Your Next Non-Fiction Book—Assembly Required (Part One)

mf802The non-writer’s vision of writing a book is that you:

  1. Open a blank document in a word processor.
  2. Type the first sentence.
  3. Type more sentences until you’re done.

If you’ve ever tried to write a book, you know that this is a fantasy.

Chances are that you’ve already created a ton of material related to your book topic, such as:

  • rough drafts of chapters
  • blog posts
  • newsletter articles
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • handouts from presentations
  • transcripts of your speaking
  • white papers
  • reports
  • emails

For good measure, also look for scattered notes that you scrawled on legal pads, index cards, sticky notes, and napkins. Then gather all the relevant article clippings, books, ebooks, and bookmarks in your web browser.

The result is a mass of interesting and possibly useful and supremely disorganized stuff. Your book manuscript is buried in there, somewhere, waiting to be liberated.

The question is: How? In terms of process, your challenge is not to start from a blank slate and fill it with words and images plucked from out of the void. It’s: How do you take the mass of stuff that you’ve already accumulated and assemble it into something that resembles a first draft?

I know that tools such as Evernote can help you gather all that stuff and throw it all into one digital bin. But the question remains: Once it’s all there, what’s the next step?

The answer is about thinking, not tools. It’s about taking an inventory of the underlying ideas in all your stuff, plucking out the relevant ones, and arranging them into a structure that makes sense.

Also, I’d like to do this without expensive, proprietary software that might not exist in a few years.

That’s the problem. The next post in this series will offer my answers. Please stay tuned.


  1. Maybe it’s all about plan – or any other sructure where you can throw your stuff? And all chunks and ideas lay into this structure like book on bookshelves in subject order.


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