Learning frustrates me; knowing satisfies me. But that’s, unfortunately, not the way the world works. So to know something, I must go through the pain of learning. And I have to follow a process, but I can’t even do that if I haven’t made the decision to do something new and follow through.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
—Lao-tzu

Make a Decision

You know what the hardest part about writing a book is? It’s making the decision to do it. You’ve probably had the idea for your book for a long time. I bet it’s been percolating in your head, banging against the doors to come out. At times it probably drives you crazy, but books don’t write themselves, and the only way yours is going to get written is if you make the decision to do it. You have to decide to write your book then figure out how to start writing it by getting a book coach. It’s your story. Only you can write it.

You Do Matter. You Are Important. You Can Help Other People

You may feel that you don’t have anything to offer that’s worthy of writing a book, but I disagree. Take a look at your life, what you’ve learned, what you’ve been through, what you’ve developed, what you’ve gleaned, what you’ve endured. Take a moment to consider your story of personal growth and all you have done to get to where you are now. You may not know everything else in life, but you do know your own life. You know your own patch of ground, and you know it well. What do you know and what have you learned that can change lives, save lives, or transform society?

If you don’t know how to write a book, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. After making a decision—a commitment to share your story—you just need a plan, a process and the help of a book coach.


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Nonfiction Book Coach Life Lessons: Drop the Perfectionism

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Perfectionism—ugh. Before I became a nonfiction book coach, I spent many years trying my best to be the perfect child, perfect teenager, and later on the perfect wife to please those closest to me and gain their approval. I didn’t know that some of the people I was trying to please were emotionally and mentally sick themselves, so trying to please the unpleasable was physically and emotionally exhausting. I felt like I was stuck on a hamster wheel, always striving for, but never attaining, perfection.

That is, until I hit an emotional brick wall when I discovered my first husband had a hidden life that was incompatible with marriage. Everything I thought I knew about the world and how life worked turned out to be a lie. I’d been duped and betrayed by a man I’d been married to for over half my life, and I literally thought I would die from the pain and grief.

Then came the self-sabotage questions. What was wrong with me? Wasn’t I good enough? I was nice, went above and beyond the call of duty in my relationships and tried really, really hard to get people to like me. Yet, why did it seem that just being myself was not enough? It felt like I had spent my entire life trying to be perfect to gain approval from those closest to me, yet it left me feeling emotionally depleted, false, and disconnected from who I really was. I had abandoned myself.

Fortunately, with the help of intense therapy and deep self-examination, I discovered some things about myself and learned some tools that have allowed me to stay far, far away from that wheel of perfectionism. When I returned to my true calling as professional nonfiction book coach, I made it my life’s purpose to be real and authentic with everyone I’ve had the privilege to help write their book. And with everyone else.

Why Am I Telling You This?

I misspent too many years before I became a nonfiction book coach and brought untold grief on myself because I refused to be me. And I’m amazed at how many other people have done the same thing. And once they’ve figured their lives out, are doing what they were meant to do, and are rejoicing in doing it, they don’t seem to step back to consider how powerful their story is and how it could help others.

I guess it’s easy to undervalue what’s inside us because it’s all that we know. So it doesn’t seem special. It doesn’t seem significant. And it doesn’t seem to offer a path that others can learn and grow from. Don’t fall for that way of thinking! Think about what you’ve learned, what you’ve developed, and what you’ve overcome—and be willing to give it to others. Be you! That’s all it takes.

If you or someone you know is ready to make the decision and write a high-impact nonfiction book, please contact us today. We can help you take the next step!


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A Good Walk May Be the Best Writing Exercise There Is

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 SCOTT MCCORMICK

This article originally appeared on Bookbaby.com

Writing is not the best occupation for your health. For most of us, writing involves a lot of sitting, which is why a good walk may be the best writing exercise there is.

I was struggling writing an article for a blog (not this one, but one for Disc Makers, BookBaby’s sister company) about Brian Wilson’s album Smile, when I decided to take my advice from this article and go for a walk. I was literally around the corner from my house when I became inspired, and all was right with the world. During that same walk, I also figured out how to best approach this article, and even had ideas for two future articles.

Not bad for a 30-minute stroll.

Writing is not the best occupation for your health. For most of us, writing involves a lot of sitting, and there is a growing amount of research on how sitting for long periods is unhealthy. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Too much sitting … seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.” “Too much” sitting, according to the Mayo, is sitting for four or more hours a day. That’s basically every day for me.

Not only is sitting for long periods bad for your health, it’s also bad for your writing. Your brain works best when it’s stimulated. Sitting for long periods of time can make your brain sluggish.

So, in a way, writing is actually kind of bad for your writing. How’s that for a catch-22?

Luckily there is a quick fix to both problems: Walking.

Hemingway, Dickens, Thoreau, Kierkegaard, and J. K. Rowling have all extolled the virtues of walking. Orson Scott Card said, “It’s worth the time to take an hour’s walk before writing. You may write a bit less for the time spent, but you may find that you write better.”

