Sunday, June 29, 2008

Writing Non-fiction: Session 7 - Final Points

You are almost ready to start writing your non-fiction book. Once you have finished your outline by dividing each topic into sub-topics and sub, subs... and sub, sub subs...etc., you'll need to complete the research for each of them. Don't forget to keep track of three things as you proceed with the remainder of your research. They are:

1. Keep track of the people who help you research the topic for your non-fiction book. You'll want to mention them in the Acknowledgements section of your book.

2. Write down pertinent information about the references you use, including the pages numbers for specific quotes.

3. Keep track of topics to be included in the index.

You'll be glad you paid some attention to these things. It's so much harder at the end of writing your book if you have to go back and try to determine where you found your information. And, don't ever underetimate the importance of keeping a good record of the people you'll mention in the Acknowledgements list. Woe be it if you forget someone.

Okay, so your research is completed or nearly completed - there's always a bit more to do once you start writing. Now, it's time for me to say, "Ready, set, go....."

The way you write your book is up to you. You can either write it from start to finish or you can write a topic at a time. Within your outline, you can skip around from topic to topic as the mood strikes you. Just remember to go back through it carefully to smooth out and blend together the topics and chapters.

Writing Non-fiction: Session 6 - Making the Most of Your Outline

In session 5, we developed the major sections of the non-fiction book and the chapter topics within the sections in preparation for writing a non-fiction book. Now it’s time to start working on sub-topics and content.

Outline #4: Break down the outline for your book to the next level. The previous outline is your list of sections and chapters. This next level then will list the main topics for each chapter. So, for each chapter title, make a list of topics that will be covered in that chapter. Here’s how I broke down my outline:

Outline #4

Book Title: A Manual for Adult Children of Aging Parents

Part I: How to get started

Chapter 1: Care-giving then and now
1. Overview of care-giving
2. Care-giving years ago
3. Care-giving now
4. Care-giving long distance

Chapter 2: Transition to dependence
1. Sudden onset of dependence
2. Gradual onset of dependence
3. How to assess your parent’s independence

Part II: Assessing what’s needed

Chapter 3: Can your parent live alone again?
1. Identifying potential problems
2. Determining how much to intervene

Chapter 4: Assessing your parent’s skills
1. Household skills
2. Community skills
3. Communication skills
4. Financial skills
5. Leisure skills
6. Emotions

Chapter 5: Assessing living environments
1. In-home options
2. Modifying the home

Part III: Setting the stage for care-giving

Chapter 6: Health care professionals and what they do
1. Neurologist
2. Ophthalmologist
3. Occupational therapist
4. Speech/language pathologist
5. Audiologist
6. Physical therapist
7. Nutritionist
8. CNA
9. Nurse
10. Geriatric manager

Chapter 7: Finding help
1. Finding help (full-time, in home)
2. Finding respite help

Chapter 8: Out-of-home options
1. Retirement home
2. Group home
3. Assisted living
4. Nursing care

Part IV: Day-to-day care-giving

Chapter 9: Establishing a daily routine
1. Bathroom/dressing routines
2. Mealtime routines
3. Leisure routines
4. Medication routines

Chapter 10: Scheduling appointments and assistance
1. Medical/rehab appointments
2. Beauty/Barber appointments
3. Adult daycare
4. Leisure/social appointments

Chapter 11: Resources
1. Out-patient services through a rehab center
2. Transportation assistance
3. Financial assistance

Chapter 12: Socialization *
1. Importance of social contacts
2. Assessing interests
3. Developing/implementing a plan to keep up interests

Chapter 13: Taking care of the caregiver
1. Importance of health, nutrition and rest
2. Time to recharge.
3. Emotional well-being.

Turning the outline for your non-fiction book into text: Continue to break down the most recent level of topics into sub-topics then into sub-sub-topics and on and on until it is broken down into as minute and detailed an outline as you need. When you reach a level where you feel you are ready to write, start writing the text under each topic and sub-topic in your outline.

Example outline

The outline above is very simple and very symmetrical. Yours may be messier. That’s okay. You don’t have to feel compelled to break all the topics into an equal number of smaller parts. For some of them, the topics will have no sub-topics. For others, you may go to sub-headings then sub-sub-headings under those. For example, in “Chapter 12: Socialization” we have three topics. Not all of them need to be broken down in the book I’m writing.

