How to Write a Good Book in 30 Days

by Joel Friedlander on October 21, 2013 · 25 comments

Post image for How to Write a Good Book in 30 Days

by Nina Amir (@NinaAmir)

You may not know this but Nina—whose last post here was How to Test Market Your Book Idea with a Blog—is also the founder of National Nonfiction Writing Month, which brings the opportunity of writing a book in 30 days to nonfiction writers at the same time each year that millions of aspiring fiction writers are engaged in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It’s all starting in a few days, so Nina is here to tell you that yes, it’s possible to write a book in 30 days. (And don’t miss the notice below the post about the promotions that we’ll be running for NaNoWriMo on the BookDesignTemplates.com site.) Here’s Nina’s article.



November hits and the writing world goes crazy. It seems like everyone hustles to produce a book in a month, but is it really possible to create a good manuscript in 30 days?

Actually it is.

Whether you choose to take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) or in  National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo), also known as the Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) Challenge, truth be told, you can produce a good book in a month. However, I contend that doing so takes a good bit of planning prior to the beginning of November as well as some tenacity.

Plotters vs. Seatsers

In the world of fiction, there’s a debate between the plotters and seatsers about the best, or maybe the most creative, way to write a book. One group likes to plot out their ideas before they write; the other group likes to write by the seat of their pants—to just let the book unfold as they write.

Nonfiction writers aren’t much different. Just as many like to create a solid table of contents or outline for a book prior to writing a word as prefer to sit down and begin writing with no set plan for how they will get from point A to point B; they just know they will get there in the end.

Book Planning

If you want to write a full-length book, or even a short ebook, in 30 days, however, you’ll do so more quickly and easily—or lets say efficiently and effectively—if you’ve done some book planning. By this I mean actually brainstorming your idea or story line, fiction or nonfiction, until you can create a table of contents.

Write Nonfiction in NovemberWith this done, if you flesh out your table of contents further you’ll be prepared to write quickly and easily during the course of the month, which means you will, more likely, turn out a good book efficiently and effectively.

I suggest going so far as to produce chapter summaries or chapter-by-chapter synopsis. This helps you know exactly what you will cover in each and every chapter. If you don’t want to write these in detail, create a bulleted list of items or scenes you plan to include in each chapter.

Business Planning

To produce a really good book in 30 days, you also must conduct two types of business planning before you begin: market and competition. A good book is directed at a specific market, or group of people you think will be most likely to purchase your book.

First, determine who those people are, and if there are enough of them to make writing your book a viable project. Once you’ve identified your market, you can decide if you need to re-angle your idea or story to their needs, desires and interests.

If the book is not one they will want to purchase, it won’t sell. That means it won’t get read. So, how good will your book really be if it doesn’t have readers?

Second, to help you produce a good book in 30 days determine if the book you want to write is different from those books already published in the same category. Look at books that directly compete with yours, or that are written about the same subject matter or that tell a very similar story. These books represent your competition.

This takes a bit of time, so set aside a day or two when you can “look inside” books virtually on Amazon or take a trip to your local bookstore. Study these books’ table of contents, back cover copy, and first chapter or two.

Do you propose to write a better book? Will your book be unique compared to the others in your category? Be sure you can answer “yes” to these questions. If not, determine how to change your idea, your story, or the structure of your book so it is unique and necessary in both the bookstore category and the market you plan to target.

Ready to Write

With these two exercises completed—book planning and business planning (market and competitive analysis)—prior to November 1, you are ready to fly through the starting gate when the gun goes off. You can begin writing immediately with focus and clarity. No staring at the screen wondering what to write. No trying to decide what your character will do next. No determining what topics should be covered in your chapters. No wondering if your story or idea is good enough.

You can simply type as fast as possible from the start of your project until the end and produce a great first draft of your book.

Meeting the Challenge

The WNFIN Challenge is just that—a personal challenge. Why? Because it’s an opportunity for you to prove to yourself that you can actually write a book. That’s all NaNoWriMo, or any other such writing event, really provides, even if it says it’s a contest with “winners.”

