Are you ready to start your writing journey? Whether you’re crafting a 1000-word blog post or a 90,000-word memoir, it’s important to have a solid non-fiction writing checklist in place to ensure your message resonates with readers. From conveying your core points to delivering compelling ideas, this checklist will guide you every step of the way. Let’s get started!

4 Steps Before You Start Writing

Define Your Purpose

As a writer, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your purpose before you begin writing your book. Defining your purpose means identifying why you want to write the book and what you hope to achieve by doing so. This could be to share your personal story, educate others on a particular topic, inspire change, or offer a solution to a problem.

Let’s face it. If we’re not entirely consumed and focused on our purpose, we’re likely to burn out and not finish the book. That is why it’s crucial to have the write purpose and motivation for this process.

When you have a clear purpose, it will guide your writing and help you stay focused on delivering a clear message to your readers. Without a purpose, your book can easily become unfocused and lack direction, leading to a disengaged audience.

To define your purpose, take some time to reflect on your motivation for writing the book. Ask yourself;

  • What message do I want to convey to my readers?
  • What impact do I want to make on the world?

By answering these questions, you can clarify your purpose and align your writing with your goals.

Remember, your purpose is not set in stone and can evolve as you write. But having a clear purpose from the start will ensure that your book is focused and impactful, resonating with your readers and achieving your desired outcomes.

Identify Your Audience

It’s essential to identify your target audience before you start writing. Knowing your audience helps you tailor your message to their specific needs and interests, ensuring that your writing resonates with them and effectively delivers your message.

To identify your audience, consider the demographic you’re writing for, such as age, gender, education level, and interests. You can also research the market and identify what topics and themes are popular among your target audience.

Understanding your audience is perhaps the most important part, but also the hardest part, of the “before writing” process.

Once you’ve identified your audience, you can craft your message to suit their needs and interests. For example, if your audience is primarily young adults interested in self-help, your writing should be accessible and offer actionable advice to help them achieve their goals.

It’s also essential to consider the tone of your writing when targeting your audience. Are you writing for an academic audience that values a formal tone, or are you writing for a general audience that prefers a more conversational tone? Understanding your audience’s preferences will help you choose the right tone and language to engage and connect with them.

Conversely, missing the mark here will likely result in your book or work falling flat, not resonating with your audience. This will ultimately affect your sales and the overall success of your book.

Choose Your Topic

Selecting the right topic for your work is critical to its success. Choosing a topic that aligns with your purpose, audience, and passion is essential to create engaging and impactful writing.

When selecting a topic, consider what you’re passionate about and what you have expertise in. Writing about a topic you’re passionate about can help you maintain your motivation and interest throughout the writing process. Moreover, having expertise in a particular area will help you provide valuable insights to your readers and convey your authority.

It’s also essential to consider how your topic aligns with your purpose and audience. Some questions you might ask yourself are;

  • Does the topic help convey my message?
  • Will my audience find this topic interesting and valuable?
  • Will this topic provide a unique perspective or information on this topic?
  • Is my expertise and insight on this topic needed?

By answering these questions, you can ensure that your topic is aligned with your purpose and audience, increasing the chances of the book’s success.

Finally, consider the market and competition for your chosen topic. Research the market to determine if your topic is unique or if there is significant competition in that area. Understanding the market can help you determine the best approach to writing your book and how to differentiate it from others in the market.

Overall, choosing the right topic is a critical step in creating a successful non-fiction book. It should align with your purpose, audience, and passion, while also considering the market and competition in that area. By choosing the right topic, you can create a compelling, engaging book that resonates with your readers and achieves your desired outcomes.

Conduct Market and Topic Research

Now that you’ve solidified a topic that aligns with your purpose and audience, conducting thorough research is crucial to creating a well-informed, compelling piece of work. Research provides the necessary glue and data to support your message and strengthen your argument. The more research you conduct, the more persuasive your writing will be, and the more authority you will have as a writer.

There are several ways to conduct research for your non-fiction book. You can read other books, articles, and reports relevant to your topic, and take notes on key ideas, arguments, and evidence presented.

