I need help. Or at least commiseration.

I’ve been trying to write a nonfiction book for what seems like forever. I began with one book, then, as I processed through the research, I decided I had two books, after a lot more work, I broke it into three, which is where it seems to be resting.]

I’m trying to outline book 1. I have a ton of research, far too much. I have (after you don’t want to know how many hours and weeks of work) a narrative outline that I think will get me where I want to go, let me say what I want to say, etc. Now, I’m plowing through the research, trying to fit it into the outline. My plan is that once I’ve finished putting the research into the outline, to write a rough (emphasis rough, as in blast through it on my Alphasmart and never re-read or re-think until it’s done) draft.

Now, I’m drowning in the research. I spent a lot of time a few months ago, organizing it into a narrative of its own. It’s not a hodgepodge. But there is so much of it.

As of today, this very afternoon, right this minute, I am wondering why I am doing this to myself. What demented demon inspired me to think I could write – that I’m smart enough, eloquent enough, brave enough to do this? All this lostness makes my real job (which is competitive, mean and nasty) seem like a cozy nest of sorts. At least I know what I’m doing when I’m there. With this book, I’m like a blind woman in a cave trying to inch my way to the surface.

Is there a better way? Or do I just have to slog on?

I’ve just ordered a copy of ‘Strunk&White’s Elements of Style’. Why? So I can put it next to, ‘KING ON WRITING’, on the shelf above the computer on which I’m writing this post. Well…not exactly.

I won’t put it on the shelf, until I’ve read it. It’s been a long time coming, but even I have to bow to reality sooner or later. There’s no point throwing the rule book out the window, if your don’t know the rules in the first place.

Before you start to bend the rules, you have to master them. In short…I need to know what the hell I should be doing and why. Generally speaking, I imagine there are innumerable, ‘right ways’, of doing things. It’s handy if we know a few of them, before we embark on this or that endeavour.

Which leads me to the question. Do you know what you’re doing? Did you set out, armed with a list of the, do’s ‘n’ don’t’s ( if such a thing exists), for compiling, collecting and collating relevant data/material. Have you done anything like it before. I should imagine there is a, ‘Strunk and White, type, Quick Guide to…

Your post reminds me of our buddy, Zoe (mollys mum).

Maybe you need to get the chain saw out and thin out the stuff you’ve collected, or, go back to square one. You have a database to work with. Don’t do anymore research. Or have you become a process/research junkie?

I don’t suppose I’ve been much help to you. If it comes to it, do what Zoe does, at times like this, get a few of these down y’ :wink: 8)
Zoe's fix.jpg

do i know what i’m doing???


have i done anything like this before???


have i become a process/research junkie???

i dunno.

i started out just tossing things into devonthink. then, when i realized it was a mountain, i turned to process as a way of making use of it. that’s been my way with other projects; organize it until i’ve got it in do-able chunks that i CAN process.

do i need to sort the flab from the muscle in all this research???


that’s what i’m attempting by trying to put it into the outline; winnow through it, pull out what’s useful, toss the rest. of course, this means REALLY winnowing it since i may need a few lines from a whole report, and THAT means a trip to bookends, as well as … i dunno, all sorts of stuff. this is nonfiction, and it’s controversial. IF i get it written, and IF anybody reads it, it will be attacked. i don’t mind that, but i want to make sure that i at least have my facts lined up.

my process, such as it is, (maybe i should say my “plan”) has been to (1) research (2) organize research roughly (3) outline the book (4) pull research into the outline (5) write a rough draft lickety split with my internal editor’s mouth taped shut (6) revise/rework/etc (7) send the d----d thing out for comments.

i’m on the pull-research-into-the-outline step and i’m daunted. it reminds me of the last time i moved. there came a point in the sorting/packing/unpacking where i wanted to pour gasoline on all my treasures and flip a lighted match onto the pile. i have no idea if the way i’m approaching this book is a good plan, a bad plan or the scaredy-cat fantasy of a writer wannabe.

that’s my problem, mr vic. i’m having to make this up as i go along. i am literally inventing the process as i have need of it.