These contests also offer you a deadline, which you might not set for yourself or keep even if you did set one, and a community of accountability partners, other writers trying to meet the same goal.

Just as it’s easier to start an exercise routine with someone else or stick to a diet with a friend, it’s easier to plunk your butt in the chair and write your book when you know other aspiring authors are doing the same thing at the same time. You are more likely to commit and show up daily when you feel the energy of the group.

That said, as with any type of challenge or goal, to accomplish it you must have tenacity. That means you must have a never-give-up attitude. You must be determined, perseverant, and persistent. If you get behind on your word-count, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to catch up.

If you have a full schedule in November already, you must find a way to make time for your additional writing tasks during the month, even if that means getting up early, staying up late, or recording your favorite television show and not watching it until December. This type of “Author Attitude” will get your book written in 30 days.

Do it Again and Again

And once you’ve completed the challenge, you’ll know you can do it again. And you will—any time you set your mind to it and set you’re a deadline for yourself. Or every November, if you choose.

If you also take the time to prepare for the challenge, you’ll produce a good book in 30 days. That’s a much better feeling than just being able to say you “won” or completed the challenge and then putting your not-so-good manuscript in the “circular file” or starting the slow and painful process of trying to make a bad book into a good one during December.

With a good book written in a month, you’ll truly have risen to the challenge.

If you write nonfiction, find out more about NaNonFiWriMo here. If you write fiction, find out more about NaNoWriMo here.

Nina AmirNina Amir, the author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual (Writer’s Digest Books, 2014), inspires people to combine their purpose and passion so they Achieve More Inspired Results in work and life. She motivates people to create publishable and published products and careers as authors as well as to achieve their goals and fulfill their potential.

The founder of National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo), aka the Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) Challenge, Amir is a developmental editor, proposal consultant and author, book and blog-to-book coach with 35 years experience. Some of her clients have sold 230,000+ copies of their books and been published by major publishing houses. She writes four blogs and has self-published 12 books. www.ninaamir.com


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Photo: bigstockphoto.com. Amazon links contain my affiliate code.

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    { 21 comments… read them below or add one }

    Greg Strandberg October 21, 2013 at 1:29 am

    Thanks for this post! I wasn’t aware there was a National Non-fiction Writing Month at all.

    I think it’d be easier to write a non-fiction book in 30 days compared to a fiction book. You have research you can go off of while fiction writers have to make up the majority of their work. And at the end of the month I just have a feeling that many of the non-fiction works would be better.

    One problem I see is that so many non-fiction eBooks these days are less than 50,000 words, and that could cause many writers to repeat themselves for 10 to 20 thousand words.

    Reply

    chris October 21, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Greg, I applaud the motivation of the 30-day non-fiction book but as for the 50k words…ignore it. Write your chapter topics and then write your sub-topics. Then the sub-topics of the sub-topics and so on. The only time to consider the word count is when you can answer this question; does my reader benefit from reading this book and accomplish the goal of this book? A book goal would be something like “learn general home repair,” or “learn how to improve your cooking using 10 household spices.” Once you know you’ve written everything they need to know, then do your word count. If it’s greater than 50k, great. If it’s less, WHO CARES!?! The book serves the purpose of the reader and that’s what it’s all about.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 21, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Excellent advice, Chris, thanks for that. Word count has virtually no connection to the value to the reader.

    Reply

    Nina Amir October 21, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Chris,
    As you’ll see above, I mentioned to Greg that there are no word-count specifications for my challenge. A book should be as long as it needs to be. No longer. No shorter.

    Reply

    Martin Presse October 22, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Excellent advice Chris…My first “how to” book was about 24,000 words on Public Speaking. Nobody called to say, “hey Martin, hope all is well. Uhhmmm I noticed your book was only 24,000 words. Care to elaborate.” I encourage all authors to get out there and produce. Create the best book you can and learn from others on how to produce the best book you can. Create killer content folks..that’s key.

