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Writing Books/Getting Started on Non-Fiction book


Once I get everything organized on the 3x5 cards and start writing, do I separate the events that occured by "Chapters" like books I read now, or do I just flow and allow the publisher (if published) to separate the book by chapters?

Followup To

Question -
I would like to write a book about the experience I had while dating a "registered sex offender".  At the time I began dating him, I was unaware of this fact.  He was "everything" I had dreamed of.."at first".  I even believe that he was "railroaded" into the sex offender charge.  But,month by month, issues would come up, problems would surface, police would knock on the door for this reason and that.  He also had a police record of other items prior to the "offender" charge.  I want to tell about the things I went through:  the "gut" feelings, red flags and intuition that I "ignored" so that other "women" will NOT make the same mistakes that I did.  HOW do I get started writing this while all of it is still fresh in my mind?  My last resort was to dump him after a year and a half was when he got mad at me and physically assaulted me for the first time a few months ago.  We are now going through the legal proceedings for "this" charge.  He had never assaulted me or anyone else that I know of prior to him being arrested in August of this year.  I think this would be a "juicy" but also informative book.  Thank you for any information you can share.

Answer -
hello Kim:

Many people want to write and have some ideas they like, but they don’t know how to start.

Getting started involves bringing the material under control and putting it into tangible form in a way that  suits your purposes. By “suits your purposes” I mean it guides and supports your writing and ensures you don’t put a foot wrong.

First, you must decide on a premise. The premise is what your story is “about,” the first and primary thing you want the reader to take away from the book - a life lesson of sorts. It will describe one principle - the most important thing your life has taught you about this subject. It may be as simple as “Don't get mixed up with a sex offender.” It doesn't have to be empirically true, rather it will reflect your convictions on the subject. This is the most important part of your book, so choose carefully.

Once you have your premise, get some 3x5 cards and on each, write a few words around an event from your experience that supports your premise. Keep going until you feel you have enough events to fill a book.

At some point, a pattern should begin to show itself. Sort the cards around this pattern until the arrangement suits you. From that, make an outline, keeping the premise in mind at all times. Make sure there’s some kind of progression – some movement from A and B toward C.

When you are finished organizing your material, you are ready to write your first draft.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 800 questions.

And good luck with your writing!  

Hi Kim:

Once you have your events down on the cards, make an outline from them. The outline brings everything into coherent order. There should be progression as you resist or embrace what life is trying to teach you. There is a lesson in everything that happens to us; that is your premise. The outline traces this progression, beginning with what you thought or believed about the premise, and ending with what you eventually became convinced of. If there is no change, you have no story. The outline demonstrates how you slowly changed your attitude toward the premise.

If it will aid in getting the words down, write your first draft in "flow." You can sort your material into chapters in your second draft. In making decisions about your material, keep in mind that the important thing is to finish the work. Do whatever it takes to keep the story  moving.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 800 questions.

And good luck with your writing!

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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