i DO know that if i just sat down and started writing, i would grind to a halt after about 3 chapters. been there. done that.

we have a saying in these parts: “not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” well … i’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. i am writing these books mostly by refusing to quit. that’s my real plan: don’t quit. if someone who IS one of the sharper knives in the drawer could give me ideas for how its done by those who do it, i would be sooooo grateful.

i think my outline has legs, and i’m up to my earlobes with research to support it. i’m not afraid of the narrative; it’s singing in my head all day, every day. so yes, what i need is process; better, more efficient and usable process.

your suggestion via zoe has great merit. in fact it may be the first useful idea i’ve seen all day. however, i’m more a rum drinker myself.

Y’s ‘ave a lot on y’ plate there gal! :open_mouth: I dunno! :confused:
Best empty this. It’ll help you assay the mother load of info/data. Probably see things from multiple perspectives [size=50](all at once)[/size]
Pusser's Nelson's Blood Flagon.jpg

From the vantage point of the tail end of my thesis (so close to the end it hurts) here a couple of tips that have helped me. The most helpful thing was to just write. For me, that meant setting a small daily word target and just bashing out those words until daily target was reached. The other thing was to let go of the detail. I keep rediscovering that there is always more research to do - another article I haven’t read, a new book that’s just been released, someone’s thesis, something. Always. Research is never done. So stop doing it and write up what you already have. You may find, as you write, that you need to revisit your research. Excellent! That is the time to do some rereading. There may be times when you need to track down something new. Excellent! That is the time when you can chase your researcher’s tail. But then, as soon as you have found what you are looking for, write about it.

For me, this has resulted in a hodge podge, higgledy piggledy, round-about and messy process. I’d write some of Chapter 1, then a bit of Chapter 7, then add a section to Chapter 4, then revisit some of the literature before writing part of Chapter 8. Partly this was a way of coping with health concerns, but mostly it was a way of overcoming the daunting prospect of writing a book length document on something that had never been investigated. Either way, the thesis is written. Along the way I have discovered that much of the literature research I did prior to writing was unnecessary (and then subsequently discovered that some that was actually helpful after all). Once the ideas are constructed as sentences and paragraphs, things make more sense.

This is by no means how I envisioned writing. I started a process very similar to the one you described. It was neat. Ordered. Structured. My supervisors liked it and it made sense. It also scared the crap out of me and didn’t work. Hence the messy, but functional, process described above.

In short, just try writing and see what happens…

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It’s very hard to talk about a piece of writing in the abstract.
Knowing the content would give us a better idea of what form it might take.
But since that’s awkward to express here, you might try asking these questions:

What’s the absolute core of my subject? (Say it in 3 sentences, no more.)
Who is my audience, and why?
Am I trying to prove something or make a case for a point of view?
Do I have an argument? What are its major steps?
Am I telling a story? What are its characters, events, scenes?
What do I know and not know about the subject? (again, be brief)

Sometimes that self-quiz will shake loose a plan for writing, maybe an outline.
The problem right now is that you are much too close to the process.
You need to imagine the product that will come forth.
It may help to ask a trusted but impartial mentor to give advice.
Good luck…we have ALL been there!

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Ms rebecca,
I was wondering, if perchance you have a bee in your bonnet about something or other? Bees in ones’ bonnets, tend to blunt ones’ objectivity.

You describe you project as though it were a contentious topic, with its detractors all ready in place, just waiting for its publication.

In seeking to defend your opinion, obviously you will root out evidence in support and qualification of it. A dogged determination to be proved right, so to speak. Is there a possibility that our quest for substantiating evidence has uncovered evidence to the contrary, coscequently, re enforcing our determination to seek out even more evidence in reaffirmation of our entrenched POV.

Mr druid, wisely recomends you ask yourself:

“What’s the absolute core of my subject? (Say it in 3 sentences, no more.)
Who is my audience, and why?
Am I trying to prove something or make a case for a point of view?
Do I have an argument? What are its major steps?
Am I telling a story? What are its characters, events, scenes?
What do I know and not know about the subject? (again, be brief)”

I would add only one more to his list: Why am I doing it at all?

