Writing Nonfiction: The Steps in Producing a Book

Anatomy, Bacteria, Bacterium, Bowels, DiarrheaOne of the things other writers frequently ask is what steps I use in writing a book.  I have a process I mean to follow, but each book is a unique experience.  What I plan to do and what I actually pull off are two separate things.

I’m working on the book formerly known as What’s Up, Chuck?  Now the working title is Puke-ology.  Note to self:  When you change the name of your work-in-progress, don’t change only the title page.  Change the header, too.

Step 1.  Start with the research.  Before you can decide what to include in your book, you need to do a good portion of the research.  I had already written a complete draft of this book as a 600 word picture book.  I had all of the research I needed and then some for that shorter version.

Step 2.  Write a first draft.  In writing this longer version, I’m discovering holes in what seemed like abundant research for the shorter book.  But that’s okay.  The first draft lets me know what I need to go back and research.

Step 3:  Fill in the holes.

Step 4.  Punch it up.  The voice for this one is cheeky and a bit irreverent. This draft is when I pull that together.

Step 5.  Take it to critique.  When you have a vision, it can be hard to take any criticism but I always listen to what I’m being told.  What didn’t work for this reader and why?

Step 6.  Fix whatever needs fixing.  Sometimes my critique buddies need another example or they found the way that I’ve worded something confusing.  Other times they want me to shift something to another chapter or delete a sidebar.  I review their recommendations and make my changes.

Step 7.  Hard copy-edit.  It’s always tempting to skip this step but I catch things (wordy bits, repeated phrasing) in hard copy that I never notice on-screen.  I finish this off by reading it aloud.  Other mistakes are only obvious when I hear them.

These are my steps when I write nonfiction.  That said, each book presents different challenges. My next book will require weaving together two narratives along one timeline.  When I start working on it, I’ll customize my plan to fit.