How to Write a Prescriptive Nonfiction Book

Prescriptive nonfiction is basically a how-to book that gives someone direction or information on a subject. It does not tell a story. Instead, it helps readers understand about an area of life. Readers wishing to improve a skill or educate themselves on a topic would reach for a prescriptive nonfiction book.

Should you write a prescriptive nonfiction book?

To answer that question, I’d like to ask a few more:

  • Have you developed a niche area of expertise?
  • Do you have specialized knowledge in a particular field?
  • Is your way of doing things better than the norm?
  • Would someone be able to do a task better and more efficiently by using your method?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, you should consider writing a prescriptive nonfiction book to share your knowledge with others.

Define your terms

Being an expert in your niche area, you probably are fluent in the language of the field. Remember, though, that your reader is probably a novice. Can you think of a time when you were surrounded by people speaking a language you didn’t know? If so, you probably felt left out. That’s not an enjoyable experience.

To prevent that in your book, make sure to define all the industry terms you use. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that people will be impressed with your liberal sprinkling of hard-to-understand technical words throughout the manuscript. The goal is to teach; the goal is to be understood. Keep it simple, so that everyone can understand.

Start with an outline

Start with an outline. Get the key principles out of your head and onto paper. I like to bullet-point the important topics, only jotting down a few notes at this stage. This outline will later form the table of contents of your prescriptive nonfiction book.

Next, take each important point and expand on it. Don’t write out the entire chapter now, but rather, express your thoughts in a few paragraphs of prose. Create further bullet points which will serve as your subheadings.

Add personal stories 

While your readers have picked up your prescriptive nonfiction book to learn more about a subject, they still want to be entertained. No one enjoys dry text.

Your readers will want to hear your stories and anecdotes that complement the lessons. When you’re outlining, add a few lines to jog your memory about these stories. 

Include practical exercises

Very few people can absorb information without trying it out. Add in a few practical exercises for your readers. It’s a good idea to get people out of the mode of just reading and put them into action. Make the assignments simple and easy to follow. The goal should be that they can accomplish a task and feel they can do it again and again. The last thing you want to do is frustrate your reader.

Starting your first draft

When you have your detailed outline worked out, start on one chapter. This can be any chapter; you don’t need to start at the beginning of your book. I suggest starting with your favorite section, one you know very well. You’ll gain confidence that way.

Continue to write each chapter, in any order that you like. You might find it helpful to start at the beginning, now that you’ve gotten your feet wet.

Don’t edit as you write. Just let the words flow onto the pages.

As you progress through your first draft, you’ll most likely think of other things to include in other parts of your book. Simply add them into the detailed outline; don’t stop midway to write that new segment. Finish the chapter that you’re on.

Final steps

When you complete your first draft, review it all and make sure it flows. Take out any repetitions.

If you are self-publishing, your prescriptive nonfiction book can really be any length. Having said that, be sure to cover your topic thoroughly. When you’re done, I highly recommend that you hire an editor to polish your manuscript and fix any typos.

Please understand that every writer needs an editor. We all make errors, which are hard for us to see because we’re too close to the piece.

Share your knowledge in your niche area of expertise with others. You’ll feel great when people write in to thank you! And if you need some help writing your book, please email me. I’d love to help you write your prescriptive nonfiction book.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

Why Should I Hire a Ghostwriter?

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Working With A Ghostwriter – What Steps Should You Take?

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Ask a Ghostwriter: How Do I Start Writing a Book?

Dear Friendly Ghostwriter, I have an amazing story to tell, but don’t know how to start writing a book now. I have so many things all jumbled up in my head and I don’t know how to get it out on paper. Help! -Art M.

Dear Art M.,

When I received your question, I did a little search on the internet: “How do you start writing a book?” I was curious to see what other writers had to say. Up popped a dozen articles that made the process seem ridiculously easy. In my opinion, these articles pain a false picture; writing a book is far from easy and you’re not the only one to have difficulties in this area! So, I don’t want to answer your question with a cookie-cutter twelve-step to-do list; instead, I would like to give you some broad-stroke advice.

Make a list

A movie is made up of hundreds of scenes. These flow together to tell the story. With a book, these scenes can be better described as incidents. Basically, think of these incidents as the things that will happen to your characters (or if you’re writing a memoir, they are the experiences that have happened to you).

