Saturday, September 20, 2008

Non-fiction DOES NOT equal boring

Status: trying to ignore a headache
Song of the Day: "Wrapped Around Your Finger" by The Police

I have written and published two non-fiction books, so I have a special place in my heart for non-fiction.

What is non-fiction? The boring definition is: informational text dealing with an actual, real-life subject. Even though the definition may sound dry and boring, bringing to mind college textbooks that break your back and require caffeine to get through, non-fiction does not equal boring!

I taught a class on non-fiction at a writer’s conference with Shirley Bahlman (who is anything but boring) and we tried hard to get this point across. Most people read non-fiction to learn something, for reference, or to be entertained. Yes, to be entertained.

Here are some excerpts of some non-fiction books, and I don’t think any of them sound boring:

“Whatever may be said in praise of poverty, the fact remains that it is not possible to live a really complete or successful life unless one is rich.” –From The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles

“There were all kinds of stories told about the war that made it sound as if it was happening in a faraway and different land. It wasn’t until refugees started passing through our town that we began to see that it was actually taking place in our own country. Families who had walked hundreds of miles told how relatives had been killed and their houses burned…. Apart from their fatigue and malnourishment, it was evident they had seen something that we would refuse to accept if they told us all of it.” --From A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

“We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberations. We really only trust conscious decision making. But there are moments, particularly in times of stress, when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of this world.” –From Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

“America is always at its most powerful and most influential when it is combining innovation and inspiration, wealth-building and dignity-building, the quest for big profits and the tackling of big problems. When we do just one, we are less than the sum of our parts. When we do both, we are greater than the sum of our parts—much greater.” –From Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman

“I came to the painful conclusion that while I often felt content to be an LDS woman, so much of my life was dictated by routine and habit that I rarely paused to rejoice in my divinity. And I had to admit to myself that even sometimes I merely felt resigned to be me. I realized that I did not truly rejoice in who I was. Like most of us, I looked forward to and planned on having joy once I made it back to Heavenly Father, but I just wasn’t finding it on the way there.” –From Enjoying the Journey by Jaime Theler *I know, shameless plug. But it’s my blog, after all.*

Have I convinced you yet that non-fiction doesn’t have to be boring? Do you have an idea for a non-fiction book or article that’s been buzzing around in the back of your mind like an annoying mosquito in your bedroom in the middle of the night that won’t let you sleep?

Does it help if I tell you that non-fiction out-sells fiction? That non-fiction lasts on the shelves longer than novels? That you can write about literally anything? And I mean anything. There’s a magazine out there devoted to the porta-potty industry. And they need articles. Or what about the magazine actively looking for articles on raising sheep? *These are real, honest-to-goodness, magazines. I didn’t make it up*

So you can write about anything, don’t necessarily have to have a degree in a field to write about it, and especially with the Internet, you can find people who are interested in the topic. And, best of all, it doesn’t have to be boring!

Soon I’ll post easy steps on writing non-fiction that anyone can follow. And then we'll turn to fiction, because I love it, too.

1 comment:

Beeswax said...

I love non-fiction. I lean toward history, since that was my major. Two fascinating non-fiction books I've read recently are Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (Kiera Knightely movie based on it, but apparently movie focuses on her sex life and not her political life), and The Worst Hard Time. I find non-fiction to require a bit more work in the process of reading, but in general, the payoff is greater.

I would love to write a historical monograph. I'll watch for your posts!