Another valid point druid makes, is, you are too close to it.

I doubt whether, da Vinci, completed, La Gioconda, without occasionally stepping back from the canvas.

Maybe leave it for a week or two, then come back to it with a fresh perspective.
Take care
Good Luck

Call “Time” on research, step back and pause, review, cast in simple terms, apply some mental lubrication of the alcoholic kind (white or dark? :wink: ) – all the above is good advice in my opinion, Rebecca.

My only additional suggestion is that when you do write, go about it very, very quickly. Read, review, prepare your outline, then close all books, quit all research files, put away all papers – have your outline by your side, and just write. Add details from memory (memory is an excellent editor). Use placeholders where references or citations might occur. Don’t worry about the quality, don’t revise or self-edit till you’ve finished and definitely forget about any potential criticisms – just get it down. Give yourself permission to be slapdash.

My experience mainly lies in other kinds of writing, but I think similar principles apply to factual books. When you’re composing something long and complex, it’s easy to get bogged down and frustrated, assailed with self-doubt, exhausted, even bored, by the whole thing. I’ve spent too many 4 a.m.‘s wrestling with questions like: “Should this point precede or follow that point?” You shouldn’t. Life‘s too short, but in any case there‘s a better way. The better way to defeat such feelings is to persuade yourself that you have shrunk the effort that appears to be needed and made the writing seem less of a mountain to climb. Speed is the key to achieving this (and also gives writing a dynamism which dogged, drawn-out work may lack).

We’ve been where you’re now finding yourself. I can tell you that when you complete the draft, however imperfect it may seem, the feeling will be worth the effort.

And it may actually turn out rather well.

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It looks like you have received some good advice so far. I would and some small words of encouragement: You can write this. From what you have said you have an idea you need to express, and the idea won’t leave you alone. As I see it, this is a big part of what a writer is. I came to this conclusion from what many writers have said about why they write.

As far as being overwhelming and possibly fear-inducing, again, most of these same writers say that is part of the process.

Some places you might turn for help:

  • I have found two published authors of fiction/fantasy who give out writing advice to people who sign up to receive their advice emails. I know your work is non-fiction, so I would say to look for authors who write non-fiction for a living and see if they have a site. If they have a site, visit it and see if they offer a similar deal (some writers will even answer questions sent to them if they have the time). If they do, then sign up for the emails.

In addition to this, I would advise you not to dismiss the fantasy/fiction writers too quickly:

  1. much of the advice they give is applicable to more than just fantasy/fiction. (For example: Dave Wolverton, who also publishes under the name of Dave Farland, offers advice that includes some good perspective on the changing world of the publishing business )

  2. Professional writers only write what they know, which means that fantasy/fiction writers have to do research to write something readable when their story calls for something they don’t know about. These authors may have some valuable insight into how to most easily go about organizing your research into something useful to you, and gleaning the most useful information from that research. (Holly Lisle not only writes many forms of fiction/fantasy, she also teaches how to improve your approach to writing through online classes and books she has written on the subject. She is one of the authors that recommends that writers should read, and not just in the genre they like to write in. She, herself, has done a lot of reading in many areas as widely varied as quantum physics, genetics, gardening, history, archaeology , language and writing systems, survival, and pre-industrial technology. Dave Wolverton seems to agree with her that a writer should also be a reader/researcher to be a better writer)

  • Check with writing groups and forums (For example: National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo has a web site,, and a yearly event in November. More importantly they have a forum similar to this one where writers come ask questions to give each other advice. As I understand it, there are many people who participate in the November event and/or on the forum who are writing non-fiction works, maybe some of them can help.)

-Stepping back from your work for a while is some very good advice, and is actually what many professionals recommend when dealing with something that seems overwhelming. It gives your subconscious mind time to work on the task in the background, and when you come back to the task you will quite often find new energy and new insights that will help you move forward. (of course, don’t take too long of a break, or you may never get around to getting back to it.)