Some people like to make flashcards. They write the individual incidents out onto three-by-five-inch cards and put them into the order they think will work best. I prefer to open a word doc and write out the incidents there. I don’t number them, but just get them out of my head in the simplest way possible. For example, it might look like this:

Incident: Bob discusses breaking up with Mary in a coffee shop.

Incident: Terry says good-bye to her parents before entering her new college dorm for the first time.

It just needs to have enough information to jog your memory when you create a more complete outline later on. Don’t worry about putting the incidents in any order. You’re just trying to get the information out of your head and onto the paper (or computer document). It simply is a list of what happens.

Note: Some incidents might be super short. That’s fine!

Give each incident a time stamp

Photo by Mohammed Fkriy on Unsplash

You should end up with dozens of incidents (perhaps even hundreds). Next, go through and give each incident a time stamp, which tells you when it took place. Some timestamps might be simply a month and year. For example:

Incident: Sam starts high school: September 1979.

Incident: George gets a job at Mercury, Inc.: May 1983

Sometimes, the time of the incident will be relevant. In that case, be as specific as you can. If you know the exact date, mark that down. For instance:

Incident: Bernice gives birth to her daughter: June 17, 1988, 4:30am.

Incident: Lonny graduates high school: May 25, 1999, early afternoon.

Again, these are notes for you. Don’t get bogged down. If you don’t the exact date, just put in the year.

Put the incidents in order

Now that you have the time stamps, you can put the incidents in chronological order. It’s possible that some incidents will serve as a flashback. If you know that will be the case, you can group them after the appropriate incident. For example:

Incident: Joe waits for Sally at their favorite park bench: September 2002.

Incident: Flashback: Joe and Sally share their first kiss on the bench: August 1994.

Flesh out your incidents

Now that you have all your incidents in order, it’s time to drill down and examine each one. I find it helpful to use a kind of journalistic approach with each incident.

Here are some questions you can answer:

  • Who is in the incident? (Name all the characters, even minor players.)
  • Where does it take place? (Be as specific as you can.)
  • When does it happen?
  • Describe what occurs (very briefly)
  • What is the purpose of this incident? (Why should it be included?)

You might have other points to mention, but it is important to keep it very brief. Don’t indulge in lengthy descriptions. It’s not time to start writing your book quite yet. For one thing, some of these incidents might not make the cut!

Note: The most important element on this list is the last one—the purpose. You must have a strong purpose for including this incident in your book. If you can’t come up with one, cut the incident immediately.

If you feel inspired to write a scene from this list, go for it. You might need to rewrite it later, but that’s OK. I understand the need to get the ideas/images out of your head! Sometimes I just write a few notes under the incident description. This helps me free up my attention and move on to the next incident on the list.

The next step

After you finish creating your master list of incidents, you want to make sure they flow one into the next. Once you have them all in sequential order and you’ve weeded out ones that don’t fit or have a real purpose, take a step back and review it. Read the list over a few times to make sure it works for you. This is one way to create an outline. If you want to change the format, it will be easy to do so, because you now have all the information you’ll need.

You may just find that the book is pretty much written! Yes, it’s still in your head and you’ll need to write the 50,000 (or so) words, but now you know where you’re going.

The incident list is a great tool to help you sort out the ideas that are jumbled in your head. And it will act as mile markers for you on your journey, helping you make sure that you’ve included all the important occurrences and events. It’s much easier to start writing a book if you have a well-laid plan. Enjoy the process!

As you begin your new adventure, you might find yourself hitting a few distractions. If you’d like some tips on how to avoid these, read my article on the subject. And, of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me!

So, How Does Ghostwriting Work, Anyway?

You are the author

I get a few emails a month asking how the standard ghostwriting arrangement works. While there are some commonalities, the truth is, no true two projects are alike, because no two clients are the same. There really isn’t a “standard ghostwriting” deal.

How to present your notes to a ghostwriter

Different clients present me with notes in different ways. Some clients will drop 60,000 words in my lap and ask me to write a book. Others will give me a rough concept of a story or nonfiction book and let me “have at it.”

Which do I prefer?

I love both!