*Chapter 12: Socialization
1. Importance of social contacts: This topic is divided about as far as I need it to be. I’ll just start off this chapter with how important socialization is to combating depression and to rehabilitation, etc.

2. Assessing interests: This is a bigger topic, and before I write it, I’ll need to break it into smaller topics, such as,

a. Active interests
b. Cognitive interests
c. Solo v. group interests
d. Entertaining routines
e. Feelings of worth

3. Developing/implementing a plan to keep up interests: This one is also a bigger topic and needs to be divided into smaller topics, such as,

a. Setting aside time for leisure activities (reading, TV, sewing, cards, etc.)
b. Acquiring assistive devices needed to implement leisure activities (e.g., magnification: large print books, large print cards, adaptive sewing supplies, etc.)
c. Providing instruction
d. Providing encouragement by working together
e. Celebrating accomplishments.

Writing Non-fiction: Session 5 - Outline Development

A good outline can help you “grow” your non-fiction book. When writing non-fiction, you can write your whole book without ever leaving the comfort of your outline document. Once developed, you can jump around in the outline and write a topic or sub-topic or sub-sub-topic one at a time; later you’ll work through the book from front to back to smooth out the transitions between outline sections.

Here’s a way to conceptualize your book outline. As an example, I’ll share an outline for a book I'm writing about eldercare.

1. Start with the broadest thought that specifically describes your book. Let’s call that Outline #1. My broad thought about my book is…

A manual for adult children of aging parents

That’s it. That’s the whole outline for my non-fiction book for now. Put it aside. Let the idea ferment then come back and work on it as described in #2.

Outline #2

2. The one topic (A manual for adult children of aging parents) from Outline #1 becomes the working title for your book when you move on to Outline #2. Your next task is to begin to break that topic down.

Many authors divide non-fiction books into parts. Others start out with chapters. In this example we’ll divide the topic in Outline #1 into four parts. (There’s an example of this outline without “parts” later in the sessions.) So, Outline #2 would look something like this:

Book Working Title: A Manual for Adult Children of Aging Parents
1. How to get started
2. Assessing what’s needed
3. Setting the stage for care-giving
4. Day-to-day care-giving

3. Break down each topic from Outline #2 to the next level. For example, I've selected How to get started as the title for one of the four parts of my book. Next, I break it down into logical topics. These would be the chapter topics. For this, don’t be concerned about coming up with snappy wording for your topics. You can develop the real “chapter titles” later. Right now, these are working titles. Keep them simple and descriptive.

Book Title: A Manual for Adult Children of Aging Parents

Part I: How to get started
1. Care-giving then and now
2. Transition to dependence

Part II: Assessing what’s needed
1. Can your parent live alone again?
2. Assessing your parent’s skills

3. Assessing living environments

Part III: Setting the stage for care-giving
1. Health care professionals and what they do
2. Finding help
3. Out-of-home options

Part IV: Day-to-day care-giving
1. Establishing a daily routine
2. Scheduling appointments and assistance
3. Resources
4. Socialization
5. Taking care of the caregiver

Once you've reached this stage in writing the outline for your non-fiction book, you not only have the broad outline for your book, but the outline at this point can be used as the table of contents for your book. Next, we will talk about how to take the outline into topics, subtopics, and beyond until you get to the point of writing the book within the outline.

Writing Non-fiction: Session 4: Organizing your book

Writing Non-fiction:
Session 4 - Organizing your book
Now that you’ve chosen the topic for your non-fiction book and an approach for writing about your topic, it’s time to organize your book by writing a working outline. It’s possible and advantageous to write your entire book from within an outline. It keeps you on track and gives you a starting point. So don’t skip this step. We will cover how to use the outline for your non-fiction book in the next couple of sessions. Before that, it’s time to decide what parts you will put in the outline and eventually into your book. This session is about making a list of them in the order in which they will appear in the book.
Parts of the book:

I. Book half title: This is the page at the front of the book that contains only the title

II. Title page: This page contains the title, subtitle; author or editor; and the name and location of the publisher

III. Copyright page: The information and the format for this page are too detailed for this publication, but they will be included in my upcoming book Before You Write. If you don’t want to wait, check in the Chicago Manual of Style or some similar book on publishing.

IV. Dedication: (optional) If you desire to put a dedication in the book, give it the respect it deserves by putting it on a page of its own.

V. Table of contents: Most word processing programs have an automatic feature for creating the table of contents. Familiarize yourself with this feature.

