Science fiction writers create and populate fantastic new worlds, while mystery novelists scatter compelling red herrings while deftly slipping into key clues. Romance writers make readers sigh sweetly when the heroine realizes that, yes, she really does love him, after all . . . and what about those daring pioneers as they bravely trek into unknown lands of the West?
Compared to fiction writing, nonfiction writing – at first glance – can seem downright boring. But, the reality is that there are excellent reasons for pursuing the nonfiction craft. Here are just a few of them!
Barbara Taylor McCafferty was born on September 15, the same day as Agatha Christie. She loves figuring out a good puzzle, like those found in novels by Christie. So, what does McCafferty do for a living?
Writes mystery novels — just like Agatha Christie!
Well, not exactly like Christie. McCafferty has her own unique style, sticking her unsuspecting characters in bizarre situations and watching them wiggle their way out of them.
“I always start a story with a question that begins with ‘wouldn’t it be funny if?'” she said. “Like in my book, Ruffled Feathers, a guy gets a ransom note and the person allegedly kidnapped is standing right next to him. So, you wonder, ‘Is this an error in timing? A gag?'”
Toss in one fresh, sassy, 34-year-old ex-cowgirl, mix in two parts of a murder almost spoiling a folk art museum quilt display, add a dash of a fifty percent Anglo, fifty percent Latino, one hundred and ten percent macho cop with gorgeous eyes, and what do you have?
You have the deliciously intense, tangy-tasting romance of Benni Harper and Gabe Ortiz, in Earlene Fowler’s first mystery novel: Agatha Award nominee, Fool’s Puzzle.
Here is some nonfiction writing advice that I’d created years ago.
To unravel the twisting, turning history (of the
boomerang), you’d have to travel back in time. You’d slip back to an age before
there were airplanes, before there were cars, before the signing of the Declaration
of Independence. You’d travel to a place where America wasn’t yet known, to a
time long before William the Conqueror subdued England in 1066. You wouldn’t
even recognize the world you’d enter, the primitive, murky horizons of ancient
find out that I’m an author, that’s often what they say to me – and, I reply,
“That’s great! The world needs more wonderful books.” (And, it’s true. There
can never be enough wonderful books!)
A follow up
question that I sometimes get asked is, “Do
you think I have the talent to write a book?”
I recently came across a book proposal that I’d written in 2013, one that was ultimately rejected because the publisher felt there were too many books on the subject already. So, I thought it might be helpful to share it with you, a guide to how to write a book proposal. Note that I’m not suggesting that ALL book proposals should look this way. The publisher I was querying had specific requirements and I followed them. Having said that, this book proposal is fairly typical of what a publisher might want, although shorter than many others I’ve written.
Like most things in life, there is a fine line between not networking enough as a writer – and focusing on networking at the expense of your actual writing time. If you find yourself spending too much energy on networking, it’s probably time for you to be honest with yourself. Do you really want to write – or do you simply enjoy socializing with writers and other Christians? Neither answer is “wrong.” A candid self-assessment, though, will most likely save you a lot of frustration — and this process will help you to determine what value there will be for you in attending Christian writers conferences.
“If the best journalists in the world lack credibility then they are nothing. All we have is our credibility. We aren’t granted ‘journalist’ status by earning a certain college degree or being issued a government license. We earn it by reporting responsibly.” (Society of Professional Journalists President David Cuillier discussing ethics in writing, April 2014 issue of Quill)
Maybe you consider yourself a journalist – or a blogger or a magazine writer. No matter how you self label, when you write nonfiction, it’s crucial to report responsibly and to navigate ethical tightropes as carefully as possible.
I’ve taught online writing classes for the company that publishes Writer’s Digest for 18 years now and at writer’s conferences for more than 20 years. If I were to choose the challenge that seems to derail the biggest number of talented writers with potential to be published in magazines, I’d say this: they tend to focus their early efforts on super-sized magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Entrepreneur and Parenting. But, is that really the best publishing strategy?