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Writing Books/Can't find a model for doing this!


Hello Bobbie,

As my first ever book project, I'm working away on my own here trying to write a non-standard type of book that I can't find any guidance in relation to on the net. I wonder if you could give me some general advice on how I should deal with this challenge?

My non-fiction book addresses a wide subject area that has been presented to the public for a very long time as one particular story of scientific discovery, and by default, the truth of the matter! Through various routes and sources I have learned that this story is not correct (sounds strange but it's true) so I am trying to put together a layman's summary version of the whole situation, including pointing the reader towards the more likely truths. The subject area deals with science history and a wide range of theoretical physics, and as such has been quite a daunting area for me as a non-scientist to plough through. I do however have the ability to take my hard-won understanding and translate this into a (hopefully) much more readable form for general public consumption. This is how part of my motivation is fuelled. There is a very attractive story for the public in this respect, especially because the subject matter undoubtedly appears already settled to them - the subject area is major and highly controversial. There are books already published on the subject, but they are all written by scientists, scholars and other highly technically qualified people, so they have great potential to go over the head of Joe the plumber (no offence to Joe!)

I have a structure for the book, and I have started working on various elements of it, but I have no idea how I can check what I am doing flows most appropriately against the background of the bigger story, or, if it touches on the particular relevant areas that would provide it with greatest credibility. I also don't have much of a clue about how or where I could approach having elements of my work reviewed or indeed how or where to present my finished work for consideration to be published. I also don't know what I don't know!

I have written technical documentation previously but never anything motivated from the heart like this is. I do hope you can give me some general feedback that will keep me straight.

Kind regards ... Tom.

Dear Tom:

My first piece of advice is to create an outline. I know, most of us hate outlines, so it can be as simple as a list of one or two main words that describe what you want to cover in each chapter. If it were a book on picking a puppy, the outline might start out something like this:

Dog ownership: introduction
Breed temperaments
Home environment
Pet stores/county-run shelters/adoption agencies

Once youíve made that list, or outline, you can better see how you want the information to flow. By simply moving the items in the list around, you can organize the book and know where you want each bit of information to go. The outline keeps you on track as you write, as well.

As for getting the book reviewed, I strongly advise finding a scientist in the field who will read it, question any facts you need to further examine, and maybe even write an introduction, because most publishers do want an expert in the field to endorse the book. You will have performed a great deal of research, and surely some names in the field will pop up enough times to make you see who you might contact.

After you have written the book and found an expert to read and endorse the book, youíll need to hire a good manuscript editor (book doctor). Thatís where someone with my expertise will come in.

Getting published, however, is a process too long to explain in a simple answer. Purchase and read a book on how to research and approach publishers. You will probably have to write a book proposal, and may wish to do so before you finish your book, because you can sell a nonfiction book based on a proposal and two or three well-polished chapters. I suggest following Michael Larsenís book, How to Write a Book Proposal. It has been vital in helping me sell my books.

I hope you'll subscribe to my free newsletter for writers, The Writers Network News. Go to to sign up.

I wish you much success.

Yours in writing,
Bobbie Christmas

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Bobbie Christmas


Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.


Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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