When you research what the basic rules for writers are, you will find information about punctuation, how to use adverbs and adjectives, sentence and paragraph length, and so on.
Even though all of these mechanical nonfiction writing tips are valid and need to be observed, I have chosen to focus on the behavioral rules of writing today.
A writer’s role
As a writer, your job is to create content that readers will consume and enjoy. But a writer’s role goes much deeper than that. Writers are responsible for transferring their ideas to readers via their words.
Let’s explore this in more detail. First, we compartmentalize things in order to make sense of the world, so we create labels – you’re a writer, and I’m a reader.
The writer decides what to write, and the reader chooses what to read. Even though labels make for an excellent intellectual construct, they’re not very useful for describing human relationships. In fact, they tend to separate rather than unite.
Writing fulfills a much deeper need to learn from each other, enrich each other’s lives, and serve others.
At its core, writing is ultimately about creating a deep connection between two human beings – one the writer, the other the reader.
Eight powerful nonfiction writing tips
Let’s now discuss some tips for writers who would like to create a nonfiction book to create a strong connection with their audience.
Regardless of how many books they’ve published, this is the cardinal rule of successful writers.
Writing mastery is similar to mastering a musical instrument. The vast majority of professional musicians are those who practice every single day and work hard at it.
Creating a daily writing routine that’s independent of your work and family life is essential. To become established as an expert in your field, create a two-hour writing block 6 days a week that lets you work uninterrupted. Your family or staff will be able to help you accomplish this: no phone calls and no one walking in on you.
Write honestly and sincerely
You’re now ready to begin your journey. First, you must learn to communicate in writing so that you share with your clients directly. Second, honesty and authenticity must permeate all your interactions. Otherwise, you can’t stay in business, can you?
I will re-frame it this way: writing your book is really an extension of your business. So while you’ll be communicating in a different medium and to a larger audience, your goal remains the same – be transparent and always be yourself.
Dishonesty and a lack of authenticity are readily apparent to readers. It won’t take them long to sense that something is “off” with the author.
By contrast, when authors use their authentic voice and aren’t afraid to be themselves, warts and all, the reading experience becomes refreshing. The connection with readers is much deeper.
Hold nothing back whenever you write
Whenever you decide to write a book to support and grow your business or career, you have to put it all out there. So don’t try to protect your ideas from theft by offering a teaser.
You must be able to bare your soul on the page if you want to write genuinely successful nonfiction. Do not withhold information that could be helpful to your readers.
Give them more, and they will give you more in return. Word of mouth marketing for your book will be stronger, you’ll attract more readers, you’ll get better reviews, and ultimately, more doors will open for you.
Authenticity in your writing is a solid selling point. Combined with generosity and selflessness, you’ve now created a game-changer.
Go off the grid when you write
We have already established that you should not be interrupted when you sit down to write. Those are external interruptions. Internal interruptions, however, are equally important.
Whenever we hear a notification, we are tempted to switch away from our writing app – a new email, a new post that catches our eye, an incoming text message, etc.
Even if you don’t respond to them immediately, these distractions disrupt your creative flow, the direct link between your mind and your fingertips. Nevertheless, your best writing ideas will come from this state of creative thinking, so you should treasure it.
On your device, I recommend going “off the grid,” and what I mean by that will depend on your writing tools. Turn off Wi-Fi for the entire duration of your two-hour writing block if you’re using a native office app like Word, which doesn’t need to be connected to the Internet to function. You’ll no longer receive any notifications this way.
Mute the sound on your computer instead if you’re using an online writing app like Google Docs. Then, if an emergency requires your presence, just let people know where you are. If the smartphone is set to “do not disturb,” you can also set your phone to “do not disturb.”
Concentrate and focus only on the words in front of you
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when working on a book that’s as complex and diverse as writing one. When you sit down to write, you need to put blinders on and focus exclusively on what you are writing about at that moment.
While you are writing this chapter, you cannot think about the remaining 200 pages that still need to be written or how the chapter you wrote yesterday can be improved.
This will take some discipline, and you’ll have to learn a bit. However, you cannot write well and think about distractions at the same time. Getting caught up in the past or the future will take you out of the present, and your writing will suffer as a consequence. Why?
To achieve flow, creativity requires a state of presence. The flow of thoughts and ideas from your mind to your fingertips gets blocked if you focus on the past or the future.
Don’t write yourself to exhaustion
You should never write for more than two hours. If you write until you are creatively exhausted, say for 3 or 4 hours straight, you’ll come to resent the act of writing because you will set an unrealistic expectation for the future.
It’s much more productive to write for two hours and leave behind a ton of ideas to write about later. Then, you can note these ideas in bullet form on a notepad and use them the next day as inspiration.
As a nonfiction author writing about your professional experiences, you won’t have to worry about ever running out of ideas since you won’t have to develop a brand new premise from scratch as you would as a fiction author. Instead, it’s simply a matter of transferring information that you already know from your brain to the written page.
Each time you write, always go with the flow
Finally, your book must have a sense of “flow.” Everything you write must flow because readers don’t sense “writing” – they feel the flow. Elmore Leonard once told a student: “Write things down if they sound like writing.”
If all readers see is just the writing, they will not feel connected to you. So, remove words that aren’t essential to the text, words that don’t add anything to your message.
Is it possible to tell if you have written a non-essential word? For example, you can test whether a comment is necessary by removing that word from the passage and seeing if its meaning is still evident.
Also, don’t be afraid to eliminate writing that you spent lots of time creating. Things that are hard to write tend to go against the flow. On the other hand, those things that are easy to write, where it seems as if your fingers are moving on their own, tend to flow naturally.
Having attempted to rewrite something that is clearly at odds with the narrative, I can tell you that it rarely works. If it’s hard to write, it will be hard to rewrite – you can’t put a square peg into a round hole.
Don’t worry about quality at first
Here’s a rule for writers that works wonders, especially for first-time authors. This will sound counterintuitive at first: you have to forget about quality while you’re writing the book!
When you sit down to write, you are working from a stream of consciousness. Your section will talk about the X, Y, and Z lessons you learned from working with one of your clients today, but you don’t know what content you’ll write.
In this initial writing stage, you want to establish a direct and unfiltered connection between your brain and your fingertips so that you can capture the “torrent” of information on paper. Taking shape is not your goal right now.
If you think, “I have to write quality content,” then that’s a sure-fire way to turn off your creativity. Your critical thinking is now getting in the way of your creativity, so your writing will become stale.
Do not worry about quality control until after you have completed the first phase of the creative process. When you assume the role of your editor, you’ll be able to use your critical thinking to give your creative writing the shape and quality it needs to pass muster with your readers.