Both also offer their own challenges. The first option gives me a wealth of information and I begin the project with a good idea of what the client wants. I always still need to do extensive research in order to fill in gaps and be sure I have a complete understanding of the material, but with a good set of notes a lot of the initial homework has been done.

The second option gives me complete creative freedom, and, I’ll admit, there’s something very appealing about that!

Either way, I’ll need to write the actual book from scratch, as the notes need to be sculpted into the proper form required for a memoir, novel, or business book. Sometimes the notes are presented to me as a manuscript, but it’s rare that a simple edit will turn it into a book.

Cost of hiring a ghostwriter

My cost is very straightforward and easy to calculate. I charge a dollar per word for standard ghostwriting (for either method discussed above). So, a 200-300-page book, which would be 50,000 – 75,000 words, would run $50,000 – $75,000. I’m flexible on the payment plan but would need to be paid before I begin the work. Please email me for specific details on how you and I could work together.

The time I need to complete a book

The standard ghostwriting contract gives me eight to eighteen months to complete a full-length book project. Even a short, 100-page book, requires a lot of research. It’s rare that I can commit to completing even a mini-eBook in under a half a year. However, if that is important to you, I can sometimes move things around; however, in that case, the price would need to be adjusted.

Sometimes a client will ask me to write a book in a few months. I can do that, but I pretty much have to drop everything, kiss my husband and children goodbye, and rent a cabin in the woods to get it done. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but there is a nugget of truth to my hyperbole.

The time required by the client

Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

Some authors are happy to sit back and let me write their book with little input, while others prefer to see the pages unfold and comment on them regularly. I will never just take a client’s money and write the entire book on my own in a vacuum. That is a recipe for disaster, on many levels. After all, their name will be on the cover and my client will need to answer for each and every word.

The first thing I do is outline the story and run it by the client. Once they sign off on the summary or outline, I begin writing the chapters of the book. During the early stages, I’ll send a few pages at a time for them to review. Then, as we really establish the style and voice, I’ll send larger chunks.

So, as you can see, every author does need to be somewhat involved in the project. My clients should plan to spend a couple hours a week on average answering emails. The feedback they provide doesn’t need to be polished. Many clients use speech recognition software, so they can send me notes on the road or from their balcony as they sip Chardonnay. Punctuation and spelling don’t matter, as long as I can understand the message.

A fast turnaround time by my clients helps me complete the project faster.

One of the things I love about ghostwriting is that I get to work with many different people on many different projects. Each relationship is truly unique, and the process is always fun and challenging!

How To Write A Nonfiction Book

how to write a nonfiction bookAre you wondering how to write a nonfiction book? The process doesn’t have to be hard. Here are my thoughts on how to write a nonfiction book.

Pick a topic

Some people want to write a book, but have no idea what to write about. Or they have a concept, but all their ideas don’t quite fit and the words just don’t flow. The first step is to pick a subject you have a specialized knowledge about.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started:

  • Is there a subject that you know about that others don’t?
  • What really interests you?
  • What could you write about that would help your business?
Read More

Writing a Book: Your First Few Steps

Congratulations!

I’m thrilled that you made the momentous decision to complete that book that you’ve been thinking about writing for years! Bravo! That’s the first step. Now let’s tackle the next few.

I’m not here to tell you that writing a book can be made simple through a few steps. No, it will take time and patience. There is no way to even pen a short book in a few weeks. However, with a few preliminary steps I’d like to try to cut down on potential frustration!

Sum up your book in just a few lines

Before you can really start even outlining your book, you need to answer this fundamental question in a few lines: “What is your story about?” Then see if you can boil it down to a single line, a single breath. For example: This is a story about a young man, who rose from extreme poverty to become a successful entrepreneur. You know what the book is about, don’t you?

Why is this important? It keeps you on track. Plus, the themes, messages, and purposes of the book come out quickly from this simple one-line statement. It also keeps you from traveling down a divergent path. For instance, you might be tempted to devote three chapters of your business memoir to a failed marriage, designed to help budding entrepreneurs. Perhaps you’re hoping to get in a few good digs along the way. Well, that doesn’t really match your original concept, does it? So, toss it.

However, delving into an early business failure could definitely help your readers avoid the same pitfalls. Those stories would definitely be good to tell and would be important to your story.

