Sunday, November 14, 2010

Four Critical Factors in Writing a Nonfiction Book

A warm welcome to guest blogger, Joan Hoffman, EdD, author of Ready, Set, Counsel A Practical Guide to Being a School Counselor In the Real World. Here are Joan's recommendations for what it takes to produce a finished manuscript for a nonfiction book.

As I thought about writing a book, I realized there are four critical factors that need to come together in order to get to a finished product. Missing any piece will make your writing more challenging and may keep you from completing your book. The first is passion—your strong emotional tie to your topic, the belief in your knowledge base and ability to write on the topic.

The second is vision, which lets you refine and focus your topic to give you a clearer picture of exactly what you want to write. Through refining and focusing, you will be able to develop your elevator sentence—a short statement about your book, the clear picture of what you want your book to be. As people ask you what your book is about, you only have a short time before they glaze over or start yawning because you are going on too long. Just because you find your topic fascinating doesn’t mean others necessarily agree. If people want to know more, they will ask.

The third factor is tenacity. You need the energy and determination to complete your project. I found I had to cope with frustration and even stopped writing for a while. My passion reasserted itself and brought me back to continue on my book-writing journey. Without this piece I might never have completed my book.

Of course, you need to dedicate yourself to the book; it won’t write itself. I found it helpful to write down short-term goals. When you write the goal, it becomes a commitment, unlike thinking about a time line. I also found it helpful to give myself small rewards along the way. It might have been a manicure, a special night out, or even a warm bath. Do whatever works for you as a motivator.

Since I had passion, a clearly defined vision, and tenacity, all I needed was a plan. I thought I had a plan by outlining, re-outlining, and writing my chapters. However, as I took Bobbi’s class, I discovered that I had much left to do and, in fact, had made this harder than it needed to be.

There was the necessary research to see if there was even a market for my book. How disappointing it would have been if I had spent all that time writing only to find out there was already a glut on the market. Thankfully, there was not. Chapter summaries would have clearly defined my walk through my book, instead of writing, rewriting, and merging topics. I encourage you to follow the path defined by Bobbi’s book. It will certainly shorten your time to get to completion.

I can’t begin to tell you how rewarding it is to complete the query letter, proposal, and book. It’s so wonderful to actually see the finished product and know that it happened because of your dedication, blood, sweat, and tears. No one else could write your book. It is uniquely you! Success!!