I Want to Write a Nonfiction Book, Where Do I Start?

by Bennett R. Coles

You are a business owner, a professional, a consultant or a coach and you want to write a book to take your business or your career to the next level. But you don’t know where to start.

Writing a book has many layers and that can be confusing to a first-time writer. But with the right guidance, this process is quite straightforward. To get going, all you need to learn are the first key steps to follow. Once you do, your book project will take on a life of its own and take you the rest of the way.

Now, here’s the good news. You have a tremendous advantage over anyone else who wants to write a book for the first time: your book is already inside of you!

Your many years in business, fine-tuning your knowledge, mastering your skills, developing and implementing solutions for others, helping your clients succeed – that’s your book.

All you have to do now is to take this information out of your brain and onto the written page, which I’ll be showing you how to do in this article. But let me reassure you: you’ll never be at a loss for words.

Steps to Writing a Nonfiction Book

As you set out to write your nonfiction book, you have to be 100% certain about two important things:

  • Who your audience is, and
  • What problem you are helping them solve

Fortunately, these questions have a simple answer.

Your audience is a representation of your current clients, and the problem that you are going to help your audience solve is the key problem that your business solves for your clients now.

With this in mind, let’s get into the first steps to writing your nonfiction book:

Step 1: Come up with Your Book’s Main Idea

All successful nonfiction books have one thing in common: they focus only on a single problem – the most significant one that their audience has.

Technically, your business might address multiple problems for your clients, but when it comes to finding readers for your book, you can’t afford to be a jack-of-all-trades.

The golden rule of problem-solving nonfiction is “do one thing only, but do it really well.”

Here’s a good analogy: when Yahoo burst into the scene, they decided to add a lot of features to their site. Although it was a search engine, it also had news articles, a finance and investment section, a sports section, entertainment, and so on.

Then Google appeared. They chose the opposite path. It presented users with a blank screen and a single search box in the middle. They decided to do one only thing and do it really well – I don’t need to tell you how that turned out.

So, think like Google and chose the most problematic thing that you can solve for your audience and then write your book to present your unique solution.

Step 2: Create Your Book Outline

Next, you need to begin the process of downloading all the relevant information from your brain onto the page. To do this you can use a technique called mind mapping (click here to read my article on how create a mind map for your book).

This technique allows you to “map” your brain in a way that allows you to easily generate the outline of your book. This outline is a structure that not only shows you the different chapters and subchapters in your book and how they flow, the precursor of your table of contents, but also what you need to write about for each section.

Your outline is the roadmap that’ll take your reader from A to Z in a logical, clear way (click here to read my article on how to turn your mind map into your book outline).

Once you create your book outline, then pick any topic that inspires you and begin writing about it. You don’t even need to write in sequence.

Step 3: Target a Daily Word Count

The next step is to develop a daily writing habit targeting a writing quota. Your goal is not to write to exhaustion, but to set a doable word count that you’re going shoot for every day.

As a rule of thumb, I recommend that you write for two hours a day for at least six days a week. You want to carve out a time slot that doesn’t interfere with your business or with your family life.

Also, you want this time to become habitual, so ideally you will train yourself to write at the same time every day. Make sure you enlist the help of your family, friends, or staff so that they don’t disturb you while you’re writing.

As far as your word count is concerned, aim for between 400 and 500 words per hour. If you write more than that, that’s great, but your goal is to write with consistency, not to beat a record.

Step 4: Write for Quantity First and Quality Later

When you sit down to write about your chosen topic from your book outline, you’ll find that ideas will come to you almost effortlessly because, as I mentioned before, your book is already inside of you.

Now, when you start writing don’t censor yourself. Writing is a purely creative process and any type of critical thinking will stifle it.

Quality shouldn’t be your concern at this stage. This will come into the picture when you begin to work on your rewrites, but that’s the subject for another article (if you’re curious, click here for my article on nonfiction writing skills to learn more).

You want to always write from a stream of consciousness.

Step 5: Focus on One Thing at a Time

Finally, to ensure that you never get overwhelmed when you sit down to write, use this method: scan your book outline for a topic or subtopic that you feel inspired to write about that day. It doesn’t have to be in any particular order – writing is not a linear process.

Then, as your creative juices begin to flow, get all the other topics out of your mind. Focus your entire two-hour writing block on the one topic you’ve chosen, not on the one hundred other things you could be writing about.

Your goal as a writer is to constantly divide and conquer. Do this every time you sit down to write and you’ll never feel overwhelmed.

Writing a nonfiction book that’ll solve a real-life problem for your audience is one of the most rewarding tasks you’ll ever undertake. Use the above 5 steps to get you started and you’ll never experience writer’s block.

To get a full picture of what it takes to create a publishing-ready nonfiction manuscript, I’ve created a companion article entitled: How to Write a Compelling Book in 12 Steps: A Must-Read Guide for Nonfiction Authors.

Best of luck on your book project!

If you enjoyed this article and are in the process of writing a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.


Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.

Here are some related articles I highly recommend:

How to Become a Great Book Writer in Business Nonfiction

The 7 Key Rules for Writers of Outstanding Nonfiction Books

Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.

2 responses to “I Want to Write a Nonfiction Book, Where Do I Start?”

  1. Avatar
    Robert Bock

    Good morning,
    Thank you for this information!

  2. Avatar

    Thanks for the guidance. Check your proofreading – (missing word ‘be’) Step 4, third paragraph, third word. 😉

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