Powerful Non-Fiction Writing

Keeping in mind that non-fiction readers invest their time and money in books that meet a felt need, a great philosophy is, “Offer them what they want, then give them what they need.” Here are 14 questions to consider as you write your life-changing message:

QuestionsXSmallWhat problem is your reader experiencing?

How has the problem been overlooked?

What are they missing out on due to this problem?

What impact has this problem had on their life?

What misconceptions has the reader bought into that might keep him/her from experiencing the benefit you’re about to offer?

What underlying beliefs do they have that keep them from seeing a new solution or alternate view?

What solution or benefit will you show the reader?

What truths will help the reader see the benefit?

What will give them an “aha” moment?

What might influence the reader to avoid possible change?

How are others enjoying the benefit you’re teaching?

What will the reader let go of in order to adapt a new view of their life?

What choice(s) will they make?

What action(s) might they take?

Always keep your reader in mind. Offer them what they want, then give them what they need. As author Dean Merrill says, “Never stop asking ‘what’s in this manuscript for the reader?'”

Organizing Your Non-Fiction Writing

Non-fiction Writer Friends,

Do you wake up with brilliant ideas for your writing, but struggle with the outline when you sit down at your computer?

I do.

When I have an idea for a book, I grab a piece of paper and draw a circle with the main idea in the middle and the spokes become all the topics I could use to fill in the book.

Once I begin, my writing becomes haphazard. First, I start telling stories, and then I try to convey strong ideas by inserting subtitles and explanations around my stories. Often it seems like I’m going backwards, trying to fudge an outline around my stories. If you’re thinking this is a path to frustration, you’re right.

Sometimes I wish I had a simple and clear method for outlining each chapter.

Two months ago, I attended a speaker training led by speaker and comedian Ken Davis. Previously the workshop was called Dynamic Communicators Workshop, but now Ken is teaming up with Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, and they have renamed the workshop The SCORRE Conference.

At this workshop, what I learned about speaking easily translated into my writing. The SCORRE method gave me an easy template for both. Attendees of the SCORRE Conference are taught how to pick one of two choices for their talk: It will either be enabling or persuasive? It can not be both.

The reason for the choice is because it forces you to distill your talk into a single objective and forces you to stay on track. This is important because 75% of people leave a presentation with no idea of what was communicated. Even sadder, 50% of speakers cannot articulate the objective of their talk.

With my new strategy in mind, I went back to my previously written chapters so I could clean them up and make them purposeful. As I read my first chapter, I wondered, “Is this a persuasive chapter or an enabling one?” To make things more confusing, I came across a quote attributed to Zig Ziglar:

“All great books convey the HOW and the WHY.”

For awhile I wrestled with the direction. Should I have my book be a WHY or a HOW? Should I make each chapter contain a WHY and a HOW? Was there a way to incorporate Zig Ziglar’s quote and adhere to the SCORRE method?

As I prayed, the answer appeared. The bulk of each chapter was a persuasive speech — It answered the question WHY.  But, at the end of each chapter I had tips for implementing the chapter ideas — these became the HOW.

I think I finally came up with a really good way to organize my non-fiction book.

(Just to clarify, if I were giving a speech, I would still pick a HOW or a  WHY, not both)

What about you? How do you organize your non-fiction writing?

*A few years ago I bought Ken’s book Secrets of Dynamic Communication. The book was helpful, but to be honest I did not implement his method until I attended this workshop. Now that I’ve learned the method, it’s all I’m going to use. There is a SCORRE conference coming up in April in Rome, GA and another one back in Vail, CO next October. I highly recommend writers attend.The accommodations were deluxe, the coaches were supportive, the opportunities for networking were immense, and the learning was easy due to the skill and humor of Ken and his associates. I’ve been to many speaker conferences but this was by far the best.

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