6 Steps to a Good Nonfiction Book Idea

June 5, 2020

One thing that's great about writing non-fiction is that the old adage 'write what you know' really does apply.  When we write what we know we can take into account all of our life experience.  Doing that is an exercise that can even help us see God's hand in our lives.  How He uses everything that happens to us for good - and how we can as well.

1. Begin with Prayer

Let me suggest, right off the bat, that the best place to start is with prayer.  Not a this-is-what-I-want-please-make-it-happen kind of prayer - but a Your-will-be-done prayer.

This is the kind of prayer that  Fr. Timothy Gallagher talks about in his Discerning the Will of God series on EWTN and, to me, it makes perfect sense.  This is an approach of perfect equilibrium.  It's way to avoid your own bias and let God lead.

If you don't pray, take some time to reflect on your writing goals.

2. Try Journaling

Now get out your journal or some printer paper or whatever you have to write on and tackle the next section.  Write down everything that pops into your head.  Do it fast and loose and without giving it any thought whatsoever.  This is creative stuff so you want to approach it creatively.

I suggest using a separate page for each of the following.  That way you'll be able to come back and add things.

3. Consider Your Skill Set

Begin by asking yourself about your skill set.  What can you do?  Not necessarily perfectly.  Not necessarily better than everybody.  But well enough to share something that could be of use to an inexperienced person. My skill set includes things like writing, remodeling and nursing.

After you write the main things make a second pass and write down the small stuff. My second pass included things like tweaking blog templates and making nice things in Canva.

The reason for writing everything down the little things is because you may notice a pattern or group of related skills you can arrange under one heading.

4. Catalog Your Challenges

You will also want to take a look at the battles you've waged in life.  This is where journaling is especially helpful because, for many of us, this can include some pretty tough stuff.  But remember you don't have to write a lot about any one struggle, just jot it down and jot it down fast.

A couple of things that cropped up in my journal were flipping a house, surviving my childhood, family crisis and breaking free from the new age and the occult.

I immediately knew I didn't want to write about most of these things and you may feel the same way and that's okay.  Because what you want to write about matters more than anything you've written down so far.

5. Determine Your Passions

What do you like? How do you spend your time? What's your idea of fun?

Don't just answer the questions though. Pretend you've just been asked this about someone you've never met and do some digging.

I went through my books and my YouTube history but you might think about your favorite TV shows and movies, your browsing history or things you like to fool around with in your spare time.  Don't write down things you've always wanted to do or books you've been meaning to read.  Just write down the things you actually do or read about or watch.

For me this section included Catholicism, the Bible, spiritual warfare, genre fiction and books on writing.

Without taking this step I wouldn't have written down spiritual warfare.

Caveat.  If there is something you have really, really always wanted to learn about or do, make a note of it.  Not all nonfiction books are based on past experience.  Some are based on research or chronicle a new endeavor.  Just keep in mind that writing this kind of book, takes time.

6. Put It All Together

When I finished writing down my skills, challenges and passions I set my journal aside for a couple of days.  During that time I prayed about the book I was going to write and asked God to help me choose wisely.  When I went back to my journal, I circled the stuff I thought I felt I excited about writing about with a bright orange marker.

I came up with the following topics: leaving the occult, my faith, spiritual warfare and blogging.  For me, the first three grouped.  The fourth was a standalone.

That meant two books.  But I felt the most excited about a book that would combine the first three.  

The Ideas I Came Up With

My first book idea is to write about how and why I left the occult, the spiritual warfare that has followed and how my faith has helped me and how it continues to help. 

I know I will write that book.  But I also know that it will be a chronicle-the-process-as-I go kind of book because, as far as Catholic formation goes, I'm just not there.  It will take time and it will challenge me.  On the plus side, I believe it will also help keep me on track and give me a sense of purpose when I'm feeling discouraged.

My second idea is a short ebook on blogging called Blog Building - after my recent blog article of the same name.  After some thought I decided to put this idea on the back burner.  I probably will get to it.  Just not right away.

For now, I'm going to keep blogging and praying and thinking about this project.  While this process did not give me a hard and fast first choice it did give me a lot of insight into myself and my writing.  The exercise also strongly suggested a new direction for the blog and possibly the YouTube channel.

I've decided that I am definitely going to be sharing more on my journey out of the occult and into the Catholic faith! 

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