Nina Amir – How to Complete a Nonfiction Project in 30 Days
Posted by Charlotte Frost

This post is by Nina Amir, Your Inspiration-to-Creation Coach, who inspires writers to create the results they desire—publishable and published products and careers as writers and authors.  She inspires writers to combine their purpose and their passion so they Achieve More Inspired Results. The author of the forthcoming book, How to Blog a Book: How to Write, Publish and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time (Writer’s Digest Books, April 2012) and the author of the popular workbook How to Evaluate Your Book For Success, Amir is a seasoned journalist, nonfiction editor, consultant, and writing, book, blogging, and author coach with more than 33 years of experience in the publishing field. She writes four blogs, including Write Nonfiction NOW! and How to Blog a Book, and two national columns at and serves as the weekly writing and publishing expert on Michael Ray Dresser’s popular radio show, Dresser After Dark ( For more information: or

November can constitute a busy month. It includes the end of Daylight Savings Time, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving as well as the beginning of the holiday shopping period. Writers could complain that there’s no time for writing.

Nah. In November, fiction writers get busy writing novels during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  And during the same 30-day time frame nonfiction writers start and complete a project as part of the annual Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) challenge.  And now PhD writers are turning their papers into books. (Actually, some other writing events have started cropping up during this month, too, like National Life Writing Month.)

If you want to complete a nonfiction project in 30 days, such as turning your PhD into a book, here are a few things I suggest you do:

  1. Set a deadline for when you want to complete your project. Make yourself accountable in some way—tell someone about your deadline and ask them to allow you to report in each week, announce it on Facebook or Twitter or commit to donating $500 or more to a charity if you fail to meet the deadline.
  2. Try entering a contest or a challenge that pushes you to write your book fast, such as WNFIN. Then you have the sense that you are not writing alone and you have the added incentive of finishing on someone else’s deadline, not a self-imposed one. (To sign up for WNFIN, post a comment about what you are writing this year here. Additionally, you can connect with other writers on the WNFIN Facebook page.) And, yes, turning a PhD into a book qualifies as a WNFIN project.
  3. Do some planning before you start. Have an outline, a table of contents and possibly a synopsis of each chapter in your book. Use this as a guide, and follow it. This will make it easier for you to sit down and begin writing more quickly and without wondering what you should be writing or looking for what you need to proceed.
  4. Stick to a schedule. Know how much you need to write every day. If you must figure out how many chapters (or pages or words) you have to write every day and keep to it. If you fall behind, force yourself to catch up—even if it means losing some sleep.
  5. Take on the NaNoWriMo mentality: You don’t have to write a good manuscript, you just have to write (finish) your manuscript. This means, forget about editing and just write. Get the words down on paper. You can come back later and revise and edit. That’s the easier job. It’s pretty hard to work on a manuscript if you have blank pages.
  6. Try to have a designated writing time every day, but if you can’t manage that, write in small time increments. Sometimes it’s hard to find a long period of time to write. Write whenever you can—and as fast as you can. I found that I can write 800 words in about 45-60 minutes.
  7. Have a marathon attitude. Know that you don’t have to keep up this pace forever, just for 30 days. Keep telling yourself you can do this and other things can wait. Your manuscript comes first right now.

For you PhD to book writers who might be doing a lot of editing, remember to not be attached to your words. Your academic paper was not written for the average reader. It was written for your professor and for a group of academics who were judging you on your knowledge. They had to decide if you proved your point.

Now you have to make all that research and knowledge enticing. You have to provide a book that isn’t an argument for you position but one that solves a problem, adds benefit to people’s lives or in some way touches them on an emotional level—all things that were probably not include previously.

You will have to “dumb it down,” give it life, find your voice, provide new examples, and probably totally rewrite most of it. Don’t be afraid to cut and slash or just start from scratch using your “first draft” as just that—a first draft.

Charlotte Frost. Posted by Charlotte Frost

Art & technology broadcaster/academic & glamour puss. Founder of Arts Future Book & Provost International Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Center for 21st Century Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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