VI. Illustration list (optional)

VII. List of tables (optional)

VIII. Foreword: (optional) This is a statement by someone else, telling potential readers how good your book is. The foreword is usually what buyers look at first and may sell the book for you. Find someone who has impressive credentials or star-power, who by saying something nice about your book in the foreword will carry some weight with your readers. It may take you a while to find someone to write the foreword, so start early to send out query letters about this.

IX. Preface: (optional) Include the reasons for writing the book and methods of research (if any) in this section. Also, if you have been granted permission to use any published work within your book, it would good to mention it here.

X. Acknowledgements: (optional) Thanking those who have helped you with the book is important. To ensure you don’t miss anyone, begin keeping a list of those who helped you and what they did for you in this section from day one. That way, when you finish the book, you’ll merely have to re-write this section rather than having to scrounge for all those misplaced names and titles.

XI. Introduction: This is the beginning of the text section of your book. In the introduction, it’s good to give the reader a brief overview of the topics that will be covered.

XII. Chapters: In the next sessions, we will discuss outlining the chapters. Just put the word “chapters” in as a marker for now.

XIII. Appendices: (optional) An appendix can include any information that may be helpful to the reader but is too cumbersome to put within chapters. It can be a chart, a list, or a table.

XIV. Glossary: (optional) If your book will have a glossary, it will save you work if you will add the words to the glossary as you go along. Generally, a glossary will include the word and a working definition of the word.

XV. Bibliography or references: (optional, although I advise against leaving it out) In most non-fiction books, you will find a list of references. This not only legitimatizes the book, but it gives the reader other sources of information about the topic.

XVI. Index: (optional, although I advise against leaving it out) Most readers use the index throughout a book. Don’t skimp and leave this out. Most word processing programs have an index feature within them. It’d be good to familiarize yourself with this feature, so you can keep up with the index as you go along.

XVII. About the author: this should be a short bio about you and perhaps a picture.
You don't have to use all of these parts. Choose the ones that are the most appropriate for your book and set them up in a word processing file so you can insert the information that will go into each one as you go along.

Writing Non-fiction: Session 3 - Research

Writing Non-fiction:
Session 3 - Setting up a system for stashing the research notes for your non-fiction book
Now that you’ve chosen a topic for your non-fiction book and the approach you’re going to take in writing about your topic, you are probably itching to start writing. Not so fast. Before you write your book, it’s important to thoroughly research your topic. For your non-fiction book to be credible, it needs to be well-researched and well-documented.

Depending on the topic you've chosen for your non-fiction book, you may have more or less research to do. Whether you only have to straighten out a few dates and names for your memoir or if you have weeks or months of in-depth research ahead of you for a less familiar topic, organization is the key to keeping your book on track.

To start, set up a good recordkeeping system. Here are some suggestions.

Note cards. One way to organize the information for your non-fiction book is to write your notes on note cards and file them alphabetically by topic in a card file. On each card be sure to put the topic, the information, any quotes you may find useful in the future, and the bibliographic information you’ll need for footnotes or the reference section of your book.

Notebook. Take a three-ring binder and put your notes in it. You can organize them in alphabetical order as you did with the note cards or by topics and subtopics in each section. Be sure to keep careful records on the books, magazine articles, journal articles, web articles, etc., you use when researching your non-fiction book, so you will have all the information you need when the time comes to write the bibliography and reference section.

Computer notes. If you want to keep your research notes for your non-fiction book on the computer, set up a file folder for your notes and file folders within that file folder for large topics within the book. In each folder, you can file the notes you take. After you take your notesfor your topic, be sure to give the document an appropriate file name so you can find it easily within the folder. As with the other two recordkeeping systems, it’s important to write down the sources of the information.

All of these record systems are about equal. It’s your choice which one you use, or you may want to invent another that will better meet your needs. Personally, I prefer to keep notes on the computer. That way, when I’m ready to write, I can just lift quotes from my notes and paste them into the book document without having to retype. And, if you write out your reference documentation in the proper format from the start, it’s easy to copy that into your book as well. There’s nothing more tedious than writing out a bibliography. It’s your choice, however.
If you do choose to invent your own system for keeping track of the notes for your non-fiction book.

Be sure to establish a procedure within your system for keeping track of illustrations, pictures, and tables that you’ll use to illustrate your book. Document the sources for these as well and obtain the appropriate permissions to use them in your book.

