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Top 7 Guidelines for Writing a Nonfiction Book
By Bobbi Linkemer
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You have done all the getting ready anyone could possibly do. Now, it's time to write. This is the one area for which there is no list of instructions. I've been writing more than half my life, and, as I look back, I don't remember anyone actually telling me what to do or how to do it. I made a lot of mistakes until I got the feel of my own rhythm and style, but eventually it became as natural as flipping the switch on my little Smith Corona electric portable typewriter and putting my fingers on the keys. By the time I wrote my first little book I had been a feature writer for many years, and it wasn't much of a stretch to think of a book as a very long article. The rules were pretty much the same; it just had more content and took longer to write.
- Your first book should not be your first experience with writing.
That would be like going from grammar school to graduate school. You need to be comfortable with the writing process before you tackle a book.
In those days, I could sit at that little typewriter at my desk (a converted picnic table) for many uninterrupted hours, lost in space as my fingers pounded on the keys. I wasn't a good typist then, and I have not improved a lot, unfortunately. It has made for a lot of retyping and spell checking, just to get the words unscrambled.
- Learn to type, and increase your speed and accuracy. You will never be sorry.
I freelanced for more than four years before I became a full-time writer. In the meantime, I worked, ran a house, had kids, and chased a dog around. But, when it was time to write, I wrote, no matter what time it was. When I had bonafide deadlines as a staff writer, when it was time to write, I wrote, whether I was in the mood or not. When I started writing books, I did it "in my spare time," after I had sometimes written all day. Again, when it was time to write, I wrote, even if I would have preferred to do just about anything else.
- You have a plan and a set of deadlines. So, when it's time to write (you know what's coming), write.
There are two ways to go about this: just let it pour and fix it later. Or write a little, fix it; write a little more; fix it; and so forth. I've done it both ways. Sometimes, it is just flowing, and there's no stopping the words. Other times, I have to polish every sentence until I just about drive myself crazy. But I do have one lucky gift and that is the innate sense of when something is just plain wrong. I reread a sentence and I know instantly if it's forced or awkward or wordy or phony, and I hit the delete key. When there are too many sentences like that, what I call a rockslide, I get up and walk away.
- Be scrupulously honest with yourself.
If you get that little pang of doubt, go with it. At first, it's like a tiny inner voice whispering, yuck. Later, if you're lucky, it gets louder. The point is, when it doesn't feel right, you know it. Don't con yourself that it's OK. It's not. And don't fall in love with your own pearls on paper. Keep your ego out of your art. On the other hand, don't polish until you take all the luster off the page. Know when to stop editing.
I've always been a believer is leaving space between work sessions. I take a day to review research and then sleep on it. I write, reread, leave it alone, and sleep on it. The next day, the creative juices flow, the information has rearranged itself, and I can spot bad writing I missed the day before.
- Don't rush. Figure out how much time you need with gaps in between and plan accordingly.
Writing can't be rushed. You're not trying to make the early edition; you're writing a book, perhaps your first. Between writing times, do something other than think about the book.
After a day of writing, I'm pretty much good for nothing. My energy, especially mental energy, is depleted; my eyes burn; my shoulders are in knots; and I'm just plain tired. Writing an article may be a sprint, but writing a book is a marathon.
- Take care of your health. Eat well; sleep as much as you need to; stretch frequently; exercise. This is work you're doing. A little training will go a long way.
When I'm through writing something big, like a book, I tend to feel a sense of letdown. It's the process of writing I love, though I know not everyone does. I'm happier writing than having written, but I am learning to enjoy the valleys and accept the kudos when they come. For many writers this is hard to do because so much of our identity comes from what we do. The binders full of samples and the shelf of books with my names on their spines are great, but I've had to learn to appreciate them as much as doing what it took to make them a reality.
- Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for a job well done.
You set a challenge for yourself -- sometimes, only a few pages; sometimes, more -- and you met it. You have done what you set out to do. You have worked on your book, and you should be very proud of yourself. If you haven't yet gotten the hang of self-congratulations, allow me to be the first to tell you how great you are!
Bobbi Linkemer is a ghostwriter, book-writing coach [http://writeanonfictionbook.com/Coaching.html], and editor. She is also the author of 14 books. Bobbi has been a professional writer for 40 years, a magazine editor and journalist, and a book-writing teacher. Her clients range from Fortune 100 companies to entrepreneurs who want to enhance their credibility and build their businesses. Her articles on writing regularly appear on ezinearticles.com and other top online article sites. Visit her Website at: http://www.WriteANonfictionBook.com
Article Submitted On: August 26, 2008