How to save time and frustration when writing non-fiction
From managing teams of researchers to keeping tax records, there’s a lot involved in writing non-fiction books, and this author shares the system he’s developed over the years to save time and frustration.
by David D. Schein
The main focus of my writing life has been non-fiction. This requires either an autobiography or extensive research. If the author has lived it, often the words just fall out onto the page. However, even for this format, dates and events may have faded from memory and research will still be required. Having produced two books, over twenty journal articles, and numerous newsletters and commercial articles, my objective is to be strictly factual.
Due to my personal schedule as a full-time faculty member and part-time consultant, it would take years that I do not have to produce each article and book. So I work with researchers for most writing projects. Each researcher signs an independent contractor agreement that contains a “work for hire” clause to be clear that all the work is part of my personal copyright. Most researchers need a training period, so an investment of time is still required. My researchers are college seniors and graduate or law students, although a few have continued to help after they graduate. For significant help on an important work, I include thanks for those researchers in the printed work.
An important caution is that these researchers need to be paid, and if you hope to deduct the cost of these workers, great records must be maintained. Further, per IRS regulations, if any make $600 in a year or more, they will need to be provided a 1099 form. Writers can check with their accountants for more information.
My strict practice is to read everything my researchers provide to me and to verify the citations. A bad quote or citation can ruin an otherwise excellent work.
Having produced two books, over twenty journal articles, and numerous newsletters and commercial articles, my objective is to be strictly factual.
It is also important to have a system for tracking all the research done for each work. This sounds like it is a tedious process, but it becomes second nature after a while. This also allows going back to the research as a book or article works through an editorial process. If the author cannot revisit the research being cited, a lot of time can be wasted re-researching something that has already been completed.
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Using facts means providing citations in the work being produced. I use APA 7 for most of my works. The exceptions are my law review articles, which require an old system referred to as Harvard Bluebook.
Non-fiction writing is not all about journal articles and serious books. I have a one-act play in a contest, “Crazy Dottie,” which is fiction based on fact. In addition, I am wrapping up work on my first musical revue. The revue, “Novel-T,” is based on popular novelty songs of the fifties through the seventies, and requires the same type of research that my other articles require. The main difference is professional formatting, and there is additional research required to learn the formatting for each type of dramatic production.
Like some other authors, I have multiple writing projects in process at any one time. This usually involves separate researchers each working on a specific writing project of mine. In the case of new concepts, I will set up a subdirectory on my computer and start adding things to each folder, sometimes years before the project is front and center with a projected publication date. Right now, I have plans to begin this fall on a major revision of my first book, Decline of America: 100 Years of Leadership Failures. I will be producing an audio book of my current book, Bad Deal for America. And, I plan to start on a TV series and a new book.
Other than that, I have nothing to do!
Dr. David Schein is the bestselling author of Bad Deal for America (2022) and The Decline of America: 100 Years of Leadership Failures (2018). He is also an international speaker, tenured professor, attorney, HR consultant, and president of Claremont Management Group, Inc.
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