  • Stepping closer to a task seems to help me sometimes too. I once told a friend who was facing a difficult situation “. . .when your courage and will fail as you look at the seemingly endless road before you, stop looking into the distance. Instead, look only at the ground one step ahead. The rest of the road does not exist, only that one step. A step is easy, you can take another step. When you have taken that step, still refuse to look up, the rest of the road still does not exist. The only new road is the single step before you. If you keep going like this, focusing only on the next step, the next minute, the next second: before you know it you will reach the end of the road.”

I hope it helped them, but my point here is to that a similar approach to your project might help: focusing on only a single point, as if the rest of your research and project do not exist, until you have finished organizing the and winnowing the research for that one point. When you have finished with that one point, move on to the next one, ignoring the rest of your project, until you have that one done. When you have done this with a few points, look at what you have and see if you can organize that into the beginnings of a usable outline.

Oops! I guess they weren’t small words (in quantity at least) after all. I should probably stop now. I don’t view myself as particularly wise. I do know I tend to be long-winded, but I do hope this encourages you a little, and maybe gives you some usable ideas on where you can turn to for more advice if you need it. Of course, you can always come back here. The people I have seen on this form seem to be top-notch, and very willing to share what knowledge they have.

Just keep plugging and you will get there, Lunarclipper

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Nowt wrong wi’ bein’ long winded, young ‘n’! Look at me :wink: 'asn’t done me any 'arm.
Vic[size=50] ‘asn’t done me any friggin’ good either!:-([/size]

i’ve been mulling over what everyone has written, trying to decide what fits me and what doesn’t.

i most certainly do have a bee in my bonnet in the sense that this book (and the other two as well) are something i’m aching to express. as to finding research that refutes my premise, that hasn’t happened. the question the book answers is not quantifiable. it is one of those things that people on every side of the argument can be and are both right and wrong about simultaneously.

i do know that i love doing the research. i like following ideas down rabbit holes and seeing where they come out. i’ve always been this way. it’s part of me. what has happened is that i’ve accumulated a lot more research than i need to support my ideas. but, as i go back through it, i see things that are perfect that i’ve forgotten.

on the other hand, the research is holding me down, has held me down for quite a while. what made me fall into this in the first place is that this is the first writing project i’ve undertaken that i can’t just hold completely in my mind. everything else i’ve done, i barely need notes. but this is different and it has intimidated me from day one.

it took me a long time to “find” the book, as opposed to the idea that began it, and i do think the research helped me a lot with that. breaking it into three books is a good thing, a natural thing, something organic to the work itself. but i’m too inexperienced and klutzy with this kind of work to have seen that from the start. instead, i had to find it the hard way; by trying to put three related but different ideas into one book and then seeing that they didn’t fit.

one factor i haven’t talked about is that i have a full-time career that demands a lot of me. that means i work on my writing in starts and stops, with interruptions than can sometimes range into weeks. there’s no way around this; no write-everyday-no-matter-what cure for it. when i work 17 hour stretches on my real job, i walk out with a mind that’s mostly boiled dough. i can’t – can NOT – shift focus presto-chango and pick up the book immediately after that.

what that means in practical terms is that i NEED an outline; i NEED a process; i NEED a plan to take the place of the focus i lose because of the demands of my real life. in three years i will leave my job and go to writing full-time. hopefully, i will have written this book and at least one other by then. to use that nasty word again, that is my plan.

i have been attempting to apply the skills i’ve learned in other kinds of work to writing. perhaps i should try being a little less rigid and trust myself more. the one thing that recurs in your advice (aside from the admonitions to lubricate the process) is to stop fiddling with the research and write.

maybe that’s part of what’s bugging me. maybe it’s TIME to write, and i’m just too new at this to see that.

i’m going to trust you folks and take a shot at it. being the process maven that i am, i’m going to continue putting the outline in order until monday. then, i will print it out and go to the alphasmart.

wish me loads of luck. i may be back here, wailing and moaning, in a short time.

Hi Rebecca,

I’ve been reading what you say with sympathy, and following the others’ comments with interest. I don’t think I’m a good person to give advice, but I have a couple of things in mind that seem to reflect your situation.

