Nov 26, 2021 • 50M

How Do You Write a Non-Fiction Book in less than a Year? Episode 291: Coaching Call with Emily Edlynn

Open in playerListen on);
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.

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: 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

Want a “coaching call” of your own? Email us at We can’t promise to respond to every email, but we might answer your question on an upcoming episode—or invite you into the hotseat like Emily.

Think you’d be pretty good on the other end of a coaching call? Then you should consider becoming a certified book coach through Author Accelerator’s book coach training program. It’s everything you need to know to begin working with clients on writing, planning, revising and querying (and then learning more and getting better with every new client and with Author Accelerator’s support and team behind you). Choose a fiction or nonfiction specialty, study with a cohort and design a new business or side-gig that works for you. Learn more at