So why walking as opposed to, say, cross-fit? Frankly, any (safe) exercise is better than no exercise. So if you’re into a specific type of exercise, by all means, do it. It will make you healthy, happy, and better able to write. But there are three kinds of exercise that are especially suited to writing: walking, running, and biking. What these three have in common is that they are solitary and monotonous. In short: they are perfect for letting your mind wander.

I love racquetball. It’s fun and it offers an excellent workout, but it’s not great for helping me write. It’s not a solitary activity, and I have to think about the activity at hand. Yes, it’s good for stimulating the heart and the brain, but it doesn’t give my mind time to wander.

In my interview with Josh Funk, he said, “I find that my best ideas come in those moments where my mind is free to wander.” He’s not alone. Henry Miller wrote: “Most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I’d say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you’re walking or shaving or playing a game or whatever.”

Stepping away from your house or office to go for a walk (or run, etc.) gets you away from distractions, and lets your mind do its thing. Albert Einstein apparently came up with his Theory of Relativity while riding his bike. (That anecdote came from a rather great article on this very subject from Psychology Today. It’s worth reading if you’re interested in the science of how walking can stimulate the brain.)

How to walk for maximum effect

Your mileage may vary, but I find that to get the most out of walking, I need to walk without listening to music, and I need to bring my cell phone, with a dictation app launched and ready. I use Dragon Dictation, which is free, and which works pretty well. I prefer to walk at a brisk pace to get the maximum health benefit, but maybe your mind works better at a casual stroll so you can appreciate your surroundings.

I have a dog. When I first got her, I was hoping that walking her would give me the same benefit as walking solo, but I have not found that to be the case. So I have to walk her, and then go and walk myself.

Because I like to have my phone ready to record ideas, I prefer walking to biking. If you don’t need to record your every thought, that may not be a concern. But if you come home from your walk to find, like I did today, that your dog has chewed up three pencils and half of your kids’ homework, you run the risk of forgetting all the wonderful ideas you had while you clean up the mess. (Also, I find I have to pay too much attention to things like traffic and maintenance with biking — but again, your mileage may vary.)

Health-wise, you don’t have to walk every day. Doctors say three 40-minute sessions a week is enough. But for your writing, I recommend walking any chance you can get, partially for practical reasons. The weather may not cooperate. Life may get in the way. I’ve learned to grab my walking opportunities whenever I can. Every walk or run or bike ride won’t necessarily produce immediate results. But that’s OK. If you make it a routine to go as often as you can, you’ll find your ideas will come more easily and your writing will be stronger. And there’s also this, from Charles Dickens: “The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.”

 

Twitter for Authors


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Make a Decision and Plan to Write a Nonfiction Book

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Some people are lifelong learners and love the process of going from not knowing anything in a subject area to becoming proficient, like learning to write a nonfiction book. That makes sense. We all want to be the best we can be. But along the way, we have to learn a lot of little things that can either make us the best at what we do or, if we choose not to learn them, will keep us in the pack of average Joes.

But here’s the deal with me: I only want to know as much as I need to know to use a tool for my intended purpose. In fact, I detest the learning curve. I generally try to find every possible way around it, so I can get on to the using stage. Learning frustrates me; knowing satisfies me. But that’s, unfortunately, not the way the world works. So to know something, I must go through the pain of learning. And I have to follow a process, but I can’t even do that if I haven’t made the decision to do something new and follow through.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
—Lao-tzu

Make a Decision

You know what the hardest part about learning to write a nonfiction book is? It’s making the decision to do it. You’ve probably had the idea for your book for some time. I bet it’s been percolating in your head, begging to come out. At times, it probably drives you crazy. But books don’t write themselves, so the only way yours is going to get written is if you make the decision to do it. It’s your story. Only you can write it.

Whenever I travel, it seems I’m seated next to a chatty type, and it’s always fun to get acquainted. On one flight, I sat next to Don, and he and I discussed the usual getting-to-know-you topics. When he asked me what I do for work, I explained that I help people who aren’t writers become authors of high-impact nonfiction books.

“Really?” Don replied. “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

“Then why don’t you?” I asked.

“I’ve never really looked into it,” he said.

Don’s answer spoke volumes. He’d flirted with the idea of writing a book but had never taken it further than just thatthe idea of writing a book. People tend to glamorize the writer’s life; they don’t realize that it’s a lot of hard work, and it takes a lot of time. Don never made the decision to write his book, so it’s unlikely that he ever will.

Create a Plan

If you don’t know how to write a nonfiction book, how could you know how to get started?

Some people just sit down and start writing. But they soon discover that all the ideas that have been rattling around in their head have no form, no shape. What comes out is like a spaghetti messa bunch of unconnected threads. They have a message, but they don’t know how to get it down on paper. The problem with the “write-first” approach is that it’s like trying to build a house without any plans. You have no blueprint to follow, no foundation poured; and you don’t know what the house will look like when it’s finished. 

