Nonfiction is a wide and varied genre, so it can be difficult to find clear guidelines to follow. Most importantly, you should know why you are writing this book and what you hope readers will take away from it. From there, following these five elements can only help you to share that message more clearly and effectively.
If you’re writing a memoir or any type of nonfiction book that aims to tell a cohesive story rather than solve a problem, you should also read the 5 key elements of a good fiction book.
Whether you’re looking to solve a problem, spread a message, or teach a lesson, you should have a clearly defined premise before you ever write a word of your book. This will ensure that you don’t get off topic or try to solve too many things at once.
You should also do a fair amount of market research to ensure your topic is unique or you have a unique perspective on it. That way, you are not spending the time writing something that has already been done plenty of times before.
Just like any fiction book should have a resolution, your nonfiction book needs to lead to a point where the reader can take something away from it. Again, you should have this outcome in mind before you write your book to ensure you are working toward one clearly defined goal.
Try to come up with one key thing that readers should expect to take away from your book. Will they finally be able to quit smoking? Know how to start investing their money more wisely? Understand how to grow a garden in their backyard? Whatever it is, make sure it’s clear before you start writing, that there is a clear audience who would want this outcome, and that you’re not repeating something that is already prevalent in the marketplace.
Simply introducing a problem and a solution isn’t enough to cover an entire book. You also need to give readers an actionable plan or process to get from point A to point B. Simply describing how you were able to lose 300 lbs. in a few months isn’t enough. You have to consider how you can translate your experience into something that a reader can reasonably apply and benefit from.
You should also be sure that this process is repeatable and widely useful. Now, your process may not help every single person that picks up your book, but it should be clear and simple enough that if a reader follows it to a T, he or she has a reasonable chance at success. Being unclear or ignoring potential pitfalls will be the quickest way to frustrate readers.
Having personal experience with a topic is a great start to creating a solid nonfiction book. If you have your own business, have been working in a particular industry for years, or have coached others on your topic, you are already setting yourself up as a knowledgeable leader. Including your personal experience is a great way to back up your book with concrete details and convince readers that you know what you’re talking about.
In some cases however, simply telling your story may not be enough to influence or help readers, especially if you don’t have years of experience under your belt. This is why it’s extremely important to do as much research as you can on your topic and ensure you are providing your readers with the most accurate, up-to-date information that you possibly can. Taking time on this step will go a long way in making sure that you are sharing your message and helping others as best you can.
Lastly, your book should carry a positive, uplifting tone that makes readers feel like they can accomplish what they set out to achieve. No matter how great your process or solution is, it may not work if readers are left feeling unencouraged. Part of your job as the author is to make the reader feel like they can reasonably reach the solution that you’ve set out to share. Getting there may not be easy, but you should leave your readers feeling motivated and inspired to take each step.
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