Of course it can be, and some people can get lost in the process, writing the first chapter over and over again or becoming mired in detail. But I believe it isn’t if you know how to break down the process into its component parts. I see most nonfiction books as solving either a personal or societal problem. They can be descriptive (“Here’s the problem as I see it.”) or prescriptive (“Here’s what you can or should do to fix it.”). Sometimes, as in the case of self-help books, they can be both. In fact some books can be looked upon as critiques of society, as Mrs. Carter’s Within Our Reach.
At the very least, nonfiction books solve the problem of ignorance – the reader doesn’t know something about a subject and wants to learn about it. For instance, my collaborative book, The Batterer, doesn’t teach people how to beat up their spouses. Rather it explains how individuals develop this destructive behavior.
It’s the author’s role to decide which problem his or her book will bring to light and if this is a prescriptive book, how to solve it. Within the book, each chapter answers a single question that leads toward the elucidation of the problem and/or its solution. This helps to organize the material.
And most importantly, the book needs to be entertaining – filled with stories, anecdotes, and personal sharing that draw in the reader while bringing data and research to life. Readers need these stories in order to identify with the author’s insights. The author is a character in his or her own book – and yes, I mean nonfiction books.