When I put together a chapter for a nonfiction book, I try to balance my organic, free-form approach to writing that lets my mind wander through stories, anecdotes, and main ideas with a loose structure that keeps my thoughts organized–flowing from one to another. I have found a synthesis of order and chaos particularly helpful.
- Start writing what you know.
- Brainstorm ideas for the rest of the chapter into a draft outline.
- Continue writing based on this outline
- Integrate quotes and research into the chapter
- Read through the chapter to sharpen the outline and fill in gaps.
- Revise your chapter draft.
The basic ideas is providing a loose enough structure to allow your mind to wander, to write in such a way that the most important ideas and stories naturally rise to the fore. However, these organic stories will fall flat without an overarching structure, and as such the outline should evolve gradually as the stories are added, revised, and finalized.
I’ll spend some time over the coming weeks delving into the specifics of each step in writing a nonfiction chapter.