The Busy Person’s Guide to Writing a Nonfiction Book (Part 2)

How do busy people write books? Realistically, how does that happen?

In my last post I wrote about coming up with a concept and an outline. Once these are in place, it’s time to begin writing using what I call the four rhythms of mastery.

Write Using the Four Rhythms of Mastery

I use the phrase “four rhythms of mastery” to describe the practices that make the writing journey sustainable. These practices are essential to staying committed to writing your book, especially if you’re busy. The following practices, which can be remembered with the acronym D. A. R. T., will help you hang in there:

  1. Decision. It all starts with commitment. And then after starting one has to revisit this step many times over. Writers have to recommit again and again.
  2. Action. Decision is one thing, action is another. What is the work you need to keep doing over and over again? How many words do you want to write per day or per week? At this point don’t worry about editing. Just follow the outline, give yourself a daily or weekly word count goal. And go. Blurt it all out.
  3. Relationships. Most writers cannot do this work alone. We need a supportive community to help us. This can look like regular one-on-one sessions, creative circles, mentoring relationships, or online communities. Be intentional about setting up some communal support for yourself. Remember: you and your work are worth it.
  4. Time. “What gets scheduled gets done” is something I heard from Michael Hyatt once, and it stayed with me. It’s true. What goes in our calendars is generally (not all the time, but mostly) what happens. When will your writing time be? Can you take some “extreme measures” to find even more time? Burn a vacation day? Use spring break? Hire someone to do the laundry or mow the lawn so that you can spend that time writing your book?

The hardest part of writing a book is sticking with it for the long haul. These practices will help you do that. One way to approach the above practices is to check in with them each Sunday night or Monday morning. Simply ask yourself, “How am I doing with Decision? With Action?” and so on.

DIY Editing

Once you’ve written what Anne Lamott calls a “shitty first draft,” it’s time to go back through and shape it up the best you can. Spend a good amount of time on each chapter. Does each one do what the outline says it should do? And does each chapter do it compellingly? Is there a good mix of story and information/teaching? Are you showing more than you’re telling?

Enlist Some Editing Help

Eventually you will want to hire an editor. Even the best writers need one. My advice for finding a good editor is to ask around within your own networks who are the best editors for your kind of book. Be sure to interview an editor before you hire him/her. Ask for references and then call those references. Don’t settle on an editor until you think you’ve found one who can do a great job for you.

Another option is to ask some friends to read what you’ve written. I’ll be honest and say the quality of the feedback is not likely to be as good as with a professional editor with years of experience, but don’t let lack of funds keep you from moving forward.

Make It Sing: Rewriting and Revising

When it comes back from the editor, it’s time to work through the feedback and the edits. If you’re working with a professional editor or editorially minded friends who have some experience, you are likely to agree with much of the feedback and edits. Here and there you may disagree, and that’s ok.

The Final Review

After you’ve worked through all the editorial input, it’s time to do your final review. I like doing this with a hard copy. I’m not sure why, but for some reason moving from the screen to paper reveals things that otherwise would not necessarily surface. Mark up the hard copy as you like, incorporate the changes electronically, and that’s it! Congratulations on writing your book!

If you missed part 1 of this two-part series, click here.

Question: What book do you want to write? 

If you think this post would be helpful to others,would you help me share it? I’d be grateful. Here’s a possible tweet: Want to write a book but feeling overwhelmed? @ChadRAllen continues his step-by-step series! <Tweet this!>


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Pingback: G017 | Productivity | DART Your Way to Mastery | A journey to personal development()

  • Really enjoyed this series Chad. Especially your points on decision and action. I like the idea of incorporating that into my weekly review and planning process on the weekends. Thanks!

  • Thanks for this great information. I have had an outline written for a while but I didn’t know what to do next – the idea was super overwhelming!

  • Thanks for your always great encouragement. I’ve been trying to be more focused on actually sitting down and doing the writing. I’m a perfectionist, sometimes I just write the lists and never go for it. (That shitty first draft is so scary). I’m learning you can’t get to the good stuff without the the draft.

    • You got that right, Lisa! Do you have some communal support around you? If so you might trying telling them what your goals are and then ask them to check in with you about it.

  • I’m loving this series, Chad. Thanks.

    The “D” and “T” really do require regular recommitment don’t they?

    It would be really helpful to hear more about working with a free-lance editor sometime. How to find a good one, the things to ask of the process and the things one can hope for, how this relates to the editing process one goes through when a book is under contract…

    • … and is there a range or going rate for free lance editors…

      • The low end for copyediting in my experience is $15/hour. Developmental editing is typically a bit more expensive, $25/hour and up, I’d say…

    • As usual you’re offering a great idea here! I just need more time! But i have added this to my “post ideas” document. Thanks, Gary!