Today, we tackle the fundamentals of writing nonfiction. Whether you’re writing a memoir, a personal essay, or any other form of nonfiction, it’s important to make sure your writing is engaging and keeps your readers hooked. In this post, we’ll be discussing some key strategies for writing compelling nonfiction.
With that, let’s dive into it!
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Choosing Your Story
When it comes to writing nonfiction, choosing the right story is crucial. There are many factors to consider, such as your personal interests and expertise, the potential audience for your story, and the impact that your story might have.
You want to choose a story that you are passionate about, as this will help you to stay motivated and engaged throughout the writing process. At the same time, you should also think about your audience and what they might be interested in.
Are there any topics or themes that are currently popular, perhaps even relevant in the news or your country?
Finally, think about the potential impact that your story might have. Will it inspire readers to take action, to think more deeply about an issue, whether it be with themselves or the world? Be careful considering these factors, you can choose a story that will not only be engaging and compelling, but also meaningful and impactful.
As with writing fiction, I think the most important step to take is deciding whether this is a story you want to tell for yourself or a specific audience. This decision can dictate the entire process, not just the topic itself.
The story itself can be a personal one, whether it happened to you, or the story is important to you and your beliefs, which allows you to insert your personality and passion into the project.
Crafting a Narrative
Now that you’ve chosen your story, it’s time to craft a compelling narrative. Nonfiction may be rooted in reality, but that doesn’t mean it has to be dry or boring. The key is to find the narrative thread that will engage your readers and keep them reading. This sometimes comes down to understanding your reader and what they want to read.
One effective technique is to treat your nonfiction like fiction. This means using many of the storytelling elements that make fiction so engaging, like plot, character development, and setting. By weaving together these elements, you can create a narrative that reads like a gripping story, even if it’s all true.
So, if you are a fiction writer, you are well-equipped to use this method to tackle nonfiction.
Another important aspect of crafting a compelling narrative is pacing. You want to keep the story moving forward and avoid getting bogged down in too much detail or backstory. This doesn’t mean you can’t include those things, but they should be woven into the story in a way that keeps the momentum going.
One way to do this is to use vivid, sensory details to immerse your readers in the story. We will talk more about that in a moment.
Finally, remember that the best nonfiction is written with empathy and compassion. Your readers want to feel like they’re experiencing the story alongside you, so be sure to convey the emotional aspects of the journey as you tell the story, whether it is the emotions you felt or your subject might have felt. By doing so, you’ll create a connection with your readers that will keep them invested in the narrative until the very end.
Using Vivid Details and Dialogue
Alright, now let’s talk about using vivid details and dialogue to bring your nonfiction story to life, and this is not too different from how they are used in fiction.
First off, vivid details are the key to making your story more engaging and interesting to readers. When you’re describing a scene or situation, don’t be afraid to get specific and use sensory language that helps readers visualize what’s happening. For example, instead of saying “It was a nice day,” describe the warmth of the sun, the sounds of birds chirping, and the scent of freshly cut grass. Do your best to set the scene, and sometimes this means going into more detail if the chapter is in a different time period.
Similarly, dialogue can add depth and personality to your story. By including conversations between people, you can give readers a better sense of who the characters are and what they’re like. When writing dialogue, pay attention to how people actually talk and try to make it sound natural. Use contractions, pauses, and interruptions to make the dialogue feel more realistic.
One method I always recommend when writing dialogue is reading it out loud because sometimes our ears do a better job of finding faults in dialogue than our eyes.
Remember, the goal of using vivid details and dialogue is to make your story feel more real and immersive. By painting a picture with your words and allowing your characters to speak for themselves, you can create a more engaging and memorable nonfiction story.
Balancing Facts and Creativity
Now, when writing nonfiction, it’s important to remember that you’re dealing with real people and events, so accuracy is key.
However, that doesn’t mean your writing has to be so straightforward and boring either. You can still use creative techniques to engage your readers while staying true to the facts. One way to do this is by using descriptive language to paint a vivid picture of the setting and characters. Use the sensory details I mentioned in the previous points to give it a more feeling.
You can incorporate dialogue into your writing, and commentary from real people on the events and people in the story. These comments can add a lot to the feeling, as it helps remind the reader that this is a story, but also something that inspires conversations, or insight on those events. Such comments help break up the story and hint at the results that followed or the feelings those people felt at that moment.
And another way you can show your creativity is just through your writing style. You can demonstrate your personality in telling the story, whether it be adding a more humorous tone or adding your own two cents.
However, you also need to make sure you’re not sacrificing accuracy for creativity. Double-check your facts and sources to ensure that everything you’re writing is true. Avoid making up details or exaggerating events to make your story more interesting. Most nonfiction readers enjoy the grittiness of reality, which is why they enjoy the genre.
At the same time, don’t be afraid to use your imagination to fill in gaps in the story or to add contest and depth to the events. It’s a balancing act, but with practice, you can strike the right balance and tell a truly compelling story.
Editing and Revising
Editing and revising your nonfiction work is just as important as writing it. After you’ve completed your first draft, take a break for a few days, so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. Once you’re ready to begin the revision process, read through your work and make note of any areas that need improvement. Look for ways to tighten up your sentences and make them more concise.
Check for accuracy in your facts and statistics, and make sure that your writing flows logically from one point to the next. Get feedback from others, and be open to constructive criticism, especially if you are writing a story about someone else. You can also read your work out loud, as I said earlier, and have an easier time catching any awkward phrasing or errors that you might have missed.
Remember, it’s a process, and it can take several rounds to get your work in its final form. Don’t be afraid to make changes, even if it means cutting out larger portions of your writing. The goal is to create the best possible version of your story until you are satisfied with the results.
Writing compelling nonfiction requires a combination of creativity, research, and attention to detail. By choosing an interesting story, crafting a compelling narrative, and using vivid details and dialogue, balancing facts and creativity, and editing and revising your work, you can create a piece of nonfiction that captivates readers and stays with them long after they’ve finished reading.
My experience with nonfiction is probably one of the more basic examples. I am a teacher, and I create educational content in addition to my creative content, from courses to guides. Most of my work is about condensing useful, practical information to create a product for my target audience.
The details that concern me are the steps one takes to create something, whether it be a program, a picture, or a story.
If there is anything that I would add to what I have just discussed, it’s that writing nonfiction should be a little easier than fiction. When you dive into fiction, the story can change at any moment. A new idea can cross your mind and change the course of the story, which requires many plot alterations; you don’t know how the novel will end.
When you are working with nonfiction, you have all the details you need to structure your book, so be sure to do your research.
If you are an experienced nonfiction writer, what advice would you give beginner writers? What is the biggest obstacle you face when writing nonfiction? Let us know in the comments below!
Thank you for reading and as always,
Good day, goodnight, and happy writing!