Research How-To…and Why

[found on; by  ]

“I’m going to talk about research. No, research is not very fun, and it’s never glamorous, but it matters. A lot.

If you want to be able to make compelling case for something — whether it’s in a book, on a blog, or in a multi-million dollar VC pitch — you need stories that frame your arguments, rich anecdotes to compliment tangible examples, and impressive data so you can empirically crush counter arguments.

But good research doesn’t just magically appear. Stories, anecdotes and data have to be found before you can use them.

You have to hunt them down like a shark, chasing the scent of blood across the vast ocean of information. The bad news is that this is an unenviable task … but the good news is that it’s not impossible.

It’s not even that hard … once you learn what you’re doing — and I’m going to teach you those skills.

By the time I was 21, my research had been used by #1 New York Times Bestselling authors like Robert Greene, Tim Ferriss, and Tucker Max. Was I a slave to study? Did I have to become a library hermit to accomplish this? No, I did it all in my spare time–on the side, with just a few hours of work a week.

Here’s how I did it …

Step 1: Prepare long before gameday [sic]

…This is the mark you must aim for as a researcher, to not only have enough material — and to know where the rest of what you haven’t read will be located — on hand to do your work….

Step 2: Learn to search (Google) like a pro

…How do you find a needle in haystack? Get rid of the extra hay….

Step 3: Go down the rabbit hole (embrace serendipity)

…One of my rules as a reader is to read one book mentioned in or cited in every book that I read. It not only solves the problem of ‘what to read next’ but it sends you on a journey down the rabbit hole….

Step 4: When in doubt, turn to the classics

…The Classics are “classic” for a reason. They’ve survived the test of time….

Step 5: Keep a commonplace book

…a book of quotes, sentences, metaphors and  miscellany that he could use at a moment’s notice….”

To read the entire article from , click here.

[found on]

Two Words? Oops, One Word

[found on; by Bonnie Trenga Mills]

“Do you want to get ahead (one word) or are you cooking an esoteric dish and want to get a head (two words)? That one little space can make a big difference in meaning: Either you are moving past others in business or you are purchasing a skull…..

When it comes to pairs such as “apart” with no space and “a part” with a space, the spelling doesn’t matter when you’re talking; both sound the same. When you write the words, however, you might forget to add a space, or you might add an unnecessary one. This problem crops up with all kinds of words, but in this episode we’re focusing on words beginning with the letter “a.”

Words That Start With “A”

Here’s a short list of pairs like “ahead” and “a head”: “alight” and “a light,” “abuzz” and “a buzz,” “apart” and “a part,” and, lastly, “ahold” and “a hold.” As you can see from this list, the one-worders beginning with “a” can be various parts of speech: “ahead” is an adverb, “alight” is a verb,” and “abuzz” is an adjective. The two-worders, on the other hand, consist of an article—the word “a”—and a noun: “light,” “buzz,” “part,” and “hold.” True, these words can sometimes be verbs, but when something follows the article “a,” it’s a noun (unless something such as an adjective comes between the article and the noun, as in “a delicious cake”).

“Alight” Versus “A Light”

Let’s see these four pairs in action. The first two—“alight”/“a light” and “abuzz”/“a buzz”—are the easy ones. You could say, “That annoying bee wants to alight on my nose.” This means the bee wants to land on your nose, and there’s no space in “alight.” If you say, “He turned on a light”—with a space—that means he was no longer enveloped in darkness.

“Abuzz” Versus “A Buzz”

In keeping with the bee theme, here’s our next example: “I heard a buzz.” A quick test for those listening: Is there a space or not? Well, yes, there is! “A buzz” with a space means “a buzzing noise.” “Abuzz” with no space is an adjective that means alive with activity, as in “The room became abuzz when the grammarian entered.”

To read the entire article from Grammar Girl, click here.

[found on]

Die Not, My Adverb—Overwhelm Not

[found on; by Maddie Crum]

In Defense of Adverbs

“Like like and other filler words, certain adverbs have saturated our speech and our writing, making once-meaningful phrases seem totally vapid. The idea that adverbs are just extraneous fluff has led to a smear campaign against them, and it’s become common to suggest axing the part of speech altogether in order to make writing more powerful. This forceful call for more forceful writing is misguided; adverbs can be phonetically pleasing, can imbue sentences with subtlety, and should not be entirely shunned.

