Nonfiction Writing Advice

Defending Nonfiction Writing

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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!

Defense #1

nonfiction writing
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Nonfiction writers have a smorgasbord of delicious publishing venues to sample – and even indulge in. You can write magazine articles and/or blog posts, perhaps covering marvelous travel getaways or profiling fascinating authors, artists and more – or newspaper stories, where you reveal fast-breaking news that will cause readers’ jaws to drop. Say, what??

Encyclopedia entries may sound dull, but I’ve had opportunities to research and write in-depth histories of baseball and basketball, two sports that I love, among countless other intriguing topics. That’s right – getting paid for writing about your vocations, hobbies and interests. And, having encyclopedia credits on your resume can cause editors’ eyes to light up! This proves that you can research effectively and present information succinctly.

Then there are books – SO many possibilities there – plus plays, documentaries and much more! And, what about creative nonfiction that incorporates techniques of fiction as you pen personal essays and memoir pieces? Ghostwriting, where you write blog posts, articles and even books for publication under someone else’s name? Book reviews?

Defense #2

nonfiction writing
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It’s often easier to sell nonfiction writing than fiction. That’s due, in large part, because of all of the different types of nonfiction outlets, but also because daily newspapers, content-hungry blogs, large encyclopedias and more require significant amounts of writing.

Defense #3

nonfiction writing 4
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You get to meet and interview really cool people! I’ve gotten to chat with, and sometimes even hang out with, amazing human beings, ranging from international boomerang champions to a representative of Virgin Galactic as the company prepares for average citizens to travel in space – and from ESPN’s/NASCAR’s Jamie Little to Olympic and X Games skateboarder/snowboarder Cara-Beth Burnside. (Nora Robert on the cusp of publishing her 100th romance novel? That, too!)

Defense #4

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Truth can be stranger than fiction. Did you know that the first woman to solo-hike the entire 2,000+ miles of the Appalachian Trail was 67 years old when accomplishing her goal? Or that she hiked the entire Oregon Trail, beating the wagon that followed the same path by an entire week? True, dat! Her name was Emma Gatewood and she had only an 8th grade education – but she ended up being the toast of the town, appearing on the Groucho Marx Show and other high-profile television programs.

Defense #5

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You can write both fiction and nonfiction – and it’s likely that doing both will help the quality of your writing, overall.

author interview, Nonfiction Writing Advice

Author Interview: Ruffled Feathers

author interview: Barbara Taylor McCafferty

Deep in the Archives

This is an author interview I wrote in the 1990s.

Ruffled Feathers by (Barbara) Taylor McCafferty

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?

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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?'”

author interview, Nonfiction Writing Advice

Author Interview: Fool’s Puzzle

author interview: Earlene Fowler

Deep From the Archives

This is an author interview I wrote in the 1990s.

Fool’s Puzzle by Earlene Fowler

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.

Nonfiction Writing Advice

Writing Traits: Are You a Writer?

freelance writer
FabJob Guide to Become a Freelance Writer

Before We Get Started

Here are some posts from my site that can help with freelance writing:

Writing a Nonfiction Book: Keeping it Real

Nonfiction Writing: Toss Out a Great Opener

How to Write a Book Proposal: Nonfiction Example

Research, Write and Review: The Biography

What is Content Creation?

Writing Traits to Consider

Give yourself one point for each of these writing traits that sound like you. You:

Nonfiction Writing Advice

Nonfiction Writing Advice: Toss Out a Great Opener

boomerang book

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 man.”

Nonfiction Writing Advice

Writing a Non-Fiction Book: Keeping It Real

writing a book
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I want to write a book” or “I have a book idea.”

When people 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?”

Historical writing, Nonfiction Writing Advice

How to Write a Book Proposal: Non-Fiction Example

how to write a book proposal
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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.

A Few More Resources

Writing a Nonfiction Book: Keeping it Real

Nonfiction Writing Advice: Toss Out a Great Opener

Nonfiction Writing Advice, Writer's Conferences

Value of Attending Christian Writers Conferences

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.

Nonfiction Writing Advice

Ethics in Writing

“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.

Nonfiction Writing Advice

Right-Size Your Early Publishing Strategy and Expectations

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?