Once you have a good system set up for organizing and keeping the information for your non-fiction book, get busy. It’s time to dig into your topic and find all the information libraries, the internet, book stores, people you interview, and journals have to offer.

Writing Non-fiction: Session 2 - Approach to Writing Non-fiction

Writing Non-fiction:
Session 2 - Choosing an approach to writing your non-fiction book

Now that you’ve chosen the topic for your non-fiction book, the next step is to choose how you will approach writing about your topic. I’m not talking about determining the category your book will fall into in the book store. I’m talking about choosing a way to write about your topic that will fit what you want to communicate to your readers. You see, the whole point of writing a non-fiction book is to communicate to others. You choose a topic you are passionate about, and then you choose the approach you will take to writing about it.

Possible approaches to writing your non-fiction book

Procedural or instructional approach to non-fiction writing: Falling within this category are instruction manuals, self-help books, cookbooks, how-to manuals, etc. The approach is to instruct your readers by giving them the procedures or steps to follow to do something.

Descriptive approach to non-fiction writing: The word “descriptive” gives you a clue here. In this instance, your approach to writing your non-fiction book is to describe your topic for the audience. A travelogue would fall into this category. Or, your topic might be Queen Anne architecture. In the book you describe with words and perhaps pictures the architecture of that era.

Narrative approach to non-fiction writing: In narrative non-fiction writing, you are telling a story. It’s similar to writing a novel only in a non-fiction narrative, you tell the truth. An autobiography, a memoir, and a biography are good examples of this. History of your home town is another, etc.

Report approach to non-fiction writing: This includes reporting how things are at present or how they were. This is generally a straight-forward approach without trying to persuade the reader to agree with your point of view.

Discussion approach to non-fiction writing: You would choose this approach to non-fiction writing if you want to show different viewpoints in one book. Also, with this approach, you would not try to persuade the reader to agree with your point of view or with one of the points of view. Instead, you are merely informing them that there are several viewpoints (including the pros and cons of each if you want), so the reader can make an informed decision.

Persuasive approach to non-fiction writing: You would choose this approach if you want to convince your readers of something. Many of the political books definitely take this approach.
There are probably more approaches, but these are the major ones. The point is to choose the approach that works for what you want to do with your topic.

Different non-fiction writers will take different approaches to writing about the same topic. For example, the topic might be tabby cats. Your approach depends on what you intend your reader to know about tabby cats. Here are some examples how different approaches to the topic can result in very different books.

Instructional approach: How to Take Care of a Tabby Cat
Descriptive approach: Habits of North American Tabby Cats
Narrative approach: My Life with a Tabby Cat, etc.

The approach to writing about your non-fiction topic is up to you. Determining your approach to writing your book will determine how you research your topic and what you ultimately say about it.

Writing Non-fiction: Session 1 - Choosing a Non-fiction Topic

Writing Non-fiction:

Session 1 - Choosing a non-fiction topic
The first step in writing a non-fiction book is choosing the right topic. You may already have a topic for your book. If so, take the day off and we’ll join you back here next Monday. If you haven’t chosen your topic, read on. There's more to it than just deciding that you want to write about this or that. Asking yourself some questions might help you nail down the perfect topic for you.

Useful questions when choosing a non-fiction topic might be:

.... Are you writing the book for money?
.... Are you writing the book to get the word out?
.... Are you writing to satisfy others?
.... Are you writing to help others?
.... Are you writing just for fun? If so, have at it.
The answer to each of these questions will help you choose a topic for your non-fiction book. For example, if you are writing the book for money, you will want to carefully research the book market and see what non-fiction books are selling and what aren't. If you're writing it to satisfy others, such as a memoir to record the history of your life for your family, answering that question will help you choose your angle on the topic.

When choosing a topic, don't choose one that is too small or too large. For a non-fiction book to be effective, you'll want to cover the topic in enough detail to satisfy your audience and not put them to sleep. If your topic is too large (for example, The History of the World), you’ll be either writing forever, or you'll have to skim over the topic in generalities. If your topic is too small (for example, My Life on February 18, 2008), your book will be either too short to be considered a book or it'll be full of snoozer repetitions. Like Goldilocks, you want your porridge to be “just right.”

Once you choose a possible topic for your non-fiction book, test it out. Surf the net or visit the library. How easy or hard is it to find information about your topic? Also, it might be beneficial to visit book stores or libraries to see how many books are already out there on your topic. Then you’ll be ready to choose wisely.