5 Things to Remember When Writing a Nonfiction Book

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Unless your goal is to write a scholarly textbook, you don’t want your nonfiction book to read like one. Here are five ways to write nonfiction that grabs and keeps your readers’ attention.

1. Get Personal. Engage readers by making your message about them.

Ask questions: Isn’t is frustrating when . . .?

Interject some humor: Short people unite! God only lets things grow until they’re perfect. Some of us didn’t take as long as others.

Include relatable stories about your own life. But be careful. Unless you’re writing a memoir keep your message centered on your readers.

2. Be Creative. Consider writing narrative nonfiction—nonfiction that reads like fiction. Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing” series is an excellent example.

(Lincoln) paces the upper deck of the steamboat River Queen, his face lit now and again by distant artillery. The night air smells of the early spring, damp with a hint of floral fragrance.—From “Killing Lincoln” by Bill O’Reilly.

imagesYou could also write an informative book that is mostly memoir. For example in my book, An Issue of Blood, Facing Uterine Cancer With Faith, I combine memoir, factual information, and biblical history to keep my readers engaged.

Keep it real. Don’t change facts. Concentrate on adding imagery, emotion, and personality.

3. Say it Simply. Everyone hates instruction manuals saturated with confusing terms and diagrams.

keep it simpleKeep facts and figures simple.

Cut out unnecessary words.

Use lists.

Connect readers with facts using phrases like, “Did you know. . . ?” Or weave the facts into a narrative sentence or paragraph: “Imagine living in a fully functional house that is just under 500 square feet.”

Avoid unfamiliar words and technical terms. If you must use them define them simply.

4. Write With Authority. Check your facts against multiple sources and make absolutely sure they are correct. Never connect facts with words and phrases like:

“In my opinion”

“I believe”

“I think”

“Maybe”

Write in a confident but friendly voice.

5. Know Your Message

 “Every successful piece of nonfiction should leave the reader with one provocative thought that he or she didn’t have before. Not two thoughts, or five—just one.”
—William Zinsser On Writing Well

 Think about your goal.

Do you want to persuade your readers to take action?

Is your purpose to inform?

To explain how to do something?

To entertain?

Before you write know your purpose, then write with that one purpose in mind.

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5 Comments

Filed under Freelance writing, Uncategorized, Writing craft, Writing nonfiction, Writing Tips

5 responses to “5 Things to Remember When Writing a Nonfiction Book

  1. Good thoughts here. I wrote a Christian non-fiction book, and a friend who edited my book noted I had a problem with #4. I was always saying those phrases. I was meaning not to sound arrogant or like a know-it-all. My friend encouraged me to cut those out, and “write in a confident but friendly voice.” It was good advice. Glad I took it.

  2. I love this. I am starting to write a non-fiction book on Race in America now. This is very helpful information. Thank you.

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