Thursday, September 25, 2008

Writing non-fiction part 2

As promised, here's the next part to my musings on writing non-fiction.

If you're writing just because you want to, or to share with friends and family, then you can write about whatever you want, however you want. But, if you plan on selling your writing, then there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. These questions could even apply to fiction.

1. What type of piece is it?

There are four general types of non-fiction:

a) Expositive - informs or explains a subject. For example, a book on how to organize small spaces.

b) Persuasive - presents reasons and evidence to convince the reader to think or act in a certain way. Self-help and motivational books fall in this category.

c) Narrative - describes real-life events. Biographies, memoirs, and autobiographies fall into this category, as well as stories about actual events, like SeaBiscuit, The Perfect Storm, etc. *This is different than historical fiction, where the main characters are fictional. In narrative non-fiction, the characters are the real people who experienced the event.*

d) Descriptive - uses details related to the senses to create mental images for the reader. *I'm honestly a little fuzzy on what exactly this is, or for examples. I think essays fall in this category, but you really don't see a lot of essays outside academia.*

2. Who is your audience?

If you're writing for kids, you will use different words than for adults. If it's technical information in a certain field, then you need to know the jargon. Figure out your audience and write to it. For example, PEOPLE magazine articles will be faster reads than how-to articles about home painting techniques.

3. What is its purpose?

Why would people want to read it? What's your end goal? What makes your writing different? (This is an especially important question if you want to sell your work to editors or agents.)

4. When will it be read?

This is more important if you're dealing with topics that have to do with holidays, trends, or events. If your writing is timely then plan accordingly. For example, Christmas articles/books usually must be submitted many months in advance and right now is a vertiable avalanche of books on political candidates.

5. Where will it be read?
Is it a magazine or e-zine article, book, pamphlet, blog, etc. Guess what? Blogs are non-fiction writing. *gasp* Although many blogs read more like fiction, even though they're not. Hmmm, maybe blogs would fall into the Descriptive Non-fiction category. What do you think?

*Tip: Humor will help your non-fiction writing in almost every case. Almost. Medical journals--not so much.

So there are some questions to ask yourself. If you can answer them, it will help hone your writing.

I think this post is long enough for today. My little girl is needing some attention. Check back in a few days for Writing non-fiction Part 3 where I'll show you an easy exercise to write any kind of non-fiction.

Status: Grateful the allergy medicine is working.
Today's Song: "My December" by Linkin Park

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