You can also conduct interviews with experts and individuals who can provide valuable insights and perspectives on your topic. Not only will this strengthen your writing but will also provide valuable opportunities to network and include other experts’ opinions and quotes in your book.

Another effective research method is to conduct surveys and gather data relevant to your topic. Surveys can help you collect data from a large group of people, providing valuable insights into their attitudes, behaviors, and opinions.

When conducting research, it’s essential to keep track of your sources and ensure that your information is accurate and reliable. Use reputable sources such as peer-reviewed articles, academic journals, and books from reputable publishers.

Conducting thorough research is essential to creating a well-informed, authoritative non-fiction work. It helps you support your message with evidence and provides valuable insights into your topic.

4 Checklist Items When You Start and Finish Your Writing

Create an Outline

Creating an outline is the next crucial step in the non-fiction writing process as it helps you to establish a clear direction for your book. A well-structured outline acts as a guide that keeps you on track, ensuring that your writing is focused, coherent and that your message is conveyed effectively to your readers.

To create an outline, start by brainstorming and noting down all your ideas and thoughts about your book. Then, organize these ideas into different sections or chapters. Think about how each chapter will flow into the next and how each section supports your overall message. Make sure your outline reflects your purpose, target audience, and topic. Your outline can be as detailed or as general as you like, as long as it guides your writing.

When creating an outline, consider using headings, subheadings, bullet points, and other formatting techniques to make it easy to read and follow. Use active language to make your points clear and concise, and ensure that the structure and flow of the outline align with the message you want to convey in your book.

Remember, an outline is not a static document, and you can always adjust and refine it as you progress with your writing. An outline helps you stay organized and focused, and it’s a great tool to help you avoid writer’s block, as you can always refer back to it when you’re stuck on what to write next.

By creating a detailed outline, you’ll be able to write with more clarity and confidence, making the process of writing your non-fiction work a lot smoother and more enjoyable.

Write Your First Draft

Now that you have an outline, it’s time to start your actual writing. It’s important to remember that your first draft doesn’t need to be perfect. The most important thing is to get your ideas down on paper, so you can start shaping them into a coherent and compelling narrative.

So many people get stuck at this stage. The think they need to make this perfect, that the writing should be excellent without errors and if it’s not, they’ve failed. That’s simply not true, and if I could convey to everyone reading this exact point, I’d scream it from the mountains.

Your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be done!

When writing your first draft, it’s helpful to set aside dedicated time for writing each day or week. This will help you establish a consistent writing routine and make steady progress towards your goals. It’s also helpful to create a distraction-free writing environment, whether that’s a quiet room in your home or a favorite coffee shop.

As you write, try not to get bogged down in details or spend too much time on any one section. Instead, focus on getting your ideas out of your head and onto the page. You can always come back later to refine and revise your work.

It’s also helpful to remember that writing a first draft is a process, and it’s okay if it takes time to complete. Give yourself permission to take breaks and step away from your writing if you need to. Sometimes, stepping away can help you come back to your work with fresh eyes and a renewed perspective.

Above all, remember that writing is a journey. Embrace the process, trust in your own creativity and voice, and keep writing until you have a complete first draft.

Edit and Revise

Editing and revising your manuscript is perhaps the longest and most painful of all the steps in this writing checklist. It’s essential to approach this step with objectivity and a willingness to make changes to your work. One of the best ways to do this is to take a break from your manuscript before you begin editing. This will help you approach it with fresh eyes and a clear mind.

This step is crucial for the success of your work. You also need to seriously consider hiring this step out for your larger works and books. Hiring a professional editor gives you the unique ability to elevate your work with someone else’s help in a way that self-editing cannot.

When reviewing your manuscript, start by focusing on the big picture elements, such as plot, characters, and pacing.

  • Does the story flow logically?
  • Are the characters well-developed and interesting?
  • Is the pacing consistent throughout the book?

Once you’re satisfied with these big picture elements, move on to more specific issues like sentence structure, word choice, and grammar.

As you edit and revise your manuscript, remember to stay true to your voice and writing style. While it’s important to make improvements, you don’t want to lose the essence of what makes your writing unique.