I don’t know a lot about building, but I do know that you don’t put up the walls first. The walls have to be attached to something solid. So before you build anything, you pour the foundation. But even before that, you need a comprehensive plan—a blueprint that shows where each room will be and what features it will have. Before you pull out your hammer, you have to have a plan.

The same is true for your book. If you want to save time, energy, money, and frustration, you begin with the end in mind. You take the concept for your book and turn it into a concrete plan.

To do that, we start with the foundation. You may know the topic of your book, but do you know what you want your book to accomplish? If the book doesn’t have a purpose, why write it?

If you don’t know how to write a book, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. After making a decision—a commitment to share your story—you just need a plan and a process.


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Use Your Pain: Writing to Heal

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Life is hard. It’s also good, but it is hard at times. I know that you don’t leave this earth without some scars, but you can use writing to heal. While I’m blessed and thankful to be alive, my life hasn’t always been easy. As a nonfiction book coach, I’ve learned how to write an inspirational nonfiction book when it hurts. And I’ve worked with clients who have overcome unspeakable hardships and have chosen to write through their pain to heal themselves.

Writing to heal has a way of freeing the emotional knots of trauma and releasing pitted anxiety. Before I became a professional book coach and writer, I was an avid journaler and still am today. Learning to write through my own personal pain has freed my soul.

Writing Heals Wounds

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. I don’t mean that I’ve always been a professional writer, but I’ve always loved to write. In fact, I’m not sure if I would’ve survived my childhood without my journal. The minute I started writing to heal, I felt immediate release from anxiety and depression, which began to leave my body soon as my pen hit the paper. Years later, I discovered that there truly are some physical and emotional benefits of writing.

Researcher, author, and scientist Dr. James Pennebaker of the University of Texas, explains in his book, Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, that excessive holding back of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can place people at risk for both major and minor diseases. More than simply a catharsis or venting, translating events into language can affect brain and immune functions. The subjects he tested had an increase in germ-fighting lymphocytes in their blood and lower stress levels. Writing was found to reduce anxiety and depression, improve grades in college, and aid people in finding jobs. He also reported that months after people had written about traumas over 70% reported that writing helped them to understand both the event and themselves better. (Source)

I don’t know about you, but I’m always fascinated when science backs something I’ve always believed. That sort of validation helps to reaffirm my God-given calling of helping others tell their stories.

What about you? Nobody really knows what you’ve been through.  But they see how strong you are, what you’ve endured, and what you’ve lost. You’re a survivor, an overcomer—not by choice but by necessity. You know what it feels like to be thrust into a situation you neither asked for nor anticipated. Like a snap, everything changed, and you had to learn how to live life on a new plane. The worst part was that there didn’t seem to be any real help, no guide to get you through, and you felt all alone.

Through writing, you can overcome and heal. Who else can you help today? If you or someone you know wants to learn to how to write a nonfiction book, please contact us today!


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Writing Tip: Be Authentic in Your Nonfiction Writing

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Nonfiction writing requires that we be authentic. Webster’s dictionary defines authentic as “not false or imitation” and “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” Webster makes it sound so simple. But if you’re like me, it took a long time to become the person I was created to be, to truly embrace my authentic self.

As a child, did you feel pressure to become the person an authority figure thought you should be? Did you feel accepted when you behaved and acted in ways that they approved? As an adult, did you realize that the person you present to the world wasn’t really you at all, but because of an underlying need to be accepted by others, you kept up the facade anyway? For a long time, that’s what I did. Living an authentic life was something I had to learn.

Your Audience Deserves the Real You

As a nonfiction book coach, I have the opportunity to work with people from all over the world. Whether their nonfiction writing is about a new method of cooking or how they overcame a painful childhood trauma, I always tell them the same thing: your audience deserves to know the real you.

Your personal story is one of the most important parts of your book. Some writers, particularly if they’re writing a business book, want to leave out this part and simply share their knowledge or instruct the audience. That would be a mistake.

Before you can tell your readers anything, you must earn the right to be heard. Nobody likes to be told what to do, especially if they don’t know anything about you. What makes you an authority on this subject? Why should they listen to you? Those are the questions you answer when you share your own story.

And your readers don’t want the whitewashed version of you. Share your high points and the deep canyons, the wins and the demoralizing losses, the beautiful and the ugly. You must be real and transparent. When you’re open and honest, you give the reader permission to be open and honest, too.

I’m not saying it’s easy. It takes a lot of courage to be this vulnerable. We all want to put our best foot forward to make a good impression. We like to hide the messes we’ve made, but sometimes the mess has become your message.

That’s what’s so effective about my Executive Group Coaching classes. You get to share your failures and foibles in a safe place, test out your message with others in the class, and gain strength from doing so—before you bare your skin to the world.

What about you? Are you ready to show people who you really are?  If you or someone you know wants to learn to how to write a nonfiction book, please contact us today!

 


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