How to Write Your Ah-ha Moment in Nonfiction

How to Write Your Ah-ha Moment in Nonfiction

Recently, I was working with a client who had an amazing story to tell. He was doing an excellent job of it, too. I was amazed by how he had gone from being an excellent, social, broadly talented student in high school to becoming a functional alcoholic during college to finally sobering up and reaching his health goals a decade later. It was absolutely inspiring.

However, when I was reading the part where he explained what made him stop drinking and make a huge change in his life—that “come to Jesus” moment—the narrative fell flat. I was expecting something big like a DUI or a heart attack or a mugging as he stumbled home from the bar too drunk to even know where he was. But really, it seemed like nothing.

What?

This was what he hoped would grab the attention of his readers. This was the part that really tugged at your desire to make a change in your own lives. This was where he reached out and said, “I’ve been there. It’s tough. I hit rock bottom and clawed my way back to the top.”

But in reality, it seemed like he was choosing between a ham sandwich and a turkey sandwich. There wasn’t enough emotion. I couldn’t feel what it was like to be in his shoes at that moment. It wasn’t earth-shattering. Continue reading

What Happens on Page One of Non-fiction

What Happens on Page One of Non-fictionPage one. No pressure, but you know you have to hook your reader right away. Yikes! So how do you start?

I like to tell my clients that it’s more about the reader than about you or the topic. You want to start out letting them know that this book is definitely for them. Think about what would make you want to read the book that you are writing. Are you guiding someone through a difficult time? Do you want them to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel? Maybe you want to make sure that they know you understand the journey by pointing out exactly where they are now and what drove them to seek help.

Whatever that need is, identify it, and use it to guide you through that first chapter. It will help you connect with your reader better if you know what they are thinking. Continue reading

How Do You Know You’re on the Right Track with Your Book

How Do You Know You’re on the Right Track with Your Book

Writing a book is both fun and challenging! Part of the challenge is that we don’t always know if we are on the right track. Sometimes, as we write personal stories, it feels like we are stuck or we aren’t sure if what we are writing will resonate with the right people.

Here are a few suggestions for how to make sure you are headed in the right direction with your book, for before and during the writing process.

Before

Ask—Curious what people want to know about? Just ask. You can easily use social media to post polls on Facebook or Twitter and gain insight into your topic. Use hashtags or share the post in specific groups to reach a more accurate cross-section of potential readers. Even posting something on your wall should generate some sort of response, and people may tag friends who have ideas or questions about the topic or who could be great resources for you! Continue reading

How to Start Writing a Book When You Think You’re a Horrible Writer

How to Start Writing a Book When You Think You’re a Horrible Writer

Let’s be perfectly honest: not everyone is born a writer. In fact, I would go so far as to say that no one is born a writer. We learn our craft, and when we realize it’s something we love, we work at it. We journal and make notes. We write letters and articles. Some of us even pursue higher education in writing.

So what happens when the opposite scenario occurs? We have a story to share, but we aren’t comfortable with our writing yet.

Some people uncover an urge to share something that happened to us, something we overcame or conquered, something we lived through, something we built.

So how do people in that situation get to the point where they can write an entire book when they might not even feel comfortable writing an email about the topic?

Pretty much the same way. Continue reading

Thinking is Part of the Writing Process

Thinking is Part of the Writing Process

If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or fast food place, then you’ve probably heard, “If you can lean, you can clean.” Hearing that during my first few jobs, while I was young and naïve, drilled this concept into my head. As I got older, I thought that if I was working, I had to be actively working. No pausing to think. No wandering around for ten minutes piecing an idea together.
And working as a government writer for 10 years didn’t help that. If someone saw that I wasn’t beating on my keyboard, they “knew” I wasn’t working. I had bosses ask me if I had enough to do when they saw me staring blankly at the screen or into the air. Geez. Give me a break.

Just this morning, I was considering someone’s book title and spent a few minutes leaning back in my chair staring at the ceiling. I was inserting and removing words, going over the sound in my head. Really thinking about what was going to snag the attention of the audience is important. Pounding out a phrase on the keyboard and hitting send does no one any good. Really! Continue reading

Ramp Up Your Book Launch

Ramp Up Your Book LaunchOne of the biggest parts of getting your book out into the world is to have a real-live launch party for people to hold the book in their hands.

As a writer, the prospect of meeting people face-to-face may be terrifying, but I promise you, you want to do this. The energy of a real-life meeting can be essential to getting people excited about your books. Just think about it. When you get to know someone’s personality and see their facial expressions, don’t you feel a little more connected with them? That is exactly what you want!

Plan your launch a couple months in advance so you can spread the word. If you have a book about your personal story or expertise, then track down local groups and clubs that may be interested in your topic. It doesn’t have to be the exact topic. As long as the people in that organization would relate to your book, then go ahead and send a personal invitation to the leader, and ask that they invite the group. Continue reading

Focusing on Your Audience for Non-fiction

112717_Focusing on Your Audience for Non-fictionA few days ago, I made protein pancakes for dinner. My kids are 2 and freshly turned 5. Protein pancakes may not sound like something a kid would eat, but honestly, every time I cook, I roll the dice. I never know what they will eat on a given day.

Sometimes, they eat normal kid food like hot dogs or PB&J. Other days, they will eat chicken chili or shrimp with broccoli and rice. And sometimes, they ask for foods like mac n cheese or “Wendy’s burgers” and then refuse to eat them.

As it turned out, the older one enjoyed helping me make the pancakes and also liked the smell, but she didn’t like the taste. The younger one liked the first two bites and then refused to eat them (coincidentally after the older one refused to eat hers). She then proceeded to ask for an orange and a hot dog that she refused to eat as well.

Clearly, I have no idea what my children will eat, but to be fair, I don’t think they do either. But when you’re writing a book, knowing what your audience wants is vital to keeping readers engaged and selling books.

So how do you do that? Continue reading

Connecting with Readers for Motivation and Inspiration

Connecting with Readers for Motivation and Inspiration

I received the nicest email a few days ago, and it really made my day. The writer was working on a non-fiction book and began struggling with the writing as she was wrapping up. She said she was unable to write for weeks at a time. My emails inspired her to push through. She actually ended up finishing the manuscript two weeks before her deadline!

I was so excited to hear that I made a difference! But often, we don’t know what impact we have on others’ lives because they watch and respond quietly. They listen and apply. They learn and grow. They observe and are inspired. We don’t always have the pleasure of hearing about the effect that our own work has on others’ work.

Sometimes as authors, we have to push through this void of non-response and know that people are really watching, listening, and being inspired. It can be tough, especially in the writing stage of our manuscripts, to think of what impact we will have or even hope that we touch one other person and help them out.

If you find yourself wondering if it’s worth it to even write your book, just remember that you are impacting people, even if they don’t tell you. Every word you write is important. Continue reading

What I Learned from Searching for a Literary Agent

What I Learned from Searching for a Literary Agent

*Let me preface this by saying that I ultimately decided to self-publish, so I cannot offer advice on what worked to get me signed with a publishing company.

When I wrote my first book, I was completely starry eyed. I knew it was a great story. I knew it was going to be big. What I didn’t know was the how.

I was told that was the only way to get the book published was to hunt for an agent. It was 2004, and self-publishing was virtually unheard of. So I found a copy of Writer’s Market and started through the list. Continue reading