What is #Narrative #Nonfiction? #amwriting


Through the months of December and January, some fab writers have taken over Daily (w)rite and spoken about the art and craft of writing. Check out the posts by Suchen Christine Lim, Sarah Butler, Scott Bryson, Eeleen Lee and Suzy Vitello for some excellent discussions and tips on fiction writing.

Today, I welcome Trish Nicholson. She has a great blog, and her latest offering, Write Your Nonfiction Book: The Complete Guide to Becoming an Author

is on my TBR pile. If you’re intrigued by Narrative Non-fiction, I urge you to check it out. Take it away, Trish!

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Writing Your Nonfiction Book: The Complete Guide to Becoming an Author

Writing Your Nonfiction Book: The Complete Guide to Becoming an Author

What is Narrative Nonfiction?
I’ve noticed lately how often I write the phrase ‘applies equally to fiction and nonfiction’. Having had a book on story craft (Inside Stories for Writers and Readers) published last year, and now, a guide to writing and publishing a nonfiction book, the comparison is highlighted.

The fundamental difference, of course, is that nonfiction is not made up; it is based on verifiable facts, which provide its power to inform and influence as well as to entertain.

Because of this, the process requires careful research and planning – we cannot launch into a flight of fancy – but what of the writing craft, voice, structure