First, a refresher: What does an adverb do? It tells us more about a verb. If a character is running from point A to point B, “he ran” is a description that doesn’t sufficiently set the scene. How did he run? Quickly? Scatteredly? “He ran quickly and scatteredly” is less powerful than “he scampered,” an adverbless sentence that conveys the same point more succinctly. And so, many writers have spoken vehemently against the use of adverbs.

This is unfortunate because when used well, adverbs serve an important purpose, and can enhance writing rather than detract from it.”

[found on]

Grand Opening—Or Nothing At All

[found on; by Orson Scott Card]

“If you mess up the opening, nothing you do later in the story will fix it. And because mistakes in the opening will reverberate through the rest of the story, when you finally do fix the opening you usually have to throw out and redo everything that you wrote after it. With rare exceptions, you simply have to get the opening right before you can go on.

But what is the “opening”? The first sentence? Having a good first sentence is nice, but it’s not the opening. By definition, the first sentence is in the first paragraph, and the first paragraph is free. That is, the first paragraph of a story does not have to be in the same voice or mood or tone as the rest of the work. The first paragraph is important for setting the scene, for giving vital information that allows what follows to make sense. But the real opening is after that first paragraph — when the story starts in earnest.”

For more amazing tips on writing from Uncle Orson’s Writing Class, click here.

[found on]

How To Manage Your Edits

“As an editor, I have heard horror stories about authors who didn’t know how to process the edits they received back from their editors. Instead of asking what to do with the Word document, [caution, you’re going to scream] some of the authors printed the full manuscript, compared item by item, then RETYPED the entire manuscript.

Don’t let this be you.

Firstly, your editor is on your TEAM. An editor wants you to succeed. And even though you may feel like we are all jackals, we don’t really bite. Ask us questions—especially when you feel overwhelmed or uncertain.”

— Billi Joy Carson / Senior Editor, Editing Addict

  EDITOR Sends Completed File Back to AUTHOR:


1. READ through document

2. CHOOSE FROM (to accept and/or reject changes)

a. Accept All Changes in Document

b. Accept and Move to Next

c. Reject All Changes in Document

d. Reject and Move to Next

3. SHORTCUT for authors

a. Save TWO* versions of the file you received from your editor.

i. File A [edits accepted]

1. In Word Doc, under REVIEW tab [File A]

2. Select Accept All Changes in Document [File A]

ii. File B [edits visible]

1. Leave the file the way you received from the editor

b. Read through File A side-by-side with File B

i. If you find an edit you don’t want

1. In File B

a. Under REVIEW tab [File B]

b. Select Reject and Move to Next [File B]

ii. When you are finished reading File A, and correcting File B,

1. In File B

a. Under REVIEW tab [File B]

b. Select Accept All Changes in Document [File B]

c. File B is now fully edited, and author approved

*At Editing Addict, I do this beforehand for my authors, however, not all editors have the [File A & File B] policy, and expect the author to do it on their end. How To Manage Your Edits

How to Accept and/or Reject Tracked Changes in a Word Document: YouTube Video

Still have questions? Leave a comment below, or send  a message to the editor: Teamwork brings success!

Which or That?

[found on; by Gary Kinder]

“The difference between “that” and “which” might be the most confounding piece of grammar in the English language, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s what you need to know: Grammarians call the words following a “that” or a “which” a “relative clause.” That relative clause either “restricts” (I like the word “distinguishes” better, but grammar texts have long called the word “that” “restrictive”) what it modifies, or it “does not restrict” what it modifies. The writer tells us which it is by the word he chooses to introduce the clause.

“That” at the beginning restricts; it means that the writer wants the relative clause to distinguish one thing from a universe of like things. “Which” at the beginning means the writer addresses only one thing, and he simply wants to add information.”

[found on]

Do You Have A Daily Writing Schedule?

[found on; by Kari]

“Successful writers write NO MATTER WHAT.” — Kelly Stone

“I’m not a self-schedule-oriented person. It’s far easier to stick to someone else’s schedule than your own. Self-discipline can be HARD.

So when James told me that I need a daily writing schedule, I balked.

I don’t want a schedule! I can’t guarantee where I’ll be at any single time. What if something else comes up? What if my child is home sick from school one day and I can’t write at my scheduled time? What if I’m not inspired at that time but get inspired later on?

