3 Simple steps to start writing a nonfiction book

If you want to write a nonfiction book, the first question that probably comes to mind is: where do I start? As a nonfiction book coach, I’ve worked with hundreds of authors who wanted to teach readers how to do something, be it how to make their life better, how to make money on Amazon, or how to become an entrepreneur. In my experience, the best way to start writing a nonfiction book like this involves three simple steps.

#1 Choose your topic

First, you need to know what you’re going to teach readers. There’s little point trying to teaching them about something that you’re not particularly familiar with yourself. Ideally, you should be a subject matter expert on the topic you’re teaching them about. Readers will be looking to you for expertise, credibility, and knowledge they can’t readily find elsewhere, so write about what you know—and know it well.

Top tip: If you’re not sure, write a list of all things you’re skilled and experienced in, whether that’s from your work life or your home life. Your topic might relate to a practical skill such as cooking, a mental skill such as thinking independently, or an emotional skill such as dealing with loss.

#2 Know your audience

The second step is understanding who you’re writing for. Many authors assume they can write a book that will appeal to and speak to everyone, but books just don’t work that way, thus there’s a common saying in editing “if you try to speak to everybody, you end up speaking to nobody”. You need to be clear on who specifically you’re writing the book for and ideally imagine you’re speaking to them as you write it.

Top tip: Take some time to research who has the problem you’re solving so you know how best to speak to them in terms of vocabulary and examples. Look at other books on the topic and create a “reader avatar” based on what your target reader is like in terms of demographic and personality. 

#3 Make a plan

It’s tempting to just delve into writing the book, but if you do that, you’re likely to end up with an unstructured narrative that goes off on random tangents. The result? The reader doesn’t achieve their goals or gets frustrated and gives up on the book. The book should be a clear journey for the reader with stepping stones to help them achieve their goal.

Top tip: Before you start writing, brainstorm everything you want to cover, breaking it down into topics and sub-topics. Then organise your topics and sub-topics into a clear order of steps that the reader needs to follow. This becomes your chapter and heading outline to start writing.

Time to start writing!

Once you’ve done these three steps, you’re ready to start writing with more focus and clarity to better help your readers. If you need help on your writing journey, check out our services including coaching from an expert book coach—get in touch today and we’ll point you in the right direction.