The first concerns my own post-graduate dissertation and a friend’s coursework. When my wife and I were typing up the final version of my dissertation, we had a friend staying with us, a New Zealander doing an MA in Applied Linguistics. It was the Christmas holiday. He asked if he could read my dissertation when we’d finished the typing (No computers then). He read it and came to me and said, “Mark, you can’t submit a postgraduate dissertation with only three books in the bibliography!” to which I said, “Just watch me!” — it received a Distinction. At the same time, he had two 2,500 word essays to write by the end of the holiday — they were late already — and he couldn’t write a word. His problem? Largely the fact that, for each essay, he had read 25 books in preparation with the result that he was completely lost in all that research and couldn’t find a thread to follow.

The second is of a more general nature, but I believe points in the same direction. Last November, while I was still living an hour’s bus-ride away from campus, and was feeling tired and unwell, I had a big, urgent editing job given to me: Tuesday lunchtime; can we have it by Thursday morning — this is not just the Land of the Great Firewall, it’s also . I felt that if I took the bus home, climbed the hundred stairs to my flat, I would be too tired to work that evening, and the same would be true on the Wednesday when I also had teaching to do for which I was busy preparing at that moment. I asked a colleague in the office to book me a room in one of the campus hotels, but there were none free. The upshot was that the office booked me a room in the “Foreign Expert’s Building” for a whole week, and I moved in with just changes of clothes and my MBA.
After 24 hours living there, I felt like just walking out of my current flat — I was moving to campus within a few weeks anyway — simply abandoning all my possessions apart from the clothes I needed, my Airport network gear and my printer.

I was made completely aware of how possessions drain our energy; I was living in a two bedroom flat, stacked with ten years-worth of cruft, hardly any of which I really used, some of which I hadn’t even touched for 7 years … just having it was making me tired. And it seems to me that a mountain of research saps our energy in the same way … we have to have it around, keep in mind where it is so as to be able to find it, worry about how important it is.

That was the great thing about my dissertation … it was a critical review of those three books, or rather of relevant chapters within them. Everything apart from that came from me, what I thought, what I knew … not what a mort of other people have said about them. Unusual I know, and probably many of my fellow academics here may be somewhat appalled, but in my case it worked.

I think I’m agreeing with what others have said: your research needs to be there — I’m currently trying to find time to getting into using DTP to collect and manage research, rather than just relying on my memory to retain everything — but what you want to write must come from inside yourself and if you’re perpetually going back and hunting in that pile of research, you won’t have the energy left to write. It’s the knowledge that you’ve internalised through your research that will take you forward, not the stack of stuff that you know is there … somewhere out there.

There, I said I didn’t think I was the right person to give advice …


Lot of really good advice here. One piece I’d add (from my doctoral chair) is make sure you take time for something that isn’t your book. And a bit from the graduate advisor: reward yourself (even if it’s something little like a piece of chocolate) when you meet a goal.

Splendid advice, here. This should probably be pinned to the top of the Writer’s Block forum.

I’ll add my view though I doubt it will be splendid.

In the way that good writers can do, Rebecca, you led off with an emotional yet precise description of your problem. You have an important topic, you have amassed substantial research to back up your thesis; yet, you are overwhelmed by the prospect of writing three books while you spend 17-hour days at your ferocious regular job. For some reason, you just can’t seem to get going.

I suspect the reason is exhaustion not writer’s block.

Perhaps, for a small group of friends, you could write a monograph (goodness, does anybody do those anymore?) that, sans footnotes the length of the Amazon, states your basic ideas. You would get a little feedback, real feedback and not the barbs of your imagination, and you would have the very real satisfaction of producing something. I’ve heard that often energizes people.


Rebecca, this is a kindred spirit in many ways. There’s a ton of good advice in this thread alone, worthy of making this thread a “keeper” of many sorts.

However, I have to add my two cents to your dilemma. I’ve written a dissertation in engineering way back when and I’ve since gone to law school, clerked in an appellate court and litigated and later written much. Lawyer jokes aside, nonfiction writing and I are suitably acquainted.

