Adventures in Non-Fiction: Similarities to Fiction Writing

Hi! I’m Tiffany Aller and Patti has graciously invited me to guest post on The Clever Writer every other Sunday. I’m going to be talking to you about writing non-fiction, whether as a freelancer or as an author working on a non-fic manuscript.

I’ve been a freelance writer for well over a decade now (closing in on two – can’t believe I’m old enough to say that!) and have learned a lot along the way. A year ago, I began using that knowledge to work on non-fiction manuscripts that will be published by KLG Press. Amongst the topics I’m writing on are miscarriage and pregnancy, career, police family life insight an several how-to based publications. In addition, I’ve co-written 4 cookbooks with our own Patti and just released a snarky travel book, warnings of the perils of uninformed air travelers. The impetus for many of these titles are the blogs I’ve grown, nurtured, abandoned and revived over the past half-decade.

Credentials aside, let’s start talking about how non-fiction differs from fiction…and how it is the same. We’ll start with the similarities this week and tackle the differences when I’m back here to post again in two weeks.

First, creativity counts as much in non-fiction as it does in fiction. While you may use your imagination to create scenarios in fiction, you’ll use your flexibility to explain sometimes difficult information in creative ways for non-fiction.

Second, hook, hook, hook. Although readers are commonly drawn to non-fiction topics because they have a need to know that information, it’s just as important as in fiction to hook your reader. Just because you’ve written the next great book on underwater basket weaving doesn’t five other authors, potentially with stronger hooks, haven’t also tackled the same topic. Hook your read early and keep that hook going.

Next, write an outline and stick to it. Fiction and non-fiction writers alike struggle with this – both have the tendency to run down rabbit trails instead of staying focused. In both cases, your manuscript will thank you by sticking to the script. Now…what if something important comes along and needs to be added? By all means, adjust the outline. But avoid rabbit trails at all costs!

Finally, fiction and non-fiction share a need for a continuous thread. Different chapters in non-fiction manuscripts may cover different sub-topics under the same overall idea, but that does not diminish the importance of a thread to connect the entire body of work.

How many of you out there write non-fiction, in addition to or instead of fiction? What other similarities have you noticed?

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