Assignment: Write a one- to three-line summary of your story, answering the question, “What is your story about?”

What’s your purpose?

Why are you interested in writing your book? What do you hope your reader will gain from reading it?

As I’ve written a few times in my blog, if your purpose is to get back at someone, think again. That story just isn’t something worth reading. Another purpose that rarely works is financial. If you’re looking to make a million off of your story, and that is your primary goal, it won’t come out right.

By defining your purpose, you can help yourself stay on track. When you get into outlining, you can make sure that each scene, each segment aligns with that purpose fully. And if you find yourself straying, you can toss the paragraphs into a roaring proverbial bonfire.

Assignment: Write down your purpose(s) in writing your book.

What are your messages?

It’s good to work out what messages you wish to impart to your reader early in the process. This will help you sort through all the information you’ll gather later, in order to figure out what will make the cut. It will also help you find your writing voice and determine how you want to tell your story (or share your wisdom).

For instance, one of your messages for your memoir might be about the value of perseverance. Another message could center around the importance of ethical behavior in business. So, the individual stories that will make up the book should center around these themes.

Assignment: Write down the messages you wish to impart to your reader.

Once you’ve finished these steps, you’ll be ready to start collecting notes, which you’ll use to create an outline. That will be the subject for the next blog article! Let me know how you did with the assignments above in the comment section below!

If you decide you wish to hire a ghostwriter, please contact me. I’d like to help. And if you wish to learn about my pricing, please check out my article on the subject!

Thank you and keep writing!

If you liked this article, here are a few additional ones you might find helpful:

Questions for a Ghostwriter

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Working With A Ghostwriter – What Steps Should You Take?

Steps You Can Take To Write Your Book

StepsDo you often think of how you would love to record your life story, or maybe pen a novel?

Getting a book published is not out of the realm of possibility. With the advent of new technologies, it’s easier than ever to be a published author. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Answer the question, “What is my book about?” This may seem like a simple task, but it can be difficult. You should be able to answer this question within a few lines, as a sort of pitch. Once you have this down, you have a guiding light to see you through the journey. This answer will help you stay on track through the writing process.
  2. Create an outline or table of contents. This is a step that will give you the mile markers you need to get from point A to B then C and all the way to the end. Don’t spend too much time on the details, just summarize the sections.
  3. Write the rough draft. Get the words out of your mind and onto paper. Follow your outline, presenting your scenes as you go. Do not edit at this phase, just write and write and write!
  4. Take a break. It’s a good idea to walk away from a manuscript after you complete the first draft. It is much easier to edit if you can see it with fresh eyes. I usually give myself three to ten days before starting the editing process.
  5. Edit all the way through. Now is the time to play with the words and tighten your book. If you love a scene, but realize it doesn’t fit, scrap it. It might help to pretend it isn’t your book, but a client’s manuscript. Nothing is too precious to keep.
  6. Hire an editor or show the book to fellow writers. Now is a good time to get other feedback. What are you missing that someone else finds glaringly obvious? Get good feedback then make changes as you see fit.
  7. Read your book again. If this is your first book, I highly recommend that you read it out loud. There’s no better way that I know of for catching errors or stale dialogue. If you can, read it out loud to another person.

Next, you can brainstorm titles and a tag line. Write down candidate titles. I like to ask friends for their ideas, too. Once you have a few, you can survey them with many people, discovering the title that really communicates to your readers. That’s the one to pick.

Once you have your title and tag line, and if you’re self-publishing, you’ll need to hire a designer to create your cover art. It is important that it be professional and appealing. If you can get your artist to create three unique designs, survey those and see which is most popular. If it’s close, survey more people. You want the winner to stand out.

If you don’t have a blog, now is a good time to start one. Blog weekly (or biweekly) about your book. This will help promote your book. If you get an agent and publisher, they will be looking for a healthy blog promoting the book.

I would also recommend getting onto various social media sites. Start now, as it takes time to build a following. Keep your content relevant for you and your readers.

Writing a book is a huge undertaking. Finding a ghostwriter to help can aid the effort tremendously. Please feel free to email with any questions you might have about the book writing process or click here to submit a quote request.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Tips For Writing Good Dialogue

How To Write A Nonfiction Book

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Do You Want To Write A Book About Your Life?