With November right around the corner, writers all around the world are preparing for NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month. At The Book Shelf, we like to swap the “Novel” for “Nonfiction”. Do you have an idea for a nonfiction book? Have you been looking for an excuse to start writing it? This November might be the time to do it!
The first thing you need to determine is why you want to write a nonfiction book, so you can decide what you will write and how.
Before you begin, decide how much time you can set aside to write. A regular schedule will help you track your progress and make writing a habit. Can you stay off Netflix for a month and use those hours to binge-write instead of binge-watch? Maybe you need to commit to fewer social engagements than you’re used to? Dedicate however much time you can, whether it’s half an hour every day or three hours a week, and stick to it.
Then, open up a document and start writing! Most people choose Microsoft Word, as it’s much easier to edit, but Google Docs works as well. Scrivener and similar software make the editing stage more difficult, especially if you hire an editor, so opt out of those.
NaNoWriMo sets a default goal of writing a 50,000-word novel in a month. But everyone has different circumstances and every author a different process. Some prefer to plan their book in detail before sitting down to write, others write straight away and change content as they go. Some prefer to work on their project for months at a time, while others want to get it done as quickly as they can.
While it’s entirely possible to finish a book in 30 days, you don’t have to put pressure on yourself. Working a full-time job and looking after your family will leave you with less time to write than someone with no other commitments. It’s important to see this as an exciting challenge and a push to finally start that book you’ve been thinking about, rather than a burden that will leave you unhappy and overwhelmed. Aim to write half your book instead, for example—this is still a great start!
In a similar vein, not all books are 50,000 words long. If you plan on self-publishing your nonfiction book, a better goal is around 30,000 words. Less spare time means people are more likely to reach for a shorter read, and a lower word count ensures that your book is well-structured, non-repetitive, and concise.
A whole month of writing can be intense, particularly if you don’t write often, so it’s important to keep the challenge reasonable. If your circumstances change or you decide your goal is too difficult to achieve, adjust accordingly to prevent burnout.
The best way to motivate yourself throughout the month is by reminding yourself of the reasons you’re writing a book. Keep the why that you discovered earlier in mind, or write it down on a Post-It note to keep by your side as you type away.
Look at your bookshelf and reread your favourite passages for inspiration, listen to music to help you focus (here‘s a playlist if you don’t have one), and think of how satisfied you’ll feel when you’re done.
When you’ve finished writing your book, or a part of it, take a well-deserved break and celebrate! There’s still a way to go before publication, but you need time away to rest so you can come back to your book with a clear head.
The next steps: editing, design, and proofreading, all of which we can help you with. If you’re not sure what services you might need or if you’d like a critique first, get in touch. Read our guide to self-publishing a nonfiction book to decide whether you should DIY or hire professionals.
And if you’re still unsure how to organise your time, we’ve got a free e-book to help you! Subscribe to our newsletter here to get a download link.
Good luck with your NaNoWriMo experience. We’ll be doing Instagram lives about it throughout November, so stay tuned!
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