Every excuse imaginable went through my head. I set a schedule anyways, just to be dutiful – I kept it for two days and then I quit.

James can’t be right all the time. What works for her may not work for me. Everyone does things differently, right? I need to find my own writing path…

Three months later, how much had I written? Well, let’s not talk specifics, but it wasn’t nearly as much as I’d wanted to achieve.

In fact, I was really embarrassed — even though no one knew about this but me.

I’m a writer, and a writer WRITES, but it’s pretty hard to believe you’re a writer when you lack proof to reinforce the claim.

Then James – damn her – sends me a book out of the blue. Ironically, it was Time to Write by Kelly Stone.

Sigh. FINE, I thought. I’ll read it.

Stone’s book discusses why writers need a writing schedule. They need to create a habit, and creating a writing habit means writing on a regular basis. By setting a particular time of day aside to write, you’ll practice your craft and reaffirm your belief that you are, indeed, a writer.

You reaffirm your commitment to yourself.

Stone says, “A schedule gives [writing] the same importance as your other must-do activities. Just like grocery shopping, picking up the kids from daycare, and putting in hours at your job, writing will become part of the natural flow of your day when you schedule it.”

My problem was that I wanted to wait for the “right time” to write. I waited to be inspired or to have “enough” time, a nebulous amount that changes depending on the situation. Occasionally I’d discover time to write, here or there, but instead of writing, I’d find myself staring at a blank page feeling like I’d forgotten the entire English language.

“Waiting for the right time to simply appear in your busy day is a guaranteed way to ensure that you won’t write because something else will come up… Suddenly it’ll be time for bed and you discover that another day has passed and you haven’t written.”

You said it, Kelly. Many nights I’d go to bed without having written at all that day, and I’d mentally beat myself up about it.

Fortunately, a little further in the book, Stone talks about how different authors use different types of writing schedules. She interviewed over 100 professional writers, from fiction authors to freelance journalists, to reveal their methods of incorporating writing into their lives.

What she discovered was that writers tend to choose one of these methods – which one fits you?

    • The Early-Morning Writer:  Rick Mofina, a crime novelist, considers writing in the early mornings a key to his success because his creativity was in top form. Waking up and writing before work was easier than writing after work, when he felt exhausted from his day.
    • The After-Hours Writer:  Carmen Green, author of Flirt and What a Fool Believes, begins after her job and childcare duties are over. She writes from about 7:30 to 10:00 pm and then gets ready for bed.
    • The Office Writer:  Novelist Steve Berry takes his laptop to work with him and writes before his co-workers arrive for the day. He also writes during scheduled lunch breaks and stays late at the office to write after his co-workers leave.
    • The Blitz Writer:  C. J. Lyons, author of Arrivals, says, “As a pediatrician I worked part-time, which was forty hours a week. Time to write was obviously scarce, so I would let my stories ‘ferment’ until I had a day off, and then the words would just flow.”
    • The Mini-blocks Writer:  Kathryn Lance, author of over fifty fiction and nonfiction books, balances her writing time and personal life in mini-blocks. “I used to write a minimum of one fiction sentence every night before going to bed. Or actually, before going to sleep — I did this in bed. I recommend that to people who just can’t find time to do their fiction.”
    • The Commuting Writer:  Rick Mofina also uses his commute time to help achieve his early morning writing goals, which is perfect for writers who use public transportation to and from work. “I use the commute to make notes, usually critical notes to myself, so I know where I’m going.”
    • The Any-Opportunity or Combo Writer:  Physician and bestselling novelist Tess Gerritsen wrote whenever she wasn’t on duty. “I would write on my lunch breaks, as well as after I got home. I’d write whenever I could — weekends, early mornings, and late nights. After I got home, as soon as the kids were put down for the night, I’d start writing.”

There were all types of writers! Inspired and repeating my new mantra (“successful writers write no matter what!”), I set up a schedule. A proper schedule I wanted to stick to. Finally.

Yeah, yeah, I know — James was right. Just don’t tell her I said that.

As a bonus, Time to Write also addresses problems that different writers have in sticking to their writing schedules, providing solutions and practical advice that work.

From needing more motivation to actually sitting down at your scheduled time to the issues that prevent you from being able to write in the first place (writer’s block) to gleaning inspiration from your daily life, she’s got it all covered, with backup: published authors who’ve lived through that exact situation attest to each solution. That way, you know that it works – and if it worked for someone else, it can work for you.

