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NaNoWriMo for Nonfiction Authors

Today, I want to talk to you about NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, which happens every year in November.

Even though NaNoWriMo has traditionally been aimed at fiction authors, many nonfiction authors and bloggers really love participating because it gives them a sense of community for writing a book. Writing a book can be such a lonely process, so it’s nice to be able to write with others, even if you’re writing together virtually.

So, nonfiction authors, don’t be afraid to participate in NaNoWriMo! I know that I’ve done my fair share of writing nonfiction books in November. And, if you are the type of person who needs a challenge or a big write-along like this, I would really encourage you to participate because there is that community there.

NaNoWriMo for Nonfiction Authors: How to Make this Your Best NaNoWriMo Ever!

November Nonfiction Writing Hashtags

If you’re participating and you’re on social media, just use the hashtag #NaNoWriMo to connect with other writers who are participating. Some nonfiction authors also use #NaNonFiWriMo (National Nonfiction Writing Month) or #WNFIN (Write Nonfiction in November), so check out those hashtags, too.

In November, there are a lot of people out there writing. I know that, again, the sense of community can be really powerful. Being part of a writing community can be really motivating. Sometimes an event like NaNoWriMo can just be the kick in the pants you need to be able to write your book and get it out there.

How Nonfiction Writers Can Get Ready for NaNoWriMo

Today, I want to talk through a couple of tips to help you get ready to write your nonfiction book during NaNoWriMo. These tips will help you make sure that your NaNoWriMo is a success.

I’ll be referring back to a lot of older podcast episodes on here because I really do feel like I have a lot of resources for you already. So, if you haven’t already definitely go through and listen to these. If you have listened to them already, it still can be a nice refresher to go back and listen through things again. So I hope that these will just be valuable resources for you.

NaNoWriMo Step 1: Plan Your Book

The first thing I want to stop and talk about is why you should plan your book. I know I talk about this a lot, but in case you’ve forgotten, having a plan for your book is going to make your writing a lot more efficient.

Especially for something like NaNoWriMo, when you’re trying to write an entire book in a month, having a plan ahead of time is so, so important. So, if you haven’t already, I really think that the place you need to start is creating a detailed outline for your book.

I do a deep dive into nonfiction book planning in Episode 29 of the podcast, it’s called “Why You Need a Blueprint for your Book.” In that episode, I tell you exactly why you should take the time to create an outline for your book.

Why is having a plan for your book so important? First, your plan will make the writing process so much easier. When you finally sit down to write, you’re going to know exactly what you need to write. You’re going to know the topics you need to cover and the points you need to make.

The other resource I have for book planning, probably the biggest resource, is Episode 116, “The 3 Steps You Must Take to Write a Great Nonfiction Book.” In that episode, I teach you the core of my Fast Author Framework™. It’s the incredibly effective framework that I use with my clients to help them create the best book they can.

Episode 116 helps you plan the journey that you need to take your author on. It also helps you get your reader from where they’re at now to where they should be at the end of your book, based on your vision for them.

Two more great resources to help you outline your book are Episodes 56 (“How to Start to Outline Your Nonfiction Book”) and 57 (“Finalize Your Plan for Your Nonfiction Book [Outlining Your Nonfiction Book Part 2]”).

Ways to Improve Your Book Outline

If you’re trying to flesh out the details of your book outline, check out Episode 72, “What to Include in Your Nonfiction Book.” If you feel that your book needs more material, Episode 82 will help, titled “3 Ways to Expand and Improve Your Manuscript.”

This podcast episode features some great ideas for things that you can add to your outline or book manuscript to flesh it out a bit more. For example, stories are very powerful. You should definitely think about including stories in your book to help drive home the points you’re making.

So, as you’re writing your outline, you might think through, “Okay, what stories can I tell to make my points?” Our brains are hardwired to be drawn in by stories. That’s how clickbait titles work–they draw you in with a one-sentence story and you just have to see how it ends.

Stories are an incredibly effective way to teach. That’s why memoir is so popular and people love to read memoirs, right?

I really do think that you should take the time to plan your book. It’s going to make your writing time a lot more effective, and it’s going to make the writing process easier for you as well. It’s just going to feel less difficult.

NaNoWriMo Step #2: Decide How Long Your Book Will Be

So one of the big questions I bet you’re asking yourself is, “How long should my book be?” If you’re not sure how much information to include in your book or what your target book length should be, check out Episode 105. In that episode, “How Long Should My Nonfiction Book Be?” I walk you through a system to help you figure out how long your specific book needs to be.

I do think it’s worth thinking about the length of your book before you start writing when you’re participating in NaNoWriMo. The whole goal of the challenge is to write your book in a month, so you need to know how long your book will be so you can divide it up into nice daily writing goals.

If you’re thinking in terms of how many pages you want your book to be, the number of words per page in a book varies depending on the trim size of book that you are writing. For example, if you have a book that’s going to be 8.5″ x 11″, The size of a standard sheet of paper, it’s going to hold roughly twice as many words as if you make a book that is the size of half a sheet of paper, 5.5″ x 8.5″.

