If you’re looking for a good writing skills article to help you develop as a nonfiction writer, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article you’ll learn a number of powerful guidelines to help you develop into a nonfiction author who knows how to connect with your audience and who knows how to communicate effectively with them to help them bring positive change to their lives.
Guidelines to Develop Good Nonfiction Writing Skills
Developing good nonfiction writing skills is something that you can learn with practice. Good nonfiction authors are not born; they are made. The following guidelines will help you develop these skills methodically over time.
They’ll help you become a better communicator and a more grounded writer. Follow these guidelines with focus and intention and soon you’ll producing quality nonfiction content that you’ll be proud of and that will truly connect with your audience.
The 7 Key Questions
Most nonfiction books are centered on helping an audience solve a problem, so I’ll assume that this is your goal as well. This first guideline will help you fine-tune your writing to your target audience to ensure that your message comes across clearly.
Before you sit down to write a new book section, and also right after you finish it, ask yourself the following 7 questions:
- Who is the ideal member of my target audience? Describe this person in as much detail as possible. Do research to discover their fears, challenges, desires, hopes and dreams.
- What do I want my target audience to learn from this section?
- Am I communicating my thoughts clearly? Am I writing concisely and using an economy of words?
- Is my message as eloquent as it could be?
- Am I using “You” instead of “We,” “Us,” “They” or “I”?
- Did I present my ideas in a logical way?
- Did my writing flow naturally throughout the section?
Focus on Good Writing Technique
This guideline will show you a set of basic rules that you need to follow in order to develop good writing technique:
- Avoid never-ending paragraphs. Break down your thoughts into bite-sized pieces that are easy for readers to consume. We live in an area of short attention spans. Long paragraphs will cause your readers to lose interest in your book fast.
- Your writing needs to be clean and stay on point. Avoid embellishing your sentences with extra words that don’t add anything useful to your message. Writing that sounds pretentious will break the connection with your readers.
- Minimize the use of adverbs unless they’re necessary to add context (e.g. write “That was difficult to learn” instead of “That was quite difficult to learn”).
- Minimize the use of adjectives unless they’re necessary (e.g. write “That was really good” instead of “That was really, really good”)
- Learn and follow proper rules of grammar, punctuation and capitalization. Here’s a good article that you can use as a starting point:
Divide and Conquer
When it comes to the process of writing your manuscript from your book outline you may feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of the task ahead.
You’re planning to write a 200-page, 50,000-word book and now you’re staring at a blank page. Fear sets in…
But you may not know that you have a secret weapon in your writing arsenal. A weapon that will jump-start your writing journey and will be there at your beck and call throughout your entire book.
This weapon is your brain. Now you might say, but wait a minute; everybody has one! Sure, but not everybody is an expert in a specific subject like you are, with years of practice, skill development and satisfied clients.
For example, the difference between a fiction writer and you is that they have to dream up a new fantasy every time they sit down to write a new book. You, on the other hand, don’t need the muses in hope that a good idea will come to your rescue.
You need no rescue. All you need is a good book outline. This is a structured summary of information that’s already sitting in your brain, ready to come out on command.
What’s the command? The title of each section on your outline. The beauty of a nonfiction book is that it doesn’t have to be written in a linear fashion. In fact, it’s much more efficient to divide the job in order to conquer it.
All you have to do is to pick any one section from your book that stimulates your thoughts, that inspires you at that precise moment to start writing.
When you finish that section, your inspiration may shift to the following section or perhaps you’ll need to skip a couple of chapters to find another section that inspires you at that time.
If you follow this approach every time you sit down to write, you’ll never feel overwhelmed and you’ll never experience writer’s block.
Use Concise Language
When you write a nonfiction book, you’re creating a bridge of knowledge between your mind and the mind of your readers. In order for this transfer of thoughts to be fluid, you’ll need to use concise language.
