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10 Tips To Write A Non-Fiction Book That Rocks

10 Tips To Write A Non-Fiction Book That Rocks

Minutes after I sent out my newsletter last Monday, a reader named Daniel replied me and said “You suck too! Bes regard (sic)”

Daniel is absolutely right and I want to congratulate him for recognizing that.

Here’s what I had said in the newsletter that triggered his remarkable response:
…I’ve never promoted a book written by a Nigerian. No, that’s not arrogance. It’s not because I think I’m too big. It’s not lack of patriotism. It’s because almost every non-fiction book I’ve seen written by a Nigerian sucks.

Daniel is correct. I suck. I’m too blunt. I sometimes pronounce the truth too harshly that too many people get pissed off. That’s not cool.

But first, when I started this blog, I didn’t do so to extol anyone who calls himself a writer. I did so to help writers, and that includes telling them (and myself) some brutal truths.

(Just last week, I still publicly told myself some bitter truths about my lack of discipline to write daily, and I didn’t feel a lost of prestige for chastising myself publicly)

I won’t endorse a book because it’s been written by a Nigerian. I will endorse it because it’s of great value. And please note, I’ll be glad to partner with or promote any Nigerian writer provided quality is the bedrock of the partnership.

10 Tips To Write A Non-Fiction Book That Rocks

What you need is to write only a book that really rocks. Abass did it (and if you’ve not read his book, you’re missing out). You can do it too, and the tips below might help you.

1. Make it actionable

One problem with the content of many non-fiction books is that the lessons are often not actionable. They come off as guess work or vain theories passed down from a few generations ago without questioning.

When you write a non-fiction book, do better. Focus on the how. When you promise a result, lay out the process so crystal clear that an average reader who implements it will get the promised result.

2. Make it personable

Anyone can go scrape and compile contents from dozens of articles on the web and call it a book. How can you do better?

Put your personality and experiences into the content. Share your relevant stories of fears, of failures, of struggles, and of triumphs. That way, readers don’t just see black letters on a white page. They see a real person with dreams, fears and feelings like themselves, talking to them. They bond with you and better appreciate your message.

3. Make it specific in focus

Don’t attempt to write the definitive guide on a subject. You’ll get stuck. And even if you make it, it will be too generic.

It’s better to choose a manageable focus within a subject and provide practical guide on it. Instead of writing on “how to start any business in Nigeria,” try “how to a start a small-scale fish farming in Lagos State.”

4. Use much whitespace

Reading books with just two paraghraphs on a whole page is painful. It strains the eyes. This is especially so if it’s an ebook.

You’re not writing an academic paper. So make your words easy to consume and digest by using short paragraphs. Ideally, have 2-4 sentences in a paragraph. At most, 5 sentences. Sometimes, a single sentence or word can even stand alone as a paragraph.

Varying the length of your paragraphs also gives your content a nice rhythmic effect.

5. Use simple expressions

Use simple everyday words to express yourself. Never go out to impress your readers with unnecessary complexity or you’ll piss them off. You’re out to communicate, and complex construction of words hinders that.

Simplicity rocks. Embrace it!

6. Get your basic grammar right

If you’re still unsure what the difference is between its and it’s, am and I’m, their and there, don’t write a book yet. Go learn how not to make those grammar goofs first.

If you litter your book with grammatical infelicities, anyone who sees it will never read you again. Forever.

And next year when you’d have known the goofs you made in the book, you’ll burn yourself out trying to remove the book from circulation.

7. Use consistent formatting

If your first sub-heading is emboldened and capitalized, make other sub-headings so, too. If your quotations in chapter one are highlighted in red ink, make quotations in other chapters, too, so.

Whatever font type, font size, font colour and line spacing your started your book with, use them consistently.

From experience, this simple guide is difficult to follow. Sample some Nigerian non-fiction books, and see for yourself.

8. Get help with editing

Four good eyes are better than two. Others see your mistakes easier than you see it yourself. However proficient you are, get help with editing.

If you can afford it, hire a professional editor. If you can’t, get other writers to help you. Your editor needs not be more proficient than you. It just pays to have many eyes refine the book.

9. Exercise your discretion

Maybe this is the best piece of advice here. Trust your guts. The above tips aren’t cast in iron. They’re just my opinions. Feel free to use them as guides and exercise your liberty to depart from some of them when you feel like.

10. Add it in the comment

I want to learn from you too. So please leave a comment below and give me your best tip to write a stellar non-fiction book.

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Your Right to WriteIf your dream is to be a writer and influence the world, the theoretical and practical insights the author provides have the power to convert your dream to reality.

-- Dr. Mahfouz A. Adedimeji | Fulbright scholar | Senior Lecturer, Unilorin | newspaper columnist

About Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin

Writer. Difference Maker. Entrepreneur. Author, Your Right To Write & Vertical Writing. Winner, 11 Writing Prizes.

Comments

  1. Tohir Olaitan says:

    Take some lessons.

  2. I think #7 should one of the editing steps. I haven’t written a fiction book(not even any yet), but I sure know I will when I have the resources and… gut.

    I also think writing actionable piece manifests when writer focus on the active voice rather than passive. Writing personable is a great mystery to me now because we’re not talking prose here.

    Regards,
    Abraham.

    PS. Expect my mail. I have a pitch for you.

  3. Yeah, how about fiction books. Please, do you have some tips that I can use? I’ve been thinking of a fiction book to write. I have the concept and all but I’m stuck.

  4. Emem Bassey says:

    I’ve been writing, not yet published but I tried one of your numerous advices and got a page going. This page gets a chapter of my fiction novel every week and I’m inviting you to check my page out – Bassey E J.
    Recently, I decided to try my hand in essays, I got one essay competition from your site, I hope I win, will definitely share the testimony!
    Your work is appreciated and your harsh truths gets into my head faster and sticks.

  5. Pls i need a title on one of those abass books,i wana read it.

  6. Tosin I love what you do but I think that this is what sucks “it’s because almost every non-fiction book I ve seen written by a Nigerian sucks”. The non fiction is too general. it should have been a little specific, like online money making non fiction. However, I appreciate your good work

    • Thanks Munachi. I see and appreciate your point.

      I think my statement is already restrictive for the critical reader. First, I used almost. Second, I used seen (which means there could be and there would be many good ones but which I’ve not seen).

  7. Just wants to be seen present! Iolz
    I also have some fiction books written during my secondary school days which demand “serious editing” right from the writer and to whoever competent enough at that. If it could be read,even by me, I would really take out jagons. If anyone could help,It would be appreciated.

  8. Shakira bint Yahya says:

    My favorite line: “…trust your guts…” . Exactly what I need. Thumbs up brother

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