Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 1/31/14


In my field of ghostwriting and concept consulting/building, I truly enjoy working with autobiographies/biographies, memoirs, histories and philosophy/faith projects.  These nonfiction genres allow the authors to weave their own experiences into the pages and breathe life into the details.  Although classified as fact-based, true-life books, they really are stories that carry a personal impact connecting author and Reader.

A current client is struggling—BIG TIME—to “put all the pieces together” for her book.  There are years of scribbled notes literally jammed into shoeboxes, not to mention the bigger box that holds the many pages of research materials.  Because she has had several “false starts,” we at least have somewhere to begin.  So, as I’m jumping into the non-fiction waters with this lovely lady, I wanted to share a few basic guidelines with our blog readers—and writers.

Nonfiction writing requires a framework—a definite perimeter or border to keep the author from racing down rabbit trails that not only distract readers, but also diminish the work-at-hand.  Here are my seven strategies for developing THE BEST nonfiction book:

The Topic:  With one or two sentences—not to exceed 38 words—tell yourself what are you writing about.  Be very narrow-minded here.  This is your “big idea” and the essence of it will be the heart of your book.

The Collection Box: (or file cabinet drawer, or large 3-ring binder notebook, or….).  Use that 38-word statement you’ve just created and print it out in BIG, BOLD TYPE.  This is the label for your collection of materials.  It is also the first thing you see when you work on your book and it is meant to inspire your thinking processes.

Sub-Topic Files:  You’ve probably already collected several pieces of information that relate to your topic.  Pull out those file folders and start organizing these pieces into sub-topic files.

Color-Coding:  As you build this collection of sub-topics, use color markers (or stickers) to mark the files that carry the most vital information.  Most writers will “file” their collection alphabetically, so the color-coding will allow you easy access to crucial facts when you need them.  For example:  Red = must be included; Orange = include; Yellow = good information; Blue = possible connections; Green = opposing opinions.

Bibliography File:  THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST!  Always give credit to the “source” of your facts.  Unless you, yourself, are the source—the authority behind a statement—every fact, figure, quote, statistic, report, etc. must be acknowledged.  This can be woven into the manuscript; however, I always recommend that a bibliography be included at the end of non-fiction books.

To Outline or Not To Outline:  Every nonfiction writer I know has shown me an outline of their books.  Many end up using it—or most of it—as a Table of Contents.  So I must agree that it is useful.  However—don’t let an outline trap you.  Keep that 38-word statement fresh in your thoughts so that you will create a read-able book that is worth reading.

PLAN to Publish:  No one should do all the work of writing a book and then put it in a drawer.  The information you’ve gathered and poured your heart into is meant to reach a lot of people.  So once you have that Topic Statement, start your research into publishers.  I am one who believes in self-publishing; however, if your Topic is a “hot topic,” there might be a publishing house out there for you.  But NO MATTER WHAT, get your book IN PRINT!

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

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