In other words, don’t be tempted to use jargon or complex wording. They’ll just act as speed bumps.
Always try to use as few words as necessary to convey your message. Don’t fear that you’re going to be too simplistic. You won’t, what you’ll be doing is simplifying your message.
Simplistic means eliminating not just words but context as well. Simplifying means making your message clear; it means removing the fat without cutting out the muscle.
Keep in mind that your words are packets of information that need to be deciphered in the minds of your readers. If this process is complicated, your message flow will slow down or stop altogether, breaking your connection with the reader.
If there’s a phrase that you’re very proud of writing, but that doesn’t add value to your message, then you should set your ego aside and cut it out. You might be a bit sad but your readers will appreciate it.
Write Every Day as if You Were Being Paid
The hallmark of a professional nonfiction author is the discipline to sit down to write every day, rain or shine. Whether they’re feeling great or lousy that day, they still put in the time and make every effort to always give it their best.
As in all other creative endeavors, there’s no substitute for “rubber to the road.” There are no shortcuts here, so in order to succeed you’ll have to develop professional writing habits.
Writing with frequency and discipline is the only road to the completion of a nonfiction book that you’ll be proud of, and also a book that’ll truly move the needle for your business and your career.
And this is the part where you need to write as if you’re being paid to do so, because even though you’re not being paid right now, you will be soon enough.
Once your nonfiction book is published, you’ll be immediately deemed to be an expert. With this “title” come many financial benefits. For example, you’ll be able to secure paid speaking fees for talks and keynotes, and you’ll begin to attract media who will want to interview you for your expert opinion.
You’ll also develop a competitive advantage when you bid for contracts, because most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t publish books. You’ll be deemed an expert through your book and that added credibility will often sway granting decisions in your favor.
Finally, you’ll increase your pipeline of leads significantly for your business as word about your book spreads through the international channels developed by Amazon, opening up new markets for your services around the world.
Make Your Writing Audience-Friendly
When you write nonfiction, you may be tempted to become “professorial” in your language. You’ve been practicing in your specialty for many years, maybe you’re even teaching about it. Resist this temptation.
Instead, you need to maintain a personable and conversational language. For example, if you refrain from using contractions, your writing will sound too staid. Wherever applicable, use contractions and common abbreviations because that’s what your readers expect.
Your goal is to communicate with your readers in a way that makes it easy for them to acquire your knowledge. You need to write for them and not to them.
For your book to succeed you need your readers to be able to relate to your writing, to your style, and to the stories that you share with them. Talk to them through your writing in the way they like to be talked to – as a peer communicating at their level, not as a scholar standing at the lectern.
For example, use active verbs, don’t embellish your text with complex-sounding words, don’t use adjectives or adverbs excessively and write in a way that creates bridges not chasms.
Finally, be yourself in your writing. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, because your audience will see through it. Authenticity sells, insincerity turns people off. This is no different from when you work face-to-face with clients in your business.
If this is your first book, say so in your writing; don’t imply that you’ve been doing this for a while. Your goal is to get readers to know you, like you and trust you and you can only achieve it by being authentic.
Always strive to use your voice when you write, don’t use language that could be perceived as condescending or pretentious. Find the common humanity with your target audience and build your relationship from that foundation.
You audience will really appreciate what you’re doing for them if you meet them where they are. You want to help them, not to lecture them. So, be honest, compassionate and clear in your writing, and before you know it you’ll be developing lifelong fans.
If you’re ready to set sail with your nonfiction book, let me share with you a number of articles to get you going in the right direction:
- “How to Come Up With Great Book Ideas For Business Owners”
- “How to Come Up With Killer Book Titles for Your Nonfiction Book”
- “How to Use a Mind Map to Create a Great Book for Your Business”
- “How to Create a Book Outline Step-By-Step: A Guide for Nonfiction Writers”
- “How to Write a Compelling Book Introduction That Will Move the Needle”
Best of luck!
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.
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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.