Be careful when using writing and grammar editors like Hemingway, Grammarly, or even Microsoft Word. These tools are necessary for finding and correcting errors. However, they also have a bad way of removing your style and voice from the writing. So make sure not to let them do that.

The goal is to polish your work and make it the best it can be, while still retaining the authenticity that makes it yours.

Seek Feedback

Seeking feedback on your work is an essential final step in the editing process. When you’re working on your manuscript, it’s easy to become too close to your own writing and lose objectivity. By sharing your work with others and asking for their feedback, you can gain valuable insights into how your work is being received and identify areas where you may need to improve.

When seeking feedback, it’s important to choose people who you trust to provide honest and constructive criticism. This could include fellow writers, beta readers, or even writing coaches or editors. Be open to receiving both positive and negative feedback, and try not to take criticism personally. Remember that the ultimate goal is to make your writing the best it can be.

It’s also important to provide your readers with specific questions or prompts to guide their feedback. For example, you might ask them to focus on the pacing of the story, the characterization of the main protagonist, or the clarity of the message you’re trying to convey. This will help you receive specific feedback that is relevant to your specific writing goals.

Once you’ve received feedback, take the time to review it carefully and consider the suggestions that have been made. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions or to seek clarification if something isn’t clear. Ultimately, you have the final say in how you revise your work, but feedback can be a valuable tool in helping you identify areas where you may be able to improve your writing.

2 More Steps for Finishing Up You Book

Polish Refine and Design

Layout and design are important factors in making your book stand out and attract potential readers. The layout should be easy to read, with appropriate margins, spacing, and font choices. The design should also be visually appealing and reflect the genre and content of your book.

When it comes to design elements, such as images, illustrations, or graphics, it’s important to ensure that they are high-quality and relevant to the content of the book. Using stock images or generic graphics may not effectively capture the essence of your story or message. If you are not skilled in graphic design, consider hiring a professional designer or using design templates to create a polished and professional-looking layout.

Additionally, the cover design is one of the most important aspects of your book’s overall design. It’s often the first thing a potential reader sees and can greatly influence whether or not they decide to pick up and read your book. Analyzing some of the top-selling books in your genre and categories can give you an idea of the colors, themes, and design elements that are effective in attracting readers.

Overall, the layout and design of your book should enhance the reading experience and help to convey your message or story in a visually appealing and effective way.

Publish and Promote

Publishing and promoting your book is the final step in bringing your book to life. This step is perhaps the longest step in the whole process as promotion for your book could go on for months or even years.

Promoting your book is essential to reaching your target audience and generating sales. Some effective promotional strategies include:

  1. Building an author platform: Create a website, blog, or social media presence to establish your brand and connect with potential readers.
  2. Book signings and events: Attend book signings, literary festivals, and other events to showcase your book and interact with readers.
  3. Book reviews: Ask bloggers, book reviewers, and book clubs to review your book and share their thoughts with their audiences.
  4. Paid advertising: Consider using platforms like Amazon ads, Facebook ads, or BookBub ads to reach a wider audience and promote your book.
  5. Word-of-mouth: Encourage your readers to spread the word about your book to their friends and family, and ask them to leave reviews on retailer websites like Amazon.

Remember, publishing and promoting a book is a journey, and it takes time and effort to achieve success.

Stay committed to your vision, be open to feedback, and be willing to adapt and refine your strategy as you go along.

Most authors aren’t very good at this step. After all, we want to write, and not sell.

But a lot of what we talk about inside our community are tactics to establish a readership without overtly selling. You don’t have to be a clever marketer or salesman to establish a vibrant readership. We routinely talk about and educate about styles and tactics that help authors promote in a way that is easy and comfortable for them.

Get Out There and Write Your Next Book

Now that you have this 10 Point Non-Fiction Writing Checklist, we hope this will encourage you to start down that road to publishing. We know it can be a daunting task. But at the Christian Writers Sanctuary, a rising tide raises all boats. We believe that as a community of like-minded believers, we can help each other achieve our God-given dreams.

If you want to be a part of that, we’d love to have you. Send us an email, or click on the join button around the website to try us out for free for 30 days.

If you have anything else that is valuable to add to this checklist, please leave us some feedback in the comments. We’d love to hear your suggestions.