Here’s what happens when most people sit down to write a non-fiction book: First, they procrastinate because they don’t know where to start. Next, they finally get going and they even manage to write a chapter or two, but then they get stuck. Finally, they shelve the book to “finish later” and it never gets done.
But if you have a system, writing a book can be nearly painless and possibly even fun. And if that system involves speaking – something you are likely far more experienced at than writing – so much the better. The best part? You can finish your book within weeks or even days, instead of slaving over it for the next 6 months.
So here’s how you ‘write’ your book without (much) writing, step by step:
Solidify your idea. Hopefully you have a topic picked out, be it How to Care for Tropical Fish, How to Raise Chickens or How to Build a List Using Skype. It should be a topic you’re already familiar with, one you can already speak about with authority. You don’t need to have all of your facts lined up, but your working knowledge should be fairly extensive for this system to work. If you don’t know a good deal about your topic, see below for a work-around.
Now then, for the next few hours or days, keep asking yourself what you want to teach others about this topic. Make notes of the ideas that come to you. Take time to research on the appropriate forums and find out what people want to know, and make further notes. At this point you’re getting ideas for your chapters. Don’t edit, just make notes on whatever comes to mind.
Once you have enough ideas, go through them and pick out the best 10-15 ideas and arrange them in the order you want them to appear in your book.
Make notes on each idea. Jot down what you want to say under each heading. These don’t need to be extensive notes if you already know your topic. The time you’ll need for this will likely be one day to one week. Stay at it, and you’ll find all sorts of things popping into your head at the oddest of times. Write them down so you don’t have to try to remember them.
Place the notes for each chapter in an approximate order of how you would like to cover them. For example, if you’re writing a book on vegetable gardening and you have a chapter on cucumbers, you might start with how to choose the best variety of cucumber, where to get the seed, how to prepare the soil, how and when to plant, how to take care of the plant as it grows, how to extend the growing season, etc.
Speak your chapters. Start with any chapter you like and record yourself speaking the chapter (rather than writing it.) You’ll have your outline in front of you, and you’ll be speaking just as if someone were there in the room with you. In fact, if it’s easier you can record your sessions with a friend who helps to prompt you with the appropriate questions and prods when you leave something out.
Do this for each chapter, and then get your recordings transcribed.
Edit and fill in the missing material. You’ll need to do some editing to get your chapters just right. And in some cases you’ll need to go back and add something in that you either forgot or didn’t have at the time. For example, you’re recording and you realize you didn’t know a piece of information – you can simply add it in at this point.
Get someone to edit your nearly finished manuscript for you. There’s nothing like having another pair of eyes on your writing to make it the best it can be. If you can afford a professional editor, terrific. If not, get a friend who’s good with communication to do it.
Remember, your book doesn’t have to sound like it was written by a stuffy English professor. In fact, it’s better if it’s written in a conversational tone, which gives you a real advantage using this system because you really are speaking rather than writing.
Rinse and repeat. Now that you see how easy it is to ‘write’ a book using this system, you’ll want to do it again and again.
What if you’re not already knowledgeable about your topic? Then you can speak as you research. This is a bit trickier but can be done. Write down what you want to cover in your outline, and then research each item. As you find the information you seek, read it to yourself and then without looking at what you just read, explain it into the recorder. This way you convey the same knowledge but in your own words.
You’ll find there’s a an extra bonus to using this method – by immediately explaining what you just read out loud, you’ll remember far more of it later. Basically you are learning and teaching simultaneously, which means that once you become adept at using this system, you can ‘write’ about almost anything while learning it at the same time.
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