Now that I have a proper schedule, with clear goals, I accomplish far more each day than ever before. I’m not leaving my writing up to chance.

And my writing schedule is set in stone. I don’t schedule anything in that time because I need to build respect for my writing.

I’ve made my writing goals fairly easy to achieve, of course. That way, I can reach my daily goal quickly and then either stop or continue a little further. But I fully intend to change up my goals and make them more challenging as I build my writing habit and become comfortable with it.

One other thing James keeps reminding me — and yes, she’s definitely right on this one — is that my writing time needs to end on a positive note. If I’m exhausted at the end of my writing time stopped writing because I was stuck or ended thinking, “Well, that wasn’t great,” then at some point writing will become a chore. I’m simply not going to want to do it anymore.

By ending on an upbeat note, I feel good about what I’ve just achieved and look forward to writing the next day. It makes it a breeze.

What about you? Do you have a writing schedule you follow on a daily basis? How do you stay motivated to write consistently every day? What advice worked best for you when you started to incorporate writing into your daily schedule?”

[found on]

Rejected Before Fame

[found on; by Gary Smailes]

“The list of famous writers who were rejected is long. Rejection and writing go hand-in-hand, but sometimes it feels that those pesky publishers simply don’t know what they are talking about.

We all know that quality of writing isn’t the only reason for reaction. Perhaps your book is not a good fit for the publisher, or the agent is looking for something ‘different’ or your work has just been misunderstood. Yet, no matter what the reason those rejection letters still sting!

Here’s eleven famous writers who were rejected and show that writers might just be right after all…

    1. Madeline L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle in Time, was turned down 29 times before she found a publisher.
    2. C.S. Lewis received over 800 rejections before he sold a single piece of writing.
    3. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was rejected by 25 publishers.
    4. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected 121 times.
    5. Johathan Livingston Seagull was rejected 40 times.
    6. Louis L’Amour was rejected over 200 times before he sold any of his writing.
    7. The San Francisco Examiner turned down Rudyard Kipling’s submission in 1889 with the note, “I am sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just do not know how to use the English language.”
    8. An editor once told F. Scott Fitzgerald, “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby Character.”
    9. The Dr. Seuss book, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was rejected for being “too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant selling.”
    10. George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected with the comment, “It’s impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”
    11. The manuscript for The Diary of Anne Frank received the editorial comment, “This girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity level.”

I hope that these famous writers who were rejected will give you a little bit of hope on those dark rejection letter days!”

[found on]

Avoid Plagiarism…Like A Plague

Although this article was written specifically for students, the professional world can gain great insights from the tools and tips suggested.

[found on]

“The best way to avoid plagiarism is to understand what it is. Then take steps to avoid committing either accidental or intentional plagiarism. Before we define plagiarism, however, there are three other terms that we need to define—quotationparaphrase, andsummary.

Quotation: A quotation must use the exact words of the source. If the quotation is relatively short (usually fewer than 3 lines or 40 words), those words must be enclosed in quotation marks. For instance,

    • As Steven Strang points out, “Contrary to some popular notions, most writers do not have full-blown ideas popping out of their heads like Athena” (48).
    • Notice that the quotation is introduced (“As Steven Strang points out”), that the exact words are enclosed in quotation marks, and that the page number is given (using, in this case, the MLA style).
    • At the end of the paper, there would be a bibliographical entry that would give the author, the title of the source, the publisher, date of publication, etc.)

Longer quotations are given in block quotations (see the quotations from Ed White and john Edlund later on in this entry).

Paraphrase: To paraphrase is to put the ideas in a passage into our own words, usually following the order in which the ideas were presented in the original. All major ideas are included. Usually a paraphrase is a bit shorter than the original, but when terms or concepts have to be defined, a paraphrase might actually be longer. Any paraphrase requires the same kind of citation as an exact quotation.

There are only three good reasons for paraphrasing:

    1. Translating technical material into simpler language for a lay audience
    2. Paraphrasing because a professor has explicitly requested that you do so
    3. “Translating” a poem into simpler language so that we can understand where the ambiguities lie (and this type of paraphrase rarely makes it into our papers)

Summary: A summary puts the major idea(s) of a passage into our own words and significantly shortens it. Once again, you must attribute the ideas to the original source.

