3 Rules for Writing without Stress: Simplifying the process of writing a purpose-driven nonfiction book

The more we care about a topic, the harder it is to write about.

We want to do our very best when putting deeply held values down on the page. We write and rewrite, and rewrite again — wondering if we’re ever going to get it right.

And after a while, every word starts sounding wrong.

My writer-friend Adam De Gree wrote me yesterday,

“The weight of my worldview presses down on each sentence until every phrase seems puny and inadequate. I feel I’ve lost contact with the world my readers inhabit. Will anyone understand, or does this make sense only to me?”

Yes, writing is an emotional, often daunting experience. But there are concrete steps we can take to reduce the burden.

Sometimes, It’s Simple. Why?

Writing for business clients often seems easier — the text flows out of us much faster. There’s a different kind of pressure involved when we’re trying to sell a product than when we defend our inner beliefs.

So, what’s the difference?

We approach commercial writing strategically, applying the tried-and-true rules for web copy or content writing. Yet, for some reason, when writing about our own experiences or ideas, all those rules go out the window. We start wallowing in profundities.

We need to clear our minds.

Using the Right Framework: Simplifying the Complex

No matter what we want to share, we must approach even the most poignant topics with a strategic framework.

Make sure you:

1.      Formulate a theme statement (or thesis)

One sentence to describe your entire argument or story. If you need much more, your story isn’t focused, and you’re asking for trouble.

2.      Create an outline

One sentence or phrase for each point you want to make. Put them into a logical and consistent outline.

3.      Find other people for feedback

They’ll tell you if things are unclear.

Theme Statement or Thesis for Your Book

Your thesis or theme statement is the most important part of your writing strategy. Without a clear-cut statement of what your book is about, your writing will be all over the place.

Theme statements are one-sentence descriptions that summarize what you want to say. Preferably, they show causality and the deeper meaning behind the story. You can create a theme statement using this formula as a basis:

Something — Transitive verb — Something

For example, the theme statement for this section is:

Creating outlines accelerates your writing process.

Theses are similar to theme statements but are more aimed at proving a conclusion.

For example:

Authors who create a theme statement before drafting spend less time fixing their work than those who don’t use one, and live less stressed and more satisfactory lives.

Tersely stating your main idea will help you stay focused, and that reduces stress.

Outline Your Book

Outlines are crucial to nonfiction writing. They help writers think their ideas through before they set out to write, which relieves anxiety because you’ll know what to say.

The most common way of outlining is using roman numerals for parts, capitals for chapters, numbers for subheadings, and lowercase letters for subsubheadings. Make sure that all levels are consistent throughout your outline.

For narratives, you could outline using a narrative arc. Draw a broad arc and write the scenes along its spine. This makes your story structure visible and helps you see the tension build. I recommend using this as an additional tool and not instead of a regular outline.

Though composing outlines can feel like a chore, they save writers dozens of hours revising and restructuring. Wouldn’t you rather use those hours developing new ideas—or spending time with family?

To learn more about outlines and theme statements, watch the first video of my free course (subscribe below).


Every author needs a community of skilled writers and editors who can give them feedback on their work.

This feedback serves three purposes:

First, it reassures us that our writing is relatable and we haven’t “lost touch.”

Second, it reminds us to put the readers first.

And third, it helps you catch embarrassing errors before anyone else can.

Where Can You Find Your Writing Community?

Your community may be at your workplace, church, or volunteer group. You can also use LinkedIn or Facebook to connect with other writers or editors and build relationships.

The friend I quoted above is a writer I worked with for a web copy agency. Now, we’re sharpening each other’s writing brains.

Editing and Coaching

If you’re stuck with any of these steps, I’d love to help you.

Book a discovery call or email me, and we’ll organize a one-on-one coaching session.

Or we can look at your manuscript together and see what it needs.

Have a great day!

Niels C. Kwakernaak

Enjoyed this blog?

Have a look at my other posts. And if you need help finishing your story, let’s chat.

3 Rules for Writing without Stress: Simplifying the process of writing a purpose-driven nonfiction book

Niels Kwakernaak

Nonfiction Editor

Thanks for your interest in my experience and ideas. I write these blogs to help you overcome the hurdles of being a writer.

Would you like some one-on-one input? I’d love to help you develop your stories.

Connect with me via LinkedIn or my contactform.

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