That said, when I venture outside of my competence and apply my research skills in other areas, I nearly always run into the problem you’re describing… Why? Because the research is so fascinating! Because there is so little time for it, and because I am writing in an area in which I am not “established” as I am after defending a thesis and after advancing my legal writing, even in the face of old experienced crusty judges. That experience of having my work in engineering and legal writing has solidified my confidence in writing there.

When it comes to one work I’ve had in project form for 13 years or more… Yes, 13 years, I am timid.

I like the research. I discuss sub topics with numerous others. I chase rabbit tracks down rabbit holes that open fascinating new doors. I write little things here and there. But, recently I realized the difference as to why I wasn’t able to whip up a good 30 page succinct thesis on any of it the way I can about legal topics I’ve never studied until the question arose – namely, my project had no purpose-- that is to say, no focal point on which to write. Instead, I am enjoying the learning and finding things to say along the way. In legal work, I am answering a question or questions. My dissertation had a narrow focus on Monte Carlo gaming simulations and chemical process simulation in finite element computations. There was a point at which I could say I answered the question, and rewrite and rewrite to better answer the question.

My realization lead me to define a focus for my project such that I could write on it and head towards a goal even though I leave a lot of open threads to write on next. It’s OK. With as much passion as this project has given me and as entertaining and fun I find the research, it’s no good sitting in my DTPO and hard files… It needs to be shared in a more general format than with the few minds I am lucky enough with whom to have email, telephone, and lunch conversations.

For this focus, Druid’s series of questions are near identical to what I thought to do to myself last winter and have been working on now. Do what he suggests and narrow your writing job down to that question or pressing need to your work. Then you can write.

Don’t worry about the loose ends! Don’t worry about what else is developing. Your project sounds like mine in as much as you’ve probably already compiled an encyclopedia of research and are always interested in further cultivating it and improving it. Let’s face it, that’s fun!

But face this, too, it’s not doing any good sitting in your mind.

From what you mentioned earlier, and synthesizing Druid’s questions, try these:
Why does everyone argue about X and miss this obvious point?
How would the discussion change with your point?
Give 3 examples from each side of the point showing how people danced around your theory.
Give 3 examples (no more) of discussions that would be forever changed based on your point.
Describe the oddest thing that will change (in your perspective).
Describe your expectations of the discussion now that your point is made.

Now, with the kind of research you’ve mentioned, if we are dealing with similar projects, you’ve wanted to get into all the fine detail you see around things… Save it for the speech tour. Save it for the next book. Save it for the interviews and articles. It makes for intersting discussion beyond the book itself.

It’s the focus of your writing task that you’re missing. Right now, you are writing an encyclopedia. A noble endeavor, but not for someone who works 17 hours a day. You need a narrow focus in order to see the writing tasks to get you to a published point. I hope my two cents here help you find that.

All good sound advice, Cj. Just lacks that little…something :wink: 8)
Rebecca's Solace.jpg

You got a side job shilling for the Red Lion, Vic?


Hah! Vic-k, you must REALLY want to see my typo rate go through the roof! Maybe after two or three of those, I write with less typos, but then it all falls to hell and even autocorrect can’t save me! Fortunately, there’s the free dragon dictation but that only lasts for a couple more and it can’t even understand me an longer so I start dialing pals on the phone.

Oh dear me, Mr Dave. If only you knew how excruciatingly painful those word would be for, His Obtuseness, to read. You see. Mr Dave, the RED LION…is no more…it’s polly parrot: Closed down by the police, because, the landlord was a gangster, and he ran the Red without a licence.

Because of the environmental pollution, and distress to the local inhabitants, brought about by the mere presence of the Red’s inmates/clientele, at their nightly disgorging on to the streets, and dispersal to the far flung…the powers that be, decided it would never reopen as a pub. The stately Red Lion, is now a TESCO Convenience Store. Don’t get His Numptyness started on the meaning of the word Convenience!