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the use of someone else’s ideas or language without acknowledging that they were not created by you. This definition applies to ideas, words and unusual structures regardless of where you find them—in a book, on a webpage, in an email. Whenever you include another person’s information or wording in a document, you must acknowledge the source and include a citation that will tell your readers where you obtained it—otherwise you are guilty of plagiarism.

Plagiarism is sometimes seen as intellectual theft–plagiarism.

Accidental Plagiarism

 Accidental plagiarism usually occurs because we do not understand the cultural conventions of academic writing and citation. In most western countries, and certainly in the United States, there is a very real sense that writers own their ideas and the words they use to express those ideas. As John R. Edlund explains in “What Is ‘Plagiarism’ and Why Do People Do It?”:

There are two important factors that must be understood in order to understand American concepts of plagiarism. First, in the English-speaking world, people believe that ideas and written expressions of ideas can be owned. When an author writes down a particular set of words and phrases expressing a specific idea, this author in effect owns those words and that idea. Therefore to use these words without giving the author credit is to steal them. This is very different, for example, from the Chinese idea that words and ideas belong to the culture and the society and should be shared by all individuals (Myers 11). Second, Americans believe that writing is a visible, concrete demonstration of a writer’s knowledge, insight, and academic skill. Thus, to represent another person’s writing as your own is to misrepresent your own accomplishments. This is a type of fraud or deception.  [Italics and boldface added] (14 Jan. 2004).

Cultural Confusion: In other words, there are many cultural differences in the way people use the ideas and language of others. In the United States, plagiarism is a serious offense. So, in spite of what your own home culture says and feels about the use of others’ ideas, the old advice—“when in Rome, do as the Romans do”—applies to the use of sources—“when in the United States (and several other western countries), cite sources.”

And if you are in doubt, always ask your professor, your TAS, or the lecturers in the Writing and Communication Center for guidance.

Difficult Concepts: In addition to cultural confusion, at times we slide into plagiarism when we are dealing with concepts that we simply do not understand, and it seems that the best way to convey those ideas to our readers is simply to use the words of the original author. If we quote those words and cite the source, we have taken a significant step in avoiding plagiarism. But, unless we actively engage with the ideas themselves (e.g., paraphrasing them in our own words after the quotation, summarizing them, or, better still, arguing or supporting them with our own ideas and evidence), we have not successfully mastered those ideas (but at least we have not committed plagiarism).

Botched Paraphrasing:  Paraphrasing is the process of turning a source passage into our own words. It is another way that we can unintentionally slip into plagiarism because we end up using large chunks of phrasing from the original or using the ideas without proper citation.

In any event, even if the plagiarism is unintentional, the consequences can still be very painful.

Consequences of Plagiarizing

Plagiarism in the academic world can lead to everything from failure for the course to expulsion from the college or university.

Plagiarism in the professional world can lead to, at the very least, profound embarrassment and loss of reputation and, often, to loss of employment. Famous cases of plagiarism include the historian Stephen Ambrose (accusations about six of his books have been made, most famously about The Wild Blue) and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (who ended up asking the publisher to destroy all unsold copies of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys). Such plagiarism is often accidental, but its consequences are the same as for intentional plagiarism.

Avoid Plagiarizing by Citing Sources

There are five basic rules regarding the use of information in professional and in academic writing:

      1. If you use the language of your source, you must quote it exactly, enclose it in quotation marks, and cite the source.
      2. If you use ideas or information that are not common knowledge, you must cite the source.
      3. If you didn’t invent it, cite the source.
      4. Unless your professor explicitly tells you to paraphrase, don’t paraphrase.
      5. When in doubt, cite the source. Doing so can only enhance your readers sense of your honesty.

Reasons to Avoid Intentional Plagiarism

 There are numerous reasons why people plagiarize (e.g., not having enough time to think about and write the paper, wanting to get a better grade, feeling that the course is irrelevant to their career plans and hence not worth their time or effort, insecurity about their own writing ability, struggles with a second language).

But there are better reasons for not plagiarizing.