How many words you need to write to fill out a book to meet a certain number of words will depend on the trim size you choose. In general, you can estimate that you’ll need somewhere between 250 and 300 words per page. So, take 250 or 300 and multiply it by how many pages you want your book to be.

Your book’s page count will depend on a lot of things. Again, I walk you through this in Episode 105, but I’ll talk you through it briefly here.

The ideal length of your book depends on who’s going to be reading it. So, think through, for example, whether your reader wants something that is an absolute encyclopedia on the topic, or are they too busy to read a long book? Does your ideal reader just the basics on the topic? Are they somewhere inbetween?

Is your ideal reader going to want more details and sources to back up what you’re saying? Or, do they not want to go too deep into it because they either don’t have the interest or they don’t have the time? There’s a full spectrum there, and the right answers really depend on who your ideal reader is. That means you’ll need to spend some time thinking about your reader.

If you don’t know who your ideal reader is, you might already have a avatar written out for your ideal client that might be close to or identical to your book’s ideal reader. You might also go back and listen to Episodes 114 (“The Biggest Mistakes Infopreneur Authors Make”) and 115 (“The #1 Thing You Must Know About Your Business-Building Book”) of the podcast. In those episodes, I talk a little bit about reader avatars and how to create them.

NaNoWriMo Step #3: Write Your Nonfiction Book in 30 Days

Once you have your outline and you know how long your book needs to be, figure out your writing goals for NaNoWriMo. In the end, figure out how long your book should be, and then divide that by 30 for the 30 days in November. The big goal of NaNoWriMo is to write something every day. If for some reason something comes up, don’t totally freak out. If you don’t get to write for one day, the goal is to write every single day in November.

If something comes up and you’re not able to write one day, just try to catch up the next day. But, try to stay on track. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll do it tomorrow,” but sometimes you wind up putting it off day after day after day. Then, it’s impossible to catch up and actually finish your book in November. Keep on top of it so you don’t fall too far behind.

Before the start of November, you should create a plan to make sure you can get in your daily writing, whether that’s setting your alarm an hour early, staying up an hour late, or even writing over your lunch break if you have to. Whatever it is, just make sure that you make writing a priority.

Also try to use the NaNoWriMo hashtags as much as you can on social media. That connection to a community of writers who are doing the same thing as you is a powerful motivator. If you’re struggling to write, set a timer on your phone for a few minutes and read through some of the NaNoWriMo posts on social. They just might give you the kick in the pants you need to get writing.

5 Tips for Your Best NaNoWriMo Ever

I want to leave you with a few tips for actually finishing and publishing your book. The goal for NaNoWriMo is just to get your first draft. Don’t freak out too much about making that draft perfect. First drafts are usually pretty awful, and striving for perfection is going to make the writing process a lot harder. Perfectionism is one of the biggest enemies of creativity. Just focus on getting the words down on the page.

In that spirit, here are a few tips to help you write more efficiently:

Writing Tip #1: Have an Outline

Having an outline for your book is one of the best ways to help you write faster, so make sure you have yours writen down. It’s so much easier to sit down and write about the topics and make the points that you have already planned out versus, “Oh my goodness, what do I need to write about today?” That feeling is totally overwhelming, but having an outline just makes it a lot easier.

Writing Tip #2: Speed Up Your Writing

If you’re really crunched for time, you’re going to need to learn how to get as many words onto the page as you can in the time you can devote to writing. Check out Episode 102, “5 Tips to Speed Up Your Writing” for more advice on how to write faster.

Writing Tip #3: Stay Motivated

So many people don’t make it through NaNoWriMo because they just don’t feel like writing anymore when they’re a couple weeks in. Don’t let this be you! Finding the right motivation to keep writing is incredibly important. If motivation is an issue for you, check out Episode 55, “How to Keep Your Book Writing Motivation.” I know sometimes you get in the middle of a project but things come up and then it’s hard to get going again. Also check out Episode 93, “What Helps People Finish Books?”

Writing Tip #4: Leave Your Perfectionism at the Door

Perfectionism will absolutely ruin your NaNoWriMo. Yes, it’s good to have standards and you don’t want to publish a book that’s a total piece of crap, but again, the goal is to write a first draft in a month, not the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

If you’re like me and you struggle with perfectionism, check out Episode 64, “When is Done Better than Perfect?” I know a lot of us freak out about our books being “good enough” or whether our writing is “good enough.” That episode will give you a framework to help you figure out if your book is good and if you need to stop making revisions because you’re driving yourself crazy.

Writing Tip #5: Just Get Words on the Page

I know that it can seem pretty daunting, but really I promise that if you just focus on just getting the words down instead of self-editing, that’s going to help you a lot. You can edit in December. Just get writing. Get to it, and you can absolutely finish the first draft of your book in November during NaNoWriMo.

I know you can finish your book if you are dedicated, if you’re ready to jump in and do this. So, if you are ready to say, “Yes, it’s time for me to write my book!” definitely jump in.

You’ve got this!

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