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Key Lessons of Writing a Nonfiction Book: Lesson #4

Updated: Jul 3, 2019

In the last update, I shared lesson #3, which was all about getting started, in this series of key learnings based on my experience writing my first nonfiction book. Today’s post is lesson #4.

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a work day, having to just take a break, having to get away from your computer or having to take a walk in between meetings [not just running from one meeting to the next!], in order to clear your head?  I found this to be true when writing.

Lesson #4:
Give yourself space & walk away

Give yourself space

With all the discipline in the world, a great outline and plan, I had to account for times that I needed to step away for a short period. This could be a quick 15 minute walk away, an hours break or just allocating one day a week to do anything but writing.

Making space allowed to take a step back, get out of the weeds, and see things from a fresh perspective.

Walk away from your final draft

Talk about making space and taking time away, one question you should consider once you have your final draft, is ‘should you walk away and take a break from your final draft before sending it to an editor’?

The answer depends on your circumstances, your style, your timeline and so on. In my case, I knew that I would not have a fully completed draft manuscript before leaving Thailand; it was close to 75% complete.

As I tucked my manuscript away in my luggage to finish up my world travels, I left it in a state of where I had some outstanding questions and topics I needed to decide whether to include or not. I also needed to finalize one of my last chapters, conclusions and refine what I had already written.

Given prior commitments and the task of relocating back to the US, I knew once I left Thailand I wouldn’t touch my manuscript for at least two to three months.  As plans don’t always go to plan, the reality was more like seven months before I picked up where I left off.

Some of the benefits of walking away from my manuscript were:

  1. I came back with fresh eyes and perspective.

  2. I could see I accomplished more than I thought I had.

  3. It was instantly clear to me whether to include or exclude specific topics I was previously considering.

  4. I condensed information and was better able to ask and see, ‘how is this particular information adding value?’ or ‘is this particular information necessary?’

  5. I easily reworked a chapter which I wasn’t previously happy with; specifically, the way it flowed and the way the information was presented.

  6. Overall, I felt I was better able to complete and tie everything together.  It’s as if the pieces of the puzzle fit perfectly without question.

The decision to consider if taking a short break from your manuscript is beneficial, is up to your circumstances, style and approach. I personally would account for a short break or breathing space [not seven months!] for my next book.

Remember to be gentle to yourself; give yourself space, and walk away from your writing process.

I would love to hear about your writing experiences. If you’re new to writing nonfiction, what questions do you have?

In the meantime, stay tuned for lesson #5. Happy writing and happy journeys,


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