Tis a sad sight to see, during the customary licensed hours of alchoholic imbibition, when, because of their pariah status in the village, no other pub will take their custom. The exReds now roam aimlessly around the place, Like extras from, George A. Romero’s, The Day Of the Dead.

So, as you may well appreciate, Mr Dave, it would be an act of kindness is you could delete your above reference to the Red. And repost it in a larger font. You’re a gent, Mr Dave, thanks.

Isn’t your post just typical of human male chauvenists. The drink is for, Ms Rebecca…not you. tch!tch!


Hi there, sorry to wade into the debate so late.

You often hear people say of fiction writing that you should be true to yourself. I think that’s good advice. Generally speaking it’s easier to write what you’d like to read.

However, when you are dealing with non-fiction I think this is the wrong approach to take. With non-fiction: the audience is king.

How is this relevant?

Well, how you write and structure your book will vary depending on your audience. For example, if you are writing for academics (a text book, a thesis, etc) then you will need to have a very different approach. Academic works have a much higher ‘burdern of proof’ whereby you essentially have to establish that it is not currently possible to disprove your writing. As such, your writing needs to cover all bases, and your research needs be all encompassing. Frankly, the writing style is less important than the research as the people reading your work will most likely have no choice but to wade through it and will be interested in the minutae anyway.

However, nothing you have posted yet lends me to believe that you are writing your piece for academics. As such, you have a different burden of proof: You just need to be plausable. You need to make your point and get out of there as soon as possible.

The approach I tend to use is outline below. This is similar to the approach druid outlines, but I’ve included it as I use a specific methodology.

1) Decide what your objective is. What is the ONE thing you want people to do / do differenly as a result of reading  your book? Phrase it along the lines of: "I want to convince the reader to stop eating meat." Do NOT have any "ands" or other conjunctions in there. Distill it to a single thing.

2) Go back to step one and check that this is really what you want. If the reader did EXACTLY what you asked for would you be happy? If not, revisit. 

3) Work out what YOUR AUDIENCE (not you and your buddies, but your audience) would need to believe in order to do what you want. What questions would they like answered? Keep this in bullet point form now. Eg, 
~ eating meat is bad for you
~ eating no meat is tasty
~ eating no meat is cheaper
~ it is easy to eat no meat: No meat is everywhere

Each bullet must pass the "so what?" test, and must be essential to convincing your audience. If it isn't, delete it.
For example, in the above list, "eating animals is wrong" isn't in there. For the intended audience (meat eaters) this argument does not pass the "so what?" test.

4) Work out how important each of these points are to THE AUDIENCE. Put them in the order of most important first. This might take them out what you view as the logical 'story telling' order. This doesn't matter. It's non fiction, you don't need to hide twists in the plot. What is important is keeping your audience reading until the end, and that means answering the first question they would ask first.
For example, there is no point leading the above off with a great recipe for spinach and ricotta cannelloni. Carnivores know that chicken tastes good, so won't care that other things also taste good until they have a reason to think maybe they shouldn't eat chicken. 
Hence a book on not eating meat becomes sold as a book on how to lose weight and be healthy.

5) For each bullet point, start to populate the evidence, facts and arguments that make your point. Note, I've not done ANY research until this point. Now, I'm only going to do the research that makes my case. I'm not writing an academic paper. I don't need to show a balanced view, or explore every single piece of human knowledge on the subject; I just need to convince the reader. Eg, 
a- eating meat is killing you (dramatic increase in rates of high cholestorol, heart disease, and cancer) 
b- eating meat makes you fat (contains 'bad' fats, low sugar content means the body can't convert calories easily so stores them as... fat)
c- eating meat makes you unattractive (causes appearance to age faster, also smellier and see (2) fatter)
d- eating meat makes you miserable (can't process efficiently so causes toxin build up, impacting production of seratonins. Food intolerences can make you bloated and uncomfortable)

6) For each of those, write your prose. Back it up with research. Quote other people. Make a convincing and compelling argument. 

As I said, this won’t work for an academic audience, and may not be approprate for you.

Oh, and I’ve made everything up in the above post about meat. In fact, I am munching on a chicken sandwich while writing this post.