Writing a non-fiction book – Part Two

21 Jul

Okay, here we are – part two of writing a non-fiction book.

We’re presuming that you have your idea pretty well thought out, and want to get started on your non-fiction book. First of all, you’ll need to finalize a sort of ‘justification’ for this project, in your own mind, at the very least, but also to have available to send to an agent or editor or publisher! The more you know about your book, the better off you’ll be when that time comes. Actually, it’ll help you immensely just to get started writing.

What it all boils down to really, is this. (This goes in your query letter, by the way. Unless you’re publishing it yourself. We’ll be discussing that topic LOTS in the coming months!) You are the best person to write this book, and here’s why ________ (and you list all the reasons.) This is what you’ve learned from your experience(s) _____________ (again, you list all the things) and this is what the reader can or perhaps, should do to get the benefit of your know-how _____________.

Perhaps you’re an ‘artsy-craftsy’ person who has devised several easy-to-do, or make, inexpensive gifts for a pre-teen group to produce as a fund-raiser. If they are really special or unusual objects, then surely other mothers or teachers would like to know about them, too. So, start by telling how you came to create the things, (and don’t be afraid to mention – with a smile in your words – how the first few of them crashed and burned, if indeed they did); what your girls (or boys) learned from the project (teamwork, creativity, ingenuity, etc.); how successful the overall venture was, and how it could be expanded into even different areas for next year. This is the sort of thing that never goes out of style. Simple is necessary, and if you can incorporate everyday things like popsicle sticks, so much the better!

Also, don’t forget to take photographs. Lots of them! Showing just how little fingers should hold this, or bend that will be worth more than 1000 of your words—each! This type of book really almost demands photos. (Remember: color photos can be printed in black & white, but not the other way around!)

If you’re a research nut like I am, have you ever investigated books written several centuries ago? The early 1800s was a burgeoning era in many ways. The new United States was growing like a bunch of unruly weeds in someone’s pristine garden, and the thirst for learning escalated rapidly. It was a mark of status to have a well-stocked library in one’s home. Consequently, an enormous number of books were published on an immense range of topics (even including romance novels!) and great attention was paid to paper weight and bindings, etc. Many of these volumes reside in larger public libraries even today. They’re gorgeous to look at, hefty (and very satisfying) to hold in one’s hand – and sometimes tortuous to read. Huh? Did I just write that?

Each section was indeed written by someone different with vastly varying skills at being a chronicler, (think of all the ‘begats’ in Genesis or the New Testament as compared to the almost erotic poetry in Song of Solomon) but edited by one person in the same time frame, so that it’s the same degree of readability throughout. I don’t know if anything was distorted in the assembling of the final edition, but I do know some books (Susannah) were left out, and have made their presence known in recent years.

Indeed I did. However, writing styles have changed drastically through the centuries. If you don’t believe me, look up an early book of Chaucer of Spencer. Or even early printings of the Bible. We have many reasons to be grateful to Britain’s King James for ordering the first comprehensive edition of the Bible. I’m not referring to his choice of books to be included, but simply the fact that the entire volume was part of one huge project – sort of like today’s encyclopedias.

It’s the same with other books since then. Just because it’s non-fiction doesn’t mean it needs to be Dry as Dust. In fact, it hadn’t better be, or it’ll bounce when the first reader throws it out the window! At the same time, if you’re basing your book on a real person or event in history, there is a limit to just how creative you can be in your approach. You shouldn’t avoid the warts if a person truly has them, but you shouldn’t pounce and shout “Ahah! A wart!” either. You can’t leave important things out, just because you might not agree with the philosophy involved, and you really cannot change truth or facts.  Those stories are more usually found in time-travel fiction!

Everyone loves to read a ‘success’ story. If you know of one, why not try to write about it? Did someone you know mortgage their dreams in order to do something that would benefit any number of people? How did they do it? Why did they do it? Did they have help? Where did the idea come from in the first place? Nearly everyone has a story to tell. It’s your job to find it, and tell the rest of the world all about it. Even if it never becomes a book, maybe there’s an article or two in there, one that will provide you with valuable experience in the process of doing it!

Try it. You might like it!

If you have questions, please write to me at bookmechanic@gmail.com
Please do feel free to pass this along to anyone you think would be interested in reading it! Thanks for stopping by! See you next week!


2 Responses to “Writing a non-fiction book – Part Two”

  1. Charles July 21, 2010 at 1:40 am #

    Amazon reported today that they have sold more e-books than bound books thus far this year. However, it would be interesting to know if the total number of bound books sold by this time, has increased over last year at this same time.

    Thanks. Your “blog” is great!

    • bookmechanic July 21, 2010 at 2:59 am #

      Charles! What a great question. Thanks so much for asking it! (And for reading my blog!) There must be a way to find the answer. Attention, any librarians out there, reading/listening — any helpful hints to gather this info?


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