Monday, April 21, 2014

Writing the Non-Fiction Novel: Getting Started

So I've been writing this non-fiction novel the past month or so. I'm steadily working at it and learning a lot. I figured, then, it might behoove me to write a little series on what I've learned from mistakes and occasional victories. This is the first lesson, so I'll be talking mostly about prep today. In the coming weeks I'll cover content, research, and the whole gambit of things. 

Before writing a non fiction novel, it's good to understand your topic. I don't mean to say, "first, pick out a topic." Imagine that your book has already been completed by someone else out there. What do you think it would be about? What would it cover? how would the points be laid out? Non-fiction books usually have varying formats, so figure out how you want to tackle that. Most non-fiction books have a general thesis that is proposed at the beginning of the draft. Then, after some honing, the point gets more fine tuned and specific, with each chapter cumulatively building back to the original point proposed in the forward or introduction. Imagine a hill: the flat beginning, followed by the slope, followed by the peak, then the downward slope, finalized by the flat ending. Your points follow this kind of flow. 

After getting the hang of your topic, you'll be ready to write an outline, or a general layout of the book. These are super important. Non-fiction writing, unlike fictional narrative writing, is inherently procedural. You'll write point A, then a subpoint, then another, then follow up with point B. This is very standard writing for school text books, or historical accounts. It helps me because my Sandman book for Sequart Organization, follows religion, so my flow will begin with the most basic expressions of spirituality and then concluded by the most complicated. The outline helps lay out the road from start to finish really well. 

Research follows after the outlining process. Now that you have your points, you can go out and buy your books. The great thing about waiting until this step to buy you books is that, once you write your outline, your points will be very specific and on track with where the book will go, and what it will cover. If you have a chapter dealing with a very specific kind of cheese, you now have the benefit of being able to go out and find a book on that very specific kind of cheese without finding out halfway through your project that you just bought a bunch of worthless books on other cheeses. Make sense?

I'm still not done with the getting started section, but I'm on a time budget here. Tune in next week to get the rest of the dirt on writing non-fiction! Until then, I'll see you on Wednesday. 


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