      1. If you do have writing problems, identifying them early will give you plenty of opportunity to improve your skills (e.g., working closely with the lecturers in the Writing and Communication Center).
      2. You will engage with the ideas and thus deepen your own critical thinking and writing skills.
      3. You will add authority to what you write by citing sources.
      4. You will learn to question all ideas. Simply using the ideas of others prevents us from questioning or judging ideas, and this approach can lead to a willingness to accept ideas without question (a profoundly dangerous thing to do in any profession or society).
      5. Without struggling to understand, interpret, and argue with ideas, your own ideas never develop fully, and you will tend to see issues superficially (again, a profoundly dangerous thing in any profession and in any society).
      6. You will learn to voice your own ideas.
      7. You will avoid the penalties of plagiarism if you get caught.

Advantages to Citing Sources

    1. You allow your readers to locate the sources of your information in case they want to pursue it in their own research. After all, in the academic and professional worlds, your research becomes part of the ongoing intellectual conversation about ideas. We all stand on the shoulders of earlier researchers, and we all hope that others will stand upon our shoulders in the future.
      1. An obvious illustration of this standing-on-the-shoulders-of-others is found in technical and scientific writing. Procedures and methods sections of technical and scientific articles and laboratory reports provide readers with information sufficient to replicate both the method and data described in the document. That information is provided not only so that our results can be verified but also so that others might refine our methods or build upon them to make even more discoveries.
      2. For documents in any field, quotations provide evidence for our assertions and ideas for us to argue against. Citations show our willingness to have our interpretations of those other works verified.
      3. For longer papers in other fields, literature reviews provide the intellectual context for understanding our contribution to that ongoing conversation about ideas.
    2. Your ethos (your credibility) is profoundly enhanced when you cite your sources. Doing so proves that you are well informed about the topic and that your work can be trusted to be accurate. Doing so also proves that you are honest.
    3. As pointed out by scholar Ed White,

“Every writer has his or her own intellectual identity, though most ideas inevitably come from outside sources. A responsible use of sources recognizes that identity and distinguishes clearly between what you think and what the sources think. It is no sin to accept another person’s idea…. But you must interpose yourself between the sources and your writing, thus making other peoples’ ideas your own through a process of critical scrutiny.”—Ed White and Lynn Bloom (qtd. in an email from Ed White, citing the book he and Bloom edited, Inquiry, Prentice Hall, 1993, p. 445).

Types of Plagiarism

    1. Turning in someone else’s work as your own—e.g., a friend’s paper, a paper from a fraternity collection, a paper copied from the Web, or a paper purchased from one of those online paper mills.
      1. It’s crucial to remember that having permission to use something or having purchased something does not make it your creation.
      2. For instance, I own my car. I bought it and it is now fully paid for. But I would be lying if I said I made my car. The same is true for a paper purchased or borrowed from someone.
    2. Creating the patch-quilt or “pastiche” paper—cobbling together paragraphs and ideas taken from different sources.
      1. Although “research” was required to find the paragraphs and ideas, our active engagement with those ideas is missing
      2. If sources are cited, then what we have is “research notes” rather than our own paper.
      3. If the sources are not cited, then plagiarism and fraud are in the writer’s claim that the words, phrasings, and ideas are his/her own.
      4. Ed White’s quotation above explains the difference between a research paper and a patch-quilt paper (although he does not use those terms).”
[found on]

Nine Things You Need to Know Before You Write Your Non-Fiction Book

[found on the; by JOANNA PENN on JUNE 5, 2012]

“I started with writing non-fiction and it really did change my life. I’m actually working on rewriting my first book at the moment and I also devour non-fiction books so it definitely remains important to me. In this guest post Nina Amir, author of ‘How to Blog a Book’ poses some provoking questions that anyone embarking on writing a non-fiction book should ask themselves. 

Inspiration hits. The light bulb goes on. You’ve got a passion, and you pursue it. You see a need, and you fill it. There’s a question, and you answer it. You have a purpose, and you fulfill it.

These are all great reasons to begin writing a nonfiction book. And most writers, when struck by a good idea and the desire to write, simply begin writing. However, an even better reason exists to take a bit of time before you beginning writing to evaluate your idea—at least if you want your book to be successful.

Evaluate? I can hear you groaning. No one wants to evaluate anything, especially that book idea you are so psyched about.

If you simply want to write the book of your heart and you don’t care how many copies you sell, great. Go for it.

If you want to write a successful book, meaning one that sells to lots of readers or to a traditional publisher and to lots of readers, however, it behooves you to take the time to consider if your idea is a good one by industry standards.

To do this, I suggest you discover nine things about your book idea. Once you have this information, you’ll know if your book has a chance of success.