    Reply

    Nina Amir October 21, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Greg,

    NaNonFiWriMo, aka the WNFIN Challenge, has no word count specifications. Some people write an essay or an article or a book proposal. Not everyone writes a book. So, you don’t have to write 50,000 words. There are no winners or losers. Go ahead and write a short ebook. That’s the beauty of the event. And you’ll probably write a better book.

    Reply

    Greg Strandberg October 21, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Well that makes it all the more appealing!

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus October 21, 2013 at 3:58 am

    Why take 30 days? Since it’s possible for a book to have just three words in it, it’s actually possible to write a book in less than ten seconds!

    However, most writers of ‘real’ books write more than three words, don’t write around-the-clock and take from three months to a year or more to write.

    Some of the best advice about writing I ever received (from Aaron Shepard) is to let a book rest for a while before publishing.

    Put your book away for a few weeks or—even better—a few months.

    When you return to it, you will discover errors you missed before and will probably have gained new insights during your absence. You’ll likely realize that words and chapters that once seemed brilliant now seem insipid, silly, immature, superfluous, inadequate, out-of-date or otherwise inappropriate.

    However, you will probably have thought of new bits of brilliance which you can now insert to elevate the level of contemporary literature.

    And then the book requires more time for revising, editing, designing and marketing.

    Apparently very few self-published books come out “on time.” One of mine is more than three years behind schedule.

    Everything takes longer than you think it will. If you rush, you will make mistakes that will take additional time to correct. It’s much more important to be good than to be fast or first.

    Michael N. Marcus
    http://www.BookMakingBlog.com
    http://www.CreateBetterBooks.com

    Reply

    Will Gibson October 22, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Michael, once again, very accurate advice to the self-publisher.

    Reply

    Katie Cross October 21, 2013 at 6:22 am

    I’m not a planner, but I have been for NaNo because it will be my first time doing NaNo on an official basis. My goal is to get the 50,000, of course, but I want to make sure it’s a workable 50,000, so this was great advice!

    Reply

    susie klein October 21, 2013 at 11:42 am

    This is full of great advice Nina, thanks! I will be doing the nonfiction challenge and am working on the table of contents as a guideline. I am also gathering my data, old journals to pull from, etc, so I am set to go on Nov. 1.
    Susie

    Reply

    Nina Amir October 21, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Susie,

    That’s great! I hope you’ll log into the forum and let everyone know! It’s more fun if you participate…and there’s a FB page, too. Here’s a link for how to participate fully (if you want). http://writenonfictionnow.com/wnfin-2012/participate-wnfin/

    Reply

    Denis Ledoux October 21, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Perhaps more important than actually finishing a book in one month is the practice of writing efficiently and confidently. Too many writers (I have been among them) allow the book-writing process to go on and on.

    As we probably all have done, we can clean a space up rather well in a few hours if we know that we have unexpected company arriving soon. It’s not the best clean up but it also didn’t take week and we are able to enjoy the space and our company. We put off tasks because we envision the huge commitment it will take, because we are cursed with perfectionism, because we really don’t want to do what we are doing. Limiting the time we invest can produce efficient work.

    In that regard, committing to write a book in one month is a goad to let go of the interminable process of writing and rewriting.

    I know I work with writing clients to whom I have to say “You have to let go of this book. Move on to your next one.” They are still quibbling about whether “home” is a best word than “house” and whether “too” is more impactful than “also.” Time to move on, folks.

    A book in a month is perhaps gimmicky but it is also a useful tool to improve behavior—putting a stop to endless writing projects.

    Reply

    Nina Amir October 21, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    Very true, Denis! As we both know, a month-long writing challenge, with a deadline, is a great incentive to write effectively and efficiently. And a deadline always provides a chance to say, “Done.” That’s why I love deadlines.

    Reply

    katina vaselopulos October 21, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    This is a great, enlightening, and encouraging post!
    The comments are also helpful and inspiring!

    I am not a fiction writer but I thought that anything I wrote (“other,” I specified as my genre) would be OK. I actually wanted to write my bio for my children and grandchildren but instead I thought this would be a story about a Soul, coming to Earth to learned some lessons and return to where she came from. I would add many details from my life, realized and unrealized dreams, lessons learned and others to learn. Written in third person, I would speed to make the word count of 50K.

