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3 Non-Fiction Writing Techniques to “Just Start Writing” Your Book

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Ever wanted to write a non-fiction book but had no idea where to start? Has anyone ever given you the ever-useful advice of "well, just start writing then". Duh.

With two interviews under the umbrella of The Write Space podcast completed, I’m loving delving into the minds of published authors within the health and wellness remit. It's been super insightful to learn exactly how our previous podcast guests DID "just start writing".

AI generated image of a girl thinking
Where do I start?

So far we’ve had chats with recently published strength and conditioning coach, Tulshi Varsani and four times published wellness writer Rachel Ann Cullen and the overriding take home message from both interviews?

Just start writing!

I'm kidding. Kinda. For today’s blog I’ll summarise the useful techniques these lovely ladies have utilised in their own writing to enable you to just start writing YOUR own book.

Non Fiction Writing Techniques:

1) The Brain-Dump

An effective method used by Tulshi which involves simply getting the words out of your brain and onto paper. This is literally how writing a book starts – it doesn’t have to be pretty, there’s time for that later.

The important thing about writing a non-fiction book, especially when it documents aspects of your own life and showcases much of your own struggles and vulnerabilities, is to just get whatever is in your brain onto a page. If there are words on a page, you can work with them; sculpt them and improve them. You can’t edit a blank page.

If you’re used to journaling or diary writing, like Rachel and Tulshi, then this may come more easily to you. Use the initial task of writing as a form of therapy. You don’t even need to have an idea of what structure or shape you want your book to take, as again that can all come later.

Open your heart and let the words flow. Be as honest and raw as you want to be.

You can even go back over journals and use these to jog your memory of past events and feelings. This can remind yourself of the journey you’ve been through and which parts of that journey you want to share.

You’ll probably find that once you start writing about one thing, memories will be triggered and remind you of something else to write etc etc.

Once your words are down on paper, the next step is…

2) Piecing the Jigsaw Together

Once you have those words on the page, the next step is to make sense of them.

By now, you should start to get an idea of the key moments in your life that you want to be documented as part of your legacy. These now need to be structured.

Start separating distinct paragraphs and labelling them. Not as a fancy chapter title, not yet. Just label them descriptively for what they are.

For example, “Jan 2022, THE doctors appointment” or “That post-partum time I fitted back into a pair of jeans”, or “First trauma recovery session with therapist”.

You can then start to draw diagrams and work out which paragraphs link together to form a chapter, which paragraphs can be expanded on and which can literally stand as entire chapter on its own.

This is where you really start getting a feeling of the direction your book is heading in, what the overriding message will be (although you will probably have already felt this in your bones before you started writing!) and who your audience might be.

By the way, if this is all super daunting and your words on paper just seem like a jumbled mess, this is where a writing coach can really help to untangle your brain-dump and get some structure in place. Click to read more about working with a writing coach.

3) The Chapter Writing Approach

This is kind of the reverse of the previous strategy. Titles first, write later. A method preferred by our second podcast author and guest, Rachel.

If you feel like your thoughts and memories are much more orderly and methodical in your head, you might already have some great chapter titles or ideas in mind. If this is the case, write them down.

It might be as simple as you working through your journey chronologically and writing each event title down in order. This might make recalling everything a lot easier for you. Remember, your book does not have to end up being chronologically formatted and chapters can always be swapped around at a later date to improve readability or to create suspense/relatability etc.

Once you have the chapter headings in place, start writing about that subject and go from there.

Next Steps

At this stage, if you’re struggling with how to progress and don’t have the budget for a writing coach, a good tactic to employ is to ask someone to read your manuscript and provide feedback.

The ideal person would be someone who fits the description for your target audience. But if not, someone who enjoys reading non-fiction books would be a close second. If you have a friend who is in the writing world (an editor, publisher, proofreader, reviewer or has a degree in English) they could also provide a useful angle of feedback.

Showing your manuscript to anyone at this stage can be daunting. Especially a non-fiction biographical manuscript. As Tulshi points out in her interview with us, she reveals more in her book than even her friends and family know about her! And for this reason, you may not feel comfortable having a friend read your work at its rawest stage.

Which leads me to…

Manuscript Appraisals/Reviews

Depending on what stage your book is at, a manuscript (MS) appraisal or manuscript review service is an excellent service to use.

A good MS appraiser will read your MS all the way through and provide a feedback report, usually a few pages long on what they would suggest you can do to move your MS forward to the ultimate stage of ‘finished first draft’.

It’s a great way to get a professional external opinion if you don’t have anyone who can help you for free or if you are too nervous to ask anyone you know to read the content. It’s a service we offer at Raven Crest Books and you can view this service here.

Our recent podcast guests have both employed this tactic and personally, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone submits a MS to any publisher or professional editor when it hasn’t had at least one extra pair of eyes run over it.

You can use this service at any stage of your writing and can request an MS appraisal as many times as you want. An MS report should give you enough feedback to be able to go over your MS, provide the first round of author edits and start to ramp your book up a gear.

Final Steps

You can repeat any of the above techniques and steps as many times as you want or need until you are happy with the work you have produced. And before you know it, you have a finished manuscript!

My final tip before being able to deliver the elusive words of “I’ve completed the first draft of my book!” on social media, is to re-read your whole manuscript… out loud!

Trust me, you will notice some brutal errors and some crazy long sentences which make you question your knowledge of the full-stop.

In our next blog we’ll tackle what comes next after reaching your first draft goals. Happy writing!

The next episode of our podcast will be out next week. To listen to the first episode with Tulshi Varsani, click any of the platforms below to head straight there:

Branded image of Raven Crest Books new podcast
The Write Space Podcast

If you're interested in being a guest on the podcast, please drop us an email on explaining why you want to appear on The Write Space and providing links to your published book/s.

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