1. What Your Book Will be About and Why Would Someone Would Want to Read (Buy) It

You’d be amazed at how many writers cannot tell you in 50 words or less, or in 30 seconds or less, what their book is about. They also may not be able to list the benefits their book will provide to readers. Before beginning to write your nonfiction book, hone your topic and its angle. Figure out why someone would want to read your book rather than someone else’s book on the same topic. Write a pitch or elevator speech, a short statement that describes the essence of your book, and follow it with some bulleted points—the added value readers will take away from its pages. Think of this exercise like writing back cover copy. What might you say or write about your book that would make someone carry it to the register?

2. Who Wants to Read Your Book

Make sure you know your average reader—that one person you are writing for—as well as the size of your book’s market. Who wants to read your book, and where do you find them? How many of these people exist in the world? Are there enough of them to justify writing your book? This market research tells you if anyone is out there to read (buy) your book and helps you know for whom who you are writing.

3. Whether Your Book Will be Unique and Necessary

Make sure the book you plan on adding to the mix is not only unique compared to the other books in your niche or category but also necessary before you add one more title to the staggering number of books in print. Take a good hard look at what other authors have already written and published. Is what you want to write different—different enough to make someone purchase your book rather than an established title or a book by an established author? And is there a need for another book on the subject? If no books have been written on the subject, why? Is there a need for even one book on the topic?

4. If You Have Enough Content to Fill a Book

Sometimes writers think they have enough material for a book when really they only have enough for an article, or a couple of articles. Or they think they know what content they are going to include in the book, but when they finish the first draft, they discover they produced a manuscript that is scattered, rambling, misses the point, or leaves out essential information. Avoid these problems by mapping out your content first. Actually do a mind mapping exercise, which entails brainstorming while creating a large diagram of all your possible content and then organizing all these ideas into a table of contents or an outline. When you are done with this process you’ll know if you have enough content to fill a book, and you’ll know what content you plan to include in the pages of that book.

5. How You Would Describe Your Book’s Content

Bring your book to life with a short synopsis for each chapter. This accomplishes two things. First, when you couple this chapter-by-chapter synopsis with your table of contents, your pitch and list of benefits, you will have the best writing guide possible. Second, when you have finished the synopsis of all your chapters, and you have completed the previous four steps, you will suddenly have a clear picture of your book and feel ready to write your book. Why? Because it will seem real to you. If you can see it and it seems real, if your idea stood up to all the prior steps, it’s likely a viable book.

6. How You Will Ensure You and Your Book Succeed

Whether you self-publish or land a traditional publishing deal, you will need to promote your book. And promotion does not begin after the book lands in your hands as a finished product. It begins the moment that light bulb goes off in your head. Spend some time considering all the options you have to build awareness for yourself and your book as you begin the writing process as well as after you launch the book.

7. Why You Are the Best Person to Write This Book

Most nonfiction books are written by experts. Decide if you are the expert on your topic, how you will become the expert, or if you might need to bring in other experts (maybe a co-author, contributors or experts to interview). Also, does writing this book fulfill a sense of mission for you? If so, you might want to consider how to get that message across in the book and in your promotional efforts. Plus, in this step, it’s important to ask yourself if you have what’s called an “author’s platform.” Do you have a fan base or a large, loyal following of people who know you in relationship to the topic about which you plan to write? If not, you need to consider how you will begin building that built-in readership for your book.

8. If This is the Only Book You Will Write on This Topic

The more books you write, the more books you sell. That’s why it’s a good idea to spend a moment brainstorming other “spin-off” books on your topic. This is especially important if you want to create a business around your book or attract a traditional publisher. As an expert author, if you have more books, you can create more products and services to sell to readers. And publishers like to take on multiple-book authors.

9. How You Want to Publish Your Book

At this point, if you decided your book is marketable and has a chance of succeeding, you can begin writing your book—with one caveat. You need to know what publishing route you plan to take. If you plan on self-publishing, you can go ahead and write the whole book. If you plan on approaching traditional publishers, you only need to write 25-30 pages, or about two chapters, but you also need to write a book proposal, which includes all the information you just compiled. You then will submit the proposal to agents and publishers

Armed with this information, and assuming you discovered your idea is a viable one, you’re ready to take action on your inspiration. Turn your idea into a successful book.”

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