How to Write Your Nonfiction Book from Scratch in Just Three Weeks
- Razwana Wahid
“I don’t have the time.”
“I can’t motivate myself to write every day.”
“I’m not inspired to write anything today.”
Or how about:
“I’m great at starting a book … it’s the finishing that’s the problem.”
“How do I know finishing the book’s even worth it?”
“I keep getting new writing ideas I’m more excited to work on than the last one.”
I’m sure you’ve been there.
… procrastinating on writing because emails have to be answered, or clients need your attention.
… trying different writing disciplines (like writing in the morning/late at night, or for 30 minutes a day) and sticking to none of them.
Or worse, opening, closing, and reopening writing projects you’ve started and never actually finishing them.
What if you set yourself an audacious book-writing goal… and accomplished it?
So that you finally have a finished book to show off?
How would becoming a published author change your life?
That’s what I did.
I set out to write a book, from start to finish, in three weeks. And I did it.
Trying to fit in writing around my business and life wasn’t working. Searching for motivation didn’t change a thing. So I decided to create a seemingly impossible deadline and stick to it.
If you’re struggling with how to write a nonfiction book while managing a business or a full-time job, then read on.
In this article, I’ll take you through the main lessons I learned–and how you, too, can achieve this bold goal.
Why Do You Want to Write a Book, Anyway?
Simon Sinek started a movement when he talked about defining your why.
He links this theory with the objectives of corporate businesses–if they can define why they’re in business and align their values and activities to that, they’ll ultimately be more successful.
You can apply the same thing to your quest to finish writing your nonfiction book.
What’s the reason why you want to write a nonfiction book?
Is it to:
- Be seen as an expert?
- Grow your email list or create passive income?
- Have credibility among your audience, peers, and future business partners?
- … something else?
There are no right and wrong answers here. The most important thing is for you to be aware and clear of your big reason why.
This is important for two reasons:
Reason #1: It helps you understand if your why is ego-driven (I’ll look good) or purpose-driven (I’ll help my audience with [insert benefit]).
Reason #2: It motivates you when you lack the drive to get writing.
Be brutally honest with yourself: How important is writing a book to you?
If writing your nonfiction book has been on your to-do list for a while and just has to get done, is this reason good enough? Or if your reason is just to be able to say you’re an author, or to receive praises for the accomplishment, is the work worth it?
Brutal honesty like this helps you identify a why that’s both credible and motivating.
And finally, connecting your why with your beliefs and values reinforces its power.
For me, my reason why centered on the value of freedom.
My book both positioned me as an expert to my audience and acted as an opt-in offer to build my email list. The book would help grow my email list, and marketing to this list would support my business–making me free to work for myself and not rely on a 9-5 job.
So, what’s your book writing why?
Plan Your Book
Now that you’re clear on why you want to write a book, create a solid, realistic plan that will get you to the finish line in three short weeks!
How do you write a nonfiction book when you’re juggling work, family, a social life, and other activities?
First, you’ll create your book-writing plan using these steps:
- Choose three weeks in your calendar.
- Outline your existing schedule.
- Identify what to let go of.
- Create the plan.
Let’s expand on each of these steps:
1. Choose three weeks in your calendar.
I picked three consecutive weeks because it was easier for me to make that commitment and stick to it. This timetable also meant I made sacrifices in my business (I’ll come onto that shortly), but it was worth it.
In your case, the book doesn’t have to be completed in three consecutive weeks. You could work on it for one week a month, for three months. Or write for two weeks and then a final week when your schedule allows.
Remember to be both ruthless and realistic about this decision. Identify how you work best and choose a three-week period that fits your lifestyle.
2. Outline your existing schedule.
Now that you’ve booked three weeks in your calendar, consider what’s already on your delivery schedule and how writing a book will fit around it.
- Marketing tasks
- Pre-booked projects
- Social commitments with friends or family
List everything you can think of that will need to get done.
3. Identify what to give up.
Go through the list and determine what activities you can postpone until your book’s written or even canceled altogether. Ask yourself:
- Who will understand if you reschedule an appointment with them?
- Can you realistically stop client work for that period?
- What tasks can wait until the three weeks are up?
This step makes your three-week schedule realistic. You fit book-writing around your current schedule, and are honest about what that schedule is!
I stopped taking on new client projects until I finished my book, and I planned for this in the weeks leading up to when writing the book would begin.
Psychologically, this motivated me to write because I knew my income was on hold until I completed the book, and I didn’t want to prolong this period!
4. Create the plan.
The final step is to put dates and tasks together for your final plan.
Ensure your plan includes these essential book-writing elements:
- Creating the book outline: the chapters and content outline for each chapter
- Identifying partners (contributors, proofreader, interviewees) and booking time in their calendars
- Editing and proofreading
For example, here’s the schedule I used to write my book:
- Day 1-4: Write plan, create chapter outlines, and conduct research
- Day 5-16: Write content
- Day 17-19: Proofread
- Day 20-21: Revise and complete
I didn’t put any detail into my plan other than what you see here. This bare-bones schedule was enough to give me focus to get moving (I don’t enjoy micro-managing my calendar–can you tell?).
But if a more detailed plan works better for you, then by all means, make one. Just don’t get bogged down with planning that you put off the actual doing.
You may want to split each day of the three-week period to include different tasks for each phase of the plan. Or you may have high-level tasks for each week and take it from there.
The key is to create a plan that suits the way you work.
Outline Your Book
To make the most of your writing time, begin with an outline of your book. It doesn’t have to be a complicated one; it just has to give you a general design for what you want to write.
An uncomplicated way to create your book outline is to decide on the chapters of your book. And then, under each chapter, make a list of the key messages you want to include.
Write Your Book
Now we get to the tough part: the writing!
At this stage, your reason why has the most importance. Print it out and stick it on the wall, add it to your digital desktop background and make it as visible as possible.
When motivation to write begins to wither, this will remind you why you started and encourage you to keep going.
Aside from motivation, the biggest obstacles to writing a book are finding the time to write, and knowing what to write.
You already know what to write because you created a chapter outline. All you have to do now is fill in the blanks.
With finding time to write, it isn’t a case of finding it, per se. Your book writing schedule should have cleared that one up for you.
The barrier here is actually writing in the allotted time you set aside to do it. That is, not procrastinating.
Combat procrastination by giving these techniques a try:
- Write for the first and last two hours of your day and that’s it.
- Restrict the time you spend writing through the Pomodoro technique.
- Use accountability to your advantage:
- Choose an accountability partner who’ll push you to meet your goal.
- Promise you’ll post a video of yourself doing something embarrassing if you don’t meet your writing deadline for the day.
- Replace leisure time with writing time (while still making time to rest).
- Write now, edit later. Even if you make typos and spelling mistakes, just keep writing and edit once the piece you’re working on is complete.
Time restriction, with consequences if the task isn’t completed, is by far the most productive way to write.
This is why having just three weeks to finish my book worked well. My business would have suffered if I didn’t get this particular project done.
Before you go, tell us in the comments: What’s been your biggest barrier to completing your non-fiction book? Is it deciding what you want to write about, finding the time to write, or being productive during your writing time?
20-Minute Nonfiction Book Outline Cheat Sheet
Download the cheat sheet to outline your nonfiction book in only 20 minutes!