    Now, if I do nonfiction for nano, do I go about it following the nano rules, whether I reach the word count or not, or do I have to go through your site Nina? In this case, where do I begin?

    If I stay with the status I signed in, does it matter that there will not be a plot, many characters, and fast action?

    Right now, a manuscript that took me a year to write but 3 to edit is with my publishers, ready to move to editing. November is my waiting time and I that is why I took the challenge.

    IF you can make sense of what I am writing, I would appreciate a response from anyone or everyone involved in the discussion.

    Thanks in advance!

    Reply

    Nina Amir October 21, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Katina,
    If you are already logged into NaNoWriMo, you can participate in their NaNoRebel forums, I believe. If you want to join WNFIN/NaNonFiWriMo, go here: http://writenonfictionnow.com/wnfin-2012/participate-wnfin/

    Reply

    katina vaselopulos October 21, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Thank you Nina for answering my question. I did sign with NaNoWriMo, so I guess I stay there. I will look for their Rebel forums and see what happens.

    Wishing you all the best,

    Katina

    Reply

    Dan Erickson October 22, 2013 at 5:41 am

    So I’m a seatster? At least when I write fiction. That said, I take breaks between major sections of my stories, so it doesn’t seem likely I’d write a novel in 30 days.

    I have not written non-fiction, but I feel like I’d be a plotter if I did. I would want everything planned out in advance so the book feels organized. It just seems like that’s how non-fiction should be.

    As for writing a book in 30 days. I believe it’s possible, especially short ebooks, but for me, writing a full-length (50,000 word+) manuscript that fast would be out of the question as working, single parent.

    Reply

    Nina Amir October 22, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Dan,

    It can be done…even with other commitments. You set a word count. You put your butt in the chair for a certain amount of time ever day…some days longer than others…and try to produce an average of 1,667 words per day. That’s about 6-7 pages.

    Reply

    Bruce Arthurs October 23, 2013 at 1:51 am

    I find myself growing increasingly uncomfortable with the emphasis (over-emphasis?) being placed on planning publicity and marketing for one’s novel, even before finishing said novel.

    This is making an assumption that your novel, whether written for Nanowrimo or more normally, is going to be good enough to publish. That’s not necessarily the case.

    I’ve been dipping into and reading a fair number of self-published/indie-published books this year. A few of them have been damned good, and they probably would have landed with a traditional publisher eventually if marketed that way.

    Then there’s a larger percentage of books that are “as good as” what you find from traditional publishers, but that just means they’re okay, they’re adequate, they’re average; they don’t stand out in any regard, they’re not special or memorable.

    Then another large percentage that are flawed to one extent or another, but could probably have been edited or revised fairly easily.

    And then there are those self-published books that are just oh-my-god so f’in dreadful it makes you cringe. (One of those dreadful books I read appeared, from internal evidence, to have started out as a Nanowrimo project.) These are written by people who can’t recognize bad writing, even (or especially) their own.

    So I think if you’re writing a novel, especially a Nanowrimo novel, publicity and marketing should be way-y-y at the back of priorities. It probably shouldn’t even be a priority at all during that first draft’s writing. The primary goal should always be, first and foremost, “Write a good story.”

    In the case of Nanowrimo, the primary goal is “Finish a novel.” But I think if you’re going to do Nanowrimo at all, you should be willing to commit to revising and rewriting that high-speed effort to professional quality post-November. “Winning” Nanowrimo is only the start. Because if you don’t write a good story, what’s the point?

    (How do you learn to recognize bad writing? I’d say: Read. Read, read, read. Read some more. Read widely. Read with a critical eye. Read with the goal of learning why what you like works, and why what you don’t doesn’t. Then read some more.)

    Reply

    Greg Strandberg October 23, 2013 at 3:21 am

    You’ve got some very good points there. For many people Nanowrimo seems to turn into a race, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But that doesn’t mean you should keep that same mentality when it comes to editing and publishing.

    Reply

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