One of the biggest changes for writers of non-fiction books has been the dawn of the internet. No longer are writers restricted to academia or textbooks for research, and they can often find or obtain information on their chosen subject much more quickly and easily. Non-fiction writers can now often write and publish their book in a similar timeframe to that of fiction writers. That said, non-fiction writers need to conjure the imaginations of readers just as much as their fiction colleagues in order to keep readers… well… reading. If you’ve hit a creative block and need some intervention to aid your cause, look no further for some great advice to help you achieve a flowing pen and tapping keys once again.
If you’ve got an Editor, USE THEM!
Not all writers have the luxury of an editor to read through, correct minor errors, and ensure their work is ‘on message.’ But, if you do, use them. A fresh pair of eyes can be invaluable, and they can help you to catch inconsistencies you may have missed, or re-phrase things to be more easily absorbed by your audience.
Structure your work
If you’re struggling with your manuscript and it feels a bit chaotic or confusing, outlining your structure first can really help. An introduction, a body, and a conclusion gives you something to start from. Fill in the different sections from there, leading from one subject on to a related subject. Make the end of the previous chapter or section transition to the next. Check your timeline and flow. Looking over your timeline should tell you all of the most important elements in your book.
Know Who and What you’re writing for
This should be the first question you ask yourself: who is the audience and what is this book aiming to do? The audience will determine your tone of voice, level of information, and language style. And the aim of the book should influence the way in which it’s written. Sales books need to be persuasive, informational guides need to be clear and full of examples, and biographies should draw you into the story and keep you interested in the person.
Show, and hold authority…
When writing non-fiction, the author is assumed to be an expert on the subject that they’re covering, even if that may be a slight stretch of the truth. Therefore, it’s important to be positive and assert your authority throughout your writing. The writer can pose a theory, idea, or suggestions, but don’t be tentative. Limit the use of ‘maybe’, ‘I think’ and ‘in my opinion’ as that can make your book feel wishy-washy. Don’t make things up or write nonsense, but be direct and keep your language solid.
…and know the subject you’re being authoritative on
You may not be the world’s foremost expert on your book subject, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know it well. Do your research and make sure that your sources are good reputable ones. If someone else is carrying out research for you, make sure it’s comprehensive and check a few pieces before you repeat it.
Whether it’s a travel guide, teaching manual, cookbook, or self-help book, your non-fiction book can inform and entertain your readers. And that’s what it’s all about.