Cameron Chapman

Uncensored

Writing A Non-Fiction Book

I am currently working on my first non-fiction book. While I’ve completed somewhere around a thousand blog posts and articles over the past couple of years, this is my first attempt at book-length non-fiction. It’s a bit of a daunting task, the idea of writing 250 or so pages about something that I didn’t make up. And the idea that I will not be judged just based on my words and their ability to entertain, but also on the accuracy and usefulness of those words, is kind of scary.

Photo by D'Arcy Norman, via Flickr

Photo by D'Arcy Norman, via Flickr

While novel-writing is often a seat-of-the-pants kind of adventure, non-fiction, especially that focused on technical topics, requires planning and research. I already have a couple years of experience writing about this topic, so that makes things a bit easier, as I’m familiar with what needs to be covered and where to find information I’m missing. But it still required a LOT of preplanning and notetaking.

I also have a very particular method I’m using for writing this. It’s something I found online a couple years ago, and I wish I could remember where so I could give proper credit (if anyone recognizes this, please let me know so I can attribute it properly). I just wrote it down in my notebook and put it away, knowing at some point I would find a use for it. Here’s the method:

  1. Write down the general topics you want to cover in your book. You should have 15-25 of these for the average book. Use mind-mapping if you need to. These will become your chapters.
  2. Write down a list of 20 or so sub-topics you want to cover or points you want to make in each chapter. I’ll admit that some of my chapters might have 25, and I have a couple of chapters that only have 10.
  3. Those are going to become your sections and paragraphs. Some of them you may use for headings within your chapters, others might just take up a single paragraph within those sections.

That’s the basic formula I’m using for writing this book. I’ve set up a Word document for each chapter, and within each chapter I’ve listed out the points I want to make. In my case, a lot of these sections end up being a page or two long, while others might only be a paragraph or two.

Breaking things down in this manner makes it easier to stay on track and not feel overwhelmed. When I open up a chapter file to work on, I’m not overwhelmed by what lies ahead of me because I’m only seeing that one chapter. And seeing exactly what I need to cover makes my research easier.

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1 Comment on Writing A Non-Fiction Book

  1. Glen Lewis
    November 6, 2009 at 12:21 am (1624 days ago)

    You said it well, I found it very overwhelming going from a ten page article to a two hundred fifty page book. However if you organize it as
    twenty five – ten page articles then it seems a do-able task.
    Thank You

    Reply

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