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How to write a non-fiction book in under 90 days

I’m Becky, writer, publisher and publishing coach and I wrote my first non-fiction book (‘Self-Publish Your Book Like A Pro’) of 40,000 words in just 86 days, alongside my day to day workload of running a publishing business and raising three children (four and under!)


In this blog post, I’m going to show you how you can do the same.


Man writing a book
Write your non-fiction book in under 90 days

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of how to write a non-fiction book and juggling your work load with book-writing, here’s a blog post for you: Top Tips For Busy People Who “Haven’t Got Time To Write A Book” to help you find time to get your book written in under 90 days.


To give you an idea, 40,000 words is approximately 150-200 pages, (depending on how you format your book) which is a pretty standard size for an informative self-help guide. The majority of informative non-fiction guides end up being somewhere between 30,000 – 70,000 words, but can be longer if you have more to say! However if your wordcount starts to fall under the 30,000 word range, you run the risk of your book looking more like a pamphlet than a book.


Follow this formula to complete the first draft of your non-fiction book in less than 90 days.


Create structure to write your non-fiction book

The very first thing I did was outline the chapters I wanted to include in my book. My book’s content details everything I know about the job I do every day, so I know the self-publishing process like the back of my hand and the order it should happen in. The tricky part is transferring this knowledge into a readable format for people who don't know about the subject you're an expert in. So structure is key.


First, I created the content page of chapter titles, like this:

  • Editing

  • Formatting

  • Book Cover Design

I knew I wanted my book to be on a really granular level, and these headings just didn’t dive deep enough into what I wanted to talk about. So I added subtitles to each chapter:

  • Editing

    • Manuscript review

    • Re-read

    • Different types of editor

  • Formatting

    • Margins

    • Page size

  • Book Cover Design

    • Typography

    • Stock images and licensing


I then added the chapter titles to individual pages (followed by a ‘page-break’ after each title) so I could start writing each section straight away. This completed the foundation of my book and a created a really solid structure to start from. The next bit is the fun bit!


Existing Content-Dump

This is the part that as an online coach you can really excel in the book-writing process. As a coach, undoubtedly you will have pages upon pages of content that you have already written. Content that you have used in blog posts, online courses, website landing pages, sales pages, group programmes, even content from social media captions that you have written.


All of this content is absolute gold-dust for your book, and you will probably find that, depending on how many years you have been growing your business for, you can quickly add 10,000 words to your book. Blog posts alone are usually 1,000 words long and I'm sure you'll have plenty of relevant posts to choose from. Consider it a gift, from past you to present you!


Take your existing content and literally copy and paste it under the relevant chapter headings that you already created. Watch and marvel as your wordcount shoots up by thousands of words!


Tweak and Brain-Dump

At the moment, the content will be a bit all over the place and will probably include blog post intros, sales shpeel and other random copy that you just don’t need in your book. So get rid of it.


Start wherever you want – you do not have to write your book chronologically! This is not a fiction book. You may find it easier to work through the chapters in order, (especially if it's a step-by-step guide) but you don’t need to. I literally went through my contents page and chose which subject I felt like writing about on that particular day.


After you've got rid of any extra copy you don’t need from your pasted content, now you need to pad it out with your own wealth of knowledge. You can literally start emptying your brain, section by section, with all that knowledge stored in your noggin.


If you want to add further sub-sections to make it even more specific and ensure you have as much direction as possible, absolutely go for it. Whatever works for you!


Make Notes and Re-Structure

I found that as I brain-dump and enhance the pasted content, I discover many areas that need restructuring. For example in my book ‘Self-Publish Like A Pro’, I have included two marketing sections (because book marketing is SUCH a big part of self-publishing!) and as I padded out the content, I realised that certain parts of the sections required much more prior context to make it make sense. So I swapped some of the ordering of the chapters around and made notes of where I needed to add more context and link chapters together better.


As you're going through your brain-dump stage, make notes about anything you think might need to appear in a slightly different order and then make those changes when it works for you. Depending on how extensive your brain-dump was, you might find you need to elaborate on the items you've moved around or pad them out some more, so do this too.


First Edit

By this point, your content should be complete and your wordcount should be more or less as you were aiming for, give or take a couple of thousand words. Once all the content has been added, it’s time to go back over the whole thing and read it from start to finish as your reader would do. Try to see it through your readers eyes. Ask yourself, would this part make sense to someone who has no prior knowledge on the topic?


This is your chance to make sure your MS reads as you would want it to and to iron out any obvious mistakes. The more errors you can eradicate yourself, the more time your editor can spend focusing on the less obvious mistakes that you may not have thought about. Depending on the amount of editing necessary, your editor may suggest two edits, which will often cost more money. Here are some things to look out for on your first edit:


  • Contextual mistakes – for example, referring to something in a paragraph before you’ve introduced that particular concept

  • Continuity issues – referring to topics consistently the whole way through and keeping your message clear. You don’t want people to read a chapter and think “hang on, they said [this] earlier! Which way do they mean?”

  • Conciseness of your sentences and readability – are there ways you can make paragraphs easier to read

  • Tenses - are you consistent with which tense you're writing in throughout?

  • Consistent narrative - are you writing in first, second or third person?


These are all things that your editor will pick up on too, but it’s great to be able to correct them initially by yourself if you can.


And that’s it, your first draft is complete! It’s ready to hand over to your editor for further development.


If you are wondering which kind of editor you need to hire for your MS, check out this blog post: What Are The Different Types Of Editor?


If you you need more assistance to write a non-fiction book, mapping out, structuring and the actual writing part of your MS, you may benefit from the help of a writing coach. You can view our Idea to Author writing coach package here.

 

 

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