Writing a Non-Fiction Book

Writing a nonfiction bookWriting a nonfiction book is quite different from writing a fiction book. When writing a fiction book, the author must possess a vivid imagination and a creative mind. A nonfiction writer, on the other hand, besides being able to write creatively, must also be able to write based on facts and not imagination.

Both fiction and nonfiction writers must be able to express themselves clearly, have an organized mind, and have good grammatical skills. The nonfiction writer is required to do research and provide references that will substantiate his work.

Steps for Writing a Non-Fiction Book

1. Before starting to write a nonfiction book, the first thing an author book must consider is the subject matter. The classification of nonfiction books is very broad (see a list of common genres in nonfiction on our Home Page) and can cover subjects such as biographies, cookbooks, and more. Many of them are how-to-books; books that explain in detail how to accomplish a project. Nonfiction books can be written on a boundless number of subjects.

2. Once the subject matter has been decided upon, the author needs to make a rough outline of the book. This outline will constantly evolve and become more detailed as the author does research on the subject matter. While it is said that many fiction writers do not use an outline, it is imperative that a nonfiction author use a very detailed outline.

As an author attempts to write a book, an outline serves as a guide to assure the writing is presented in an organized fashion. The information provided needs to flow naturally and in such a way as to keep the reader’s attention. If the information is presented in a disorganized way, it will confuse and frustrate the reader; therefore, they may lay it down and not finish the book.

3. One of the most important aspects of writing a nonfiction book is the research for your subject. There are many ways to obtain the valuable information you will need for your book: interviews, corporate public information, government agencies, newspapers and magazines, books at your local library, and, of course, the Internet (just be careful when researching online, when a webpage is not a credible and known source you might want to check your facts).

4. The information provided in the book should be presented in as interesting a format as the subject will allow. Some readers like books that provide straightforward information, while others like pictures, drawings, and comedic symbols added to the pages that contain the text. Adding images can sometimes give a little “reading relief” to subjects that are complicated and difficult to comprehend. Also “storytelling” can also be used when writing nonfiction, as long as it is used as an entertaining way to present facts.

Writing a nonfiction book_Know your readers

5. Take a good look at who your readers will be. A writer needs to consider the reading level of their potential readers. A technical science book, intended for highly educated readers, would need to reflect a style and vocabulary that would be appealing to that audience. However, when writing a mass market book, the style and vocabulary would need to be downgraded to appeal to a wide market.

To illustrate the importance of the previous point, the National Adult Literacy Survey in 1992 and 2003 showed these results: “the average adult reads at the 9th-grade level. This accounts for the fact that the popular blockbuster novels are written at the 7th grade level. People like to read recreationally two grades below their actual reading skill. The average newspaper is written at the 11th-grade level, the tolerable limit for a 9th-grade reader.”

Writing any type of book can be a rewarding experience. However, when an author can write a nonfiction book that increases a person’s knowledge about a particular subject, while making it an entertaining read, it can be a very gratifying experience.

Don’t miss this video of Salmon Rushdie, award-winning novelist and essayist, on writing non-fiction:


Useful resources:

Finding Information on the Internet: A Tutorial (UC Berkeley)

How To Conduct an Interview

Filed in: Writing Your Book

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