Episode 26: Planning a nonfiction project

On January 8th, co-hosts of Start Something, Columbia! Kasie Whitener and Shennice Cleckley, held a working session to plan their nonfiction books. We recorded it and aired it on January 12, 2019. Here are the show notes:


Dr. Kasie Whitener, GenX Fiction Writer, Process Consultant

Shennice Cleckley, Children’s Book Author, Business Coach

Theme for the day:

Planning a NonFiction Project

schedule planning startup launching
Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Agenda review:

Today’s we’re in a working session to plan our nonfiction projects.

Segment 1

What do you want to write and why?

Shennice is a business coach and wants to capture her proprietary methodology for starting and launching a new business. She has a unique take on this, what the business model canva would refer to as her Value Proposition. The Lean Canvas would call it her competitive advantage. Namely, why should she write this book, run this company, teach this class, instead of someone else.

Kasie’s consulting practice wants to work with companies on remote, asynchronous management models. She believes in conquering the 8-to-5 by asking more of managers in how they deal with their people. She has a proprietary model she needs to explain.

Why a book?

In the age of video, where people are getting the content they need in :30 or less, longer form content like radio shows, podcasts, articles, and books is generally eschewed. But there’s a tradition in consulting that a book delivers your expertise. It demonstrates that you are a subject matter expert in your field.

Books require commitment and rigor. They ask the creator to organize a bulk of complex thinking into easily-digestible lessons for a learner. If a consultant can do that, then he or she is differentiated as having a seriousness of purpose, a commitment to the cause, and deep knowledge of the execution of the work about which they’re writing.

Segment 2

Okay, so how do you write a nonfiction book?

We discussed several ways to write-your-way to a nonfiction book:

Blogging. Blogs are short-form pieces that you publish on your website that help you start to get traction on the book’s idea while it’s being written. The blog can be a good way to draft your book and work on some concepts from it while sharing that intellectual property and getting feedback. Blogs are around 500 words.

eBook. Another short-format way to test some of your work, an eBook is a little bit longer than a blog, about 10,000 words, and can be a collection of blogs in a series that expounds upon a specific element of your topic. For example, if your book is about a different kind of work environment, like Kasie’s book, you might publish an eBook that makes the case that our current work environment doesn’t work.

Outline. Creating your outline helps you have a road map for where you want the book to go. It’s a good idea to read successful books in your industry so you know, roughly, how other authors proceed. Itemize each section of the book and provide a few keywords to help you understand what the section and chapters will be about. You can also create an annotated outline wherein you list the specific resources you plan to use in each segment. That broader outline should be a second working document as the succinct one will be part of your proposal package.

Summary. Your book jacket. This is the verbiage that makes people want to read your book. There are a ton of resources on how to write a good book summary or synopsis. Just be sure if you google it that you’re looking for the writer advice, not the student advice. Try this one: How to write a book description that sells.

Segment 3

Like any good project, we start with a plan. So we outlined some milestones and set some goal dates. You can follow along with our progress and share our own plans in the comments and on social media. Here’s our plan:

Outline due January 26th — Shennice and I agreed to have a one-page outline of our books ready by January 26th.

Blog erected — blogging your book can be done as part of your regular business marketing or you can build a new and separate location adjacent to the business. We agreed to have blogs up and ready for content by January 26th.

eBook — If we’re blogging the book regularly, we should have at least 5000 words by February 23rd. We decided to push ourselves and set that as the eBook due date, so 10,000 words between January 26th and February 23rd. Since NaNoWriMo gives the same 30 days for 50,000 words, Kasie was confident 10,000 was a doable goal. We’ll see.

Book proposal — unlike fiction, a nonfiction project can get accepted without the manuscript being finished. Since we have a draft finish deadline of June 1, we’re setting the proposal deadline at March 30th.

Agent and publisher list — because all book proposals have different requirements, part of building the proposal packet out will be researching agents and publishers and what they want. That list should be read by March 30th as well. Know who the agent is, how they receive work, and what other books they’ve represented that gives you confidence they can find a publisher for yours.

Fact Checking — this will require the revision work of a partner (in Kasie’s case) or a beta reader to catch all of those assertions we make that might need factual data to back them up. We put this deadline at April 30th because by then we should have a decent manuscript of our own knowledge that’s ready to be bolstered and buoyed by legit research and corroborative evidence.

So that’s our working session and our working plan for now. Participate with us by committing in the comments below or visit our Facebook page to share your comments and goals. We’re also on Twitter #WriteOnSC, feel free to chat with us there.

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