What Do You Want to Write?
Being interested in nonfiction writing means you are interested in facts, details, accuracy, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. . . . Well, maybe not exactly like that. Yet, nonfiction is the truth--it's not made-up bedtime stories or embellished tales of yarn that get wilder each time the story is repeated. No, nonfiction has to be the truth. How dull and boring is that? So, does writing truth mean writing a dry almanac listing or scientific journal for the intelligentsia? No. Absolutely not.
Though we often think of murder mysteries, joke books, or romance novels when books and reading are mentioned, actually more nonfiction is read than fiction (www.parapublishing.com ). According to Authors Guild ( http://www.authorsguild.org/ ) "a successful fiction book sells 5,000 copies" and "a successful nonfiction books sells 7,500 copies."
Nonfiction writing can be serious, sad, gut-wrenching, humorous, or even whimsical. It's the way the true subject matter is covered and in which style it's written. More than likely you read styles of writing in which you would like to write whether that's biographies, personal essays, memoirs, features, how-to, travel writing, critiques and reviews, technical, profiles, and many other forms. A popular form created only in the past few years is the compilation or anthology writing of encouraging and uplifting stories. These are true stories collected and published under a central theme such as the Chicken Soup series or the Stories for the Heart series. These types of books have vastly opened doors for people to have their true stories published.
Which styles do you seem to be drawn to in your reading? Though many people have a wide range in the subjects about which they like to read, still, there is probably a particular style of reading you rivet to. Think about the magazines you like to read. Which stories and articles capture your attention? Are you drawn to the exposés or do you skip those and flip immediately to the how-to articles on improving a characteristic or problem? If you frequent book stores or libraries, what section of books do you head to, and then how do you make your decision of which in that section you'll read? What qualities in that book make you either buy it or check it out of the library?
Try to make a list of the last ten to twenty articles or books you've read. If you can't remember, then look through your bookshelves or magazine basket. Which nonfiction formats draw you in the most? Make a list of the things you like in your reading: lots of dialog, author's opinions stated, new ways to do things or how to overcome obstacles, documented research, written creatively as if fiction, etc.
Start keeping a notebook not only of writing ideas but ways to write. Each time you read something, jot down the title and then what it was that made you either like or dislike the writing. You learn by not only doing (writing) but by reading. You can also learn almost as much by reading poorly written material as you can from reading well written material. Sometimes when the writing is good, we can't figure out what it is that we like---we just know we like it. Yet, pick up something poorly written and why we don't like the writing almost jumps off the page.
Examine the things you are writing or have written. Do they seem to fit in a category like personal essay, feature story, memoir? Compare your writing to things you've read. What can you name about your writing that you like? What do you feel could be improved?
Begin scouring each of your writings in this way to make everything the best it can possibly be before you decide, "it's ready for publication."
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