Flashback Friday: How Do You Write a Non-Fiction Book in less than a Year?

Flashback Friday: How Do You Write a Non-Fiction Book in less than a Year?

This week we're throwing it back to Episode 291, a coaching call with Emily Edlynn. Spoiler alert: She did it!

Hey #AmWriters, Jess here! There's a very specific reason I wanted to re-up this coaching call with Emily Edlynn. I did an interview with AJ Jacobs day before yesterday, but it's not going to drop until May. I love AJ Jacobs, I know you love AJ Jacobs, and I’m really excited for you to hear our interview - but in that interview we talked about writing nonfiction books in less than a year. It is possible to do! We had a coaching call with Emily Edlynn 100 episodes ago and I wanted to re-up it because her book is out. She did it! She completed the task. She knew the assignment. Her book, Autonomy-Supportive Parenting, came out at the end of 2023. So I'm very proud to replay this episode and let you know that the P.S. on that episode was success! I hope you enjoy it.

And WAY TO GO, Emily!

Our guest on this episode has a problem—a good problem, yes. An enviable problem even. One that she herself is delighted to have: she’s sold a non-fiction book on proposal.

And now she has to write it. 60,000 words, researched, organized and ready for the editor while also fitting in her day job, raising 3 kids with her partner and all of the other curveballs life likes to throw you.

In this “coaching call” episode, Jess and I (it’s KJ writing, as it often is) help long-time listener Emily Edlynn figure out how much time to spend in what areas: book structure, research, interviewing, drafting, editing—and then how to set yourself up to allow for getting a major project like this completed on time. (We all know how KJ loves a good burn chart - check out episode 175: #HowtoUseaBurnChart). We talk about motivating yourself, strategies for staying on track or picking back up after the unexpected happens. (You can read Emily’s email to us at the bottom of the shownotes.)

Most of us spend more time working on short term projects than longer ones, and when we do get involved with something that stretches out for months or years, it’s usually with other people and external deadlines, whether it’s a major work endeavor, a house remodel or a Ph.D. dissertation. Books—even books with agents and editors—require major solo mojo to get from start to The End—and then revise the result of that. It’s yet another of the many many things that aren’t easy about writing.

But it can be learned, and it can be done.

Emily doesn’t have any trouble using the time she has to write—but if you do, here are some ideas based on Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies, which are all about knowing how you best meet inner and outer obligations (of which writing a book is weirdly both). Obligors need outer accountability. Set yourself up with a friend or your agent, give them your goals and arrange weekly check-ins. Questioners need reasons, so make that burn chart and put up a full calendar where you can see it and always have an answer for “but do I really need to do this now?” Upholders probably need nothing more than a plan—but make sure your inner upholder understands that this is a priority. Rebels benefit from regular reminders that this is hard, that most people can’t do it and that achieving this goal is a rebellion against everything that stands in its way—and many also like a plan that involves beating the clock. Anything that lets a rebel say “I’ll show you!” is rebel jet fuel.

Gretchen appeared on Episode 107 of the podcast, and you can take her “Four Tendencies” quiz here.

Emily’s email: I am a psychologist by training who started writing for an audience in 2017 when my career hit a crossroads with a move for my husband's job. My parenting blog led to writing freelance when possible, including a weekly parenting column for Parents since 2019. In April, I signed a contract with a small, independent publisher, Familius, to write a parenting book.
The full manuscript is due May 1. I have never felt so lost! I thought there would be more editor interaction over the year, but she basically said "See you in a year unless you need me!" (I have asked more from her, but have realized she is going to give me broad strokes and not much else.) I have scoured all the places for resources on "how to write a nonfiction book" but besides some of your episodes, what I find is either about self-publishing or marketing, not the process of writing a nonfiction book (that's not a memoir).
I'm trying to narrow this down to one question, which probably can't be "how do I write a nonfiction book in a year with no structure, in the time I have?" For context, I spend half my working week doing therapy in a private practice and supervising graduate students. I'm also writing a new blog post once a month to keep my newsletter subscribers engaged, and my weekly column. Oh, and did I mention attempting to raise 3 children in the process? I currently clock about 8 hours a week of writing time . . . and then I read relevant books when I can almost daily. I did find a virtual writing group with two other psychologist authors, which has been helpful. Since you probably aren't aiming to answer "how do I write a book in a year?" maybe narrowing it down to, "How do I manage my time with a professional job that pays the bills, little interaction with an editor (this seems different in the fiction world or even the nonfiction Big 5 world), to complete a 60,000-word nonfiction, researched manuscript in a year?"

Do you think you can help me??

Links from the Pod

How to Get an Agent Episode

Emily’s website, www.emilyedlynnphd.com


Emily: The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

Wow No Thank You by Samantha Irby

KJ: Becoming Duchess Goldblatt, Anonymous

Jess: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Podcast: Lili Anolik’s Once Upon a Time at Bennington College

During the pandemic, there was an explosion of people who wanted to write memoir, and many of those writers are now struggling to make sense of their drafts and figure out how to approach the marketplace. It's a great time to be a book coach who specializes in memoir, and in March 2024, Author Accelerator is launching a certification course to give memoir coaches the skills, tools, and experience to meet writers where they are.

Our year-long program is robust and intense. I'm inviting any listeners of this show who are interested in our coaching program to sign up for a one-on-one session with me to strategize about whether or not this course is right for you. Just go to bookcoaches.com/amwriting to sign up for a time that works for you.

Find out more here!

Entertaining, actionable advice on craft, productivity and creativity for writers and journalists in all genres, with hosts Jessica Lahey, KJ Dell'Antonia and Sarina Bowen.