Five tips for writing non-fiction

There are surely no rules. But in the middle of a challenging but thoroughly enjoyable process of writing my next book, here’s what is working out for me:
1)    Get up early. I’m up at 6am every day, including weekends, to work on the book. Perhaps if I didn’t have other commitments – radio, newspaper column, blog, children – I’d be able to stay in bed later.
2)    Read people whose ideas or research you understand value. Read lots. Take notes.
3)    Read people whose prose style you admire and ask yourself why. These are rarely the same people as mentioned in (2), by the way.
4)    Keep the momentum going. At the moment, having done much of my research, I’m trying to do 300 words every day as a minimum. This low target means that no matter what other commitments I have, I have no excuse not to skim through what I wrote yesterday and add to it. This keeps morale high. It also means that when I can devote a full day to writing, I don’t have to spend hours reminding myself what I was thinking.
5)    Write quickly but expect to do lots of rewriting. I think there’s a virtuous spiral: quick writing means you can let go of earlier drafts that aren’t working. Slow writing puts you under pressure to get things right first time. That doesn’t work for me.

Note that while writing my previous books I did not follow all this advice. Any guesses at to which tips I have consistently followed and which are new? Anyone else have their own suggestions? Comments are open.

Tim Harford’s blog

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Tim, also known as the Undercover Economist, writes about the economics of everyday life.