How to Write a Non-fiction Book in 60 Days: Review

Review by Franklin Carter

Paul Lima has written a thin paperback called How to Write a Non-fiction Book in 60 Days. If you are an aspiring writer of non-fiction, you should read Paul’s book and take his advice.

How to Write explains the steps you should follow to create the first draft of a 25,000- to 50,000-word manuscript. Paul’s advice can help you spend time more efficiently, reduce unnecessary frustration and write a well-organized manuscript in just 60 days.

Paul is a business writer in Toronto. He has more than 20 years of experience as a freelance writer and writing teacher. He has written 15 books and short reports; each publication took him fewer than 60 days to write.

How to Write is written in a friendly, helpful tone. The text is consistently clear, concise and organized. The book is suited for people who have great ideas for non-fiction books, but who don’t know how to write them. Such people include
· advocates of social causes;
· autobiographers and family historians;
· teachers who want to write textbooks or training manuals;
· experts who want to write about systems, methods or techniques; and
· public speakers who want to adapt their lectures or speeches to books.

How to Write begins by teaching some simple but useful writing exercises called freefall, directed freefall and clustering. These exercises are designed to spur your creativity and help you record all your ideas about your subject on paper.

The book then divides the writing process into five distinct steps: preparation, research, organization (which includes detailed outlining), writing and revision. Paul emphasizes the importance of the first three steps, which take up the first two thirds of How to Write and the first 30 of the 60 days.

In the first 30 days, you’ll learn how to
· think clearly about your manuscript’s subject and purpose;
· determine how best to convey your data to achieve your purpose;
· identify what your readers already know and need to know; and
· rigorously organize a detailed outline for your manuscript.

In the last 30 days, you’ll write efficiently from outline point to outline point to produce a first draft.

How to Write also emphasizes the need to separate writing and editing. If you edit or proofread your grammar and spelling while you write, you’ll waste time. By correcting text that isn’t ready for revision, you’ll disrupt your train of thought and increase your frustration.

The book provides a few tips about self-editing, but it sensibly adds that the editing and proofreading of your first draft should be done by a competent editor.

After working steadily for 60 days, you should have a manuscript that you can show to a literary agent or a publisher or prepare for self-publishing. But you’ll need more time to work on second or third drafts of your manuscript.

How to Write says nothing about marketing your work to publishers. The book also does not promise that you’ll achieve riches and fame as a writer. But it does include a short, useful chapter on how you can make money through print-on-demand (POD) publishing.

Writing for publication is hard work. However, if you follow the steps in How to Write a Non-fiction Book in 60 Days, your task will be easier — and more satisfying!

Franklin Carter is an editor of non-fiction in Toronto. He has edited school textbooks, trade books and Web copy for Canadian and U.S. publishers. Contact him at


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