Thinking of writing a nonfiction book? You probably can’t just sit down and write the finished project from beginning to end.

A good book must be written in stages. If you try to skip or shortcut the stages, you’ll get a mediocre book that doesn’t live up to your vision for it.

What are the three stages of writing a book, and why are they important?

Stage 1: Planning Your Book

To write well, you have to plan well. In the first stage of writing, you shouldn’t draft any chapters yet. Instead, you must identify your book’s message and answer three vital questions:

  1. Who is my audience?
  2. What material will I share with them?
  3. How will my book help them?

If these sound like big questions, don’t worry. Module One of The Book Professor’s writing program leads you through them step by step. You’ll develop a Purpose Statement that will guide every decision you make going forward.

Your Purpose Statement crystallizes your message and states what you want the book to accomplish. You use it to prioritize what belongs in your book and what doesn’t. Everything you include in your book should deliver the audience to realize the purpose of the book.

Map Your Writing With A BookMAP

Many people think the first stage of writing must involve outlines, but I don’t recommend outlines. I recommend BookMAPS.

Your BookMAP is a visual representation of your entire book. It includes what you’ll write—every story you’ll tell, every lesson you’ll share, every bit of research you’ll include, etc. It’s a wonderful tool that eliminates the possibility of writer’s block, because when you sit down to write, you’ll know exactly what you need to write.

At The Book Professor®, we have formulas to help you create your perfect BookMAP.

When Will I Start Writing?

At the end of this planning phase, aspiring authors often ask, “When will I start writing the book?”

I answer, “You already are!”

Organizing your ideas is as much a part of the writing process as drafting the actual chapters. Stage one might feel slow, but your book needs time to percolate. You can’t rush the process of ideation, unless you want to write a sub-par book!

Stage 2: The First Draft

This is it! The glorious moment when you sit down, crack your knuckles, and actually write the words of your book.

But don’t expect your writing to sound magnificent—not yet.

In stage two of writing a nonfiction book, you have one, and only one, goal: get everything from your BookMAP down on paper.

Get it on paper no matter how rough or clumsy the writing sounds. Get it on paper no matter how much you want to stop and perfect those first chapters. Just dump your ideas on the page and worry about the cleanup later.

Why? Because if you try to write perfect prose from beginning to end, you’ll get overwhelmed and may not finish.

Get Ready to Invest Some Time

Diligence becomes your best friend in stage two. It takes energy and determination to plow through one “rough draft” chapter after another, and it won’t happen overnight.

This isn’t anything new; you expect to bring that kind of diligence to other projects. If you go back to school, you expect the program to take a certain number of years. If you switch jobs, you expect to spend months learning the ropes of your new role. If you fix up a house, you know you have a long stretch of leaky pipes and paint scrapers in your future.

In all these instances, you trust that the reward is worth the time investment. The same goes for writing your nonfiction book.

This is where The Book Professor’s Executive Group MASTERMIND class comes in handy. You’ll join a cohort of other writers and work on your book with the encouragement and accountability of peers. When you feel frustrated or tired, other writers who understand your struggles will lift you up.

Stage 3: Editing Your Book

Now you get to turn your rough draft into the polished, brilliant prose you envisioned when you started this project. The third stage of writing your nonfiction book is where the magic happens.

But this, too, takes work. It turns out that brilliant prose doesn’t write itself. Polishing and editing takes as much writing effort as composing the first draft did. You won’t just correct commas and change a word here or there. You’ll move and rewrite whole paragraphs, scrap scenes and add new ones, and figure out what words sound best to your readers.

The third stage of writing can be broken down further into two parts: expanding and contracting.

First you expand the book. You see what’s missing: maybe you need more anecdotes to make your chapters interesting or your points clear. Maybe you need to add dialogue or descriptions to grip a reader’s attention.

But once you have all the material you need, you must pare the writing down. Review it line by line and tighten the language. Remove excess words and simplify complicated grammar. Find boring phrases and replace them with strong verbs. I like to compare this to shrink wrapping; you’re pushing out all the excess air and leaving only what you need.

Or rather, only what the reader needs. The best writing makes the reader forget they’re reading. That’s your goal. It’s your job to identify obstacles that might disrupt this flow and eliminate them. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by reading your book aloud to yourself. Your ear will catch mistakes that your eyes missed.

It’s All Worth It

At the end of stage three is the real prize for any author: the satisfaction of having brought your book to life.

Our clients are often surprised by their own skills as writers. After they’ve followed all the steps of our program and put in the time, they hold finished books in their hands and marvel at what they accomplished. All the energy and patience pay off.

Ready to Jump In?

You don’t have to tackle your book project alone. Here at The Book Professor®, our coaching program guides authors through three modules that correspond to the three stages of writing. You’ll get professional help from experienced writing coaches as you plan, draft, and edit your book.

Contact us today to learn more about how our program works and how we can help you get your book published!