I thought that I had finished my first indie nonfiction book. I briefed the designer on the cover design and sat down ready to do my first line editing run through. Usually I’m a pretty clean writer self editing and rewriting sentences as I go, so I didn’t really think that there would be too much to fix up. Sure I knew it was a little on the short side, but I thought the chapters and information flowed quite well together.
I was wrong.
On reading it I knew there was a lot missing. Some chapters felt unfinished and there was no warmth to the text.
Yes I know it’s a non-fiction book but I still believe that non fiction texts need warmth and likeability just like a fiction novel does.
The book sucks as is.
So I’m back in writing mode to try and fix it. Already it’s starting to look and sound better but I still have a lot of work to do.
Which got me to thinking, why are first drafts so bad? Of course some writers can crank out a book with minimal editing. Unfortunately I’m not one of them. I read somewhere once that the first draft of a book ALWAYS sucks, and while I’m not sure that is completely true – I need to go and light a fire under mine and add some depth to it.
Fortunately it’s starting to come together. I’m using ‘the formula’ for writing a good nonfiction book.
What is the nonfiction book formula?
It might be a little clichéd but the formula using goes 1) story about the concept to draw readers in 2) background about why concept is important/works to add credibility 3) explain the concept in detail – the ‘how to’ or ‘this is what you do’ part.
I realised what my book was lacking was a lot of background. Mainly with a story but also why the concept is important. I went straight in with ‘this is what you do’ and left it at that.
Even thought the ‘this is what you do’ is the most important part of the chapter, alone it can leave readers feeling unsatisfied. You need to sweeten up the text first so that readers can identify with the situation and be told how to solve it.
It’s a similar formula that many copywriters use on sales pages. Explain a relatable problem: “I used to suffer from bad acne”, why it needs fixing: “I couldn’t get a date” and then have the ‘product’ provide the solution “Once I tried ABC my face cleared up and now I’m dating again”.
So if you think your nonfiction needs some warmth, try the formula.
Start with a story, either you or someone else who has a problem, then explain the concept of the chapter and why it can fix the problem. And then of course explain the solution in a clear and easy to digest format.
And that’s it. That’s how to fix your sucky nonfiction book.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to do some writing.