The First 10 Steps To Writing a Non-Fiction Book

This is a guest post from Jo Parfait, an English Author and Publisher living in the Netherlands who focuses on helping expats write their life story. I know I will write my first book this year and many of you have always wanted to as well so here’s how to start!

My writing career began with a lucky break. I was a 21 year-old student, living in France in a tiny flat without a kitchen, when, walking past the patisserie one day, I had the idea for a cookbook. French Tarts, would be, I thought, a great title. So, innocent with youth, I wrote three sample recipes and sent it off to a publisher. They offered me a contract and, within two years’ of graduation I became a published author.

That lucky break led me to believe that I could write books and so, armed now with a combination of bravado and self-belief I went on to write 13 computer handbooks for the likes of Macmillan and McGraw-Hill, and then, in my thirties, I started my own small press, Summertime Publishing. Today I have written 27 books, helped about 100 new authors write, edit and publish their books, and now consider myself to be a publisher and an author.

Along the way I have answered about a zillion questions from other would-be authors about how to write a book. Most of them relate to how to actually start the process. So, a couple of years back I wrote a long list of the steps it would take to go from the brainwave stage to the day the book is in your hand. I counted 50 steps.  Here, to get you going, are the first five.

STEP ONE
Have an idea for your book

STEP TWO
READ. Read books like the one you hope to write. Read them even if you fear that doing so will rob you of your own creativity. Read them and analyse them.

STEP THREE
Work out what works and what doesn’t in the books you read. You need to compare your book idea to the competition anyway, as part of a book proposal to a publisher.

STEP FOUR
Create a ‘working’ (that means it may change) title and subtitle. This will keep you focused and on track. Remember you need keywords in your title and subtitle as this is how people will find it online later.

STEP FIVE
Inspired by reading other books ‘like’ yours. Your next step is to brainstorm your idea. Doing a mind map can be a good idea. Get your ideas down on paper and see if a pattern emerges. Experiment with chapter titles and contents.

STEP SIX
Choose the ingredients you would like to use in your book – what will its chapters be?

STEP SEVEN
Now choose the ingredients for each chapter – can you make the chapters follow the same pattern?

STEP EIGHT
Now it’s time to write your Table of Contents.

STEP NINE
Now, perhaps you would like to write a first draft of chapter one? Write it fast, don’t worry about being perfect, but get it down. Get it written. Create what Anne Lamott, who wrote Bird by Bird, calls the Shitty First Draft.

STEP TEN
Get some feedback on that Table of Contents and Chapter One…. If it’s Ok you are ready to rock and roll!

Okay, so there are 40 more steps to go, but I believe that the first ten are the most important!  If you can complete these first 10 steps here you will be in very good shape indeed.

If you would like to find out what the other steps are, please contact me through my blog where you can also get my free report on How to Write your Life Story.

Natalie here: I highly recommend you do, such a fun and inspiring read if you’re serious about publishing your dream!

  • Danskebaten

    Thanks for many great advices. My big chalenge is how to create my pen (writing style). When I look back at things i write, I see that I dont have a straight pattern. Sometimes I try to be a little funny, other times not. I think that confuses my readers, cause they never know what they get. Do you have any advice on how to “nail” a writing style?

  • Reed

    Speaking from the piont of view of somebody who has been half-finished with a non-fiction book for a couple of years now, this strikes me as excellent advice. I happened to follow various parts of it, but it would have been better had I heard such a message going in.

  • NatalieSisson

    @Reed I agree Andrew. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We’ve talked about your book and you should certainly be getting that one to the publishers!

  • http://www.securitycamera-ny.com camera-ny

    nice explain. Thanks

  • https://plus.google.com/+Intercomrepairny/about?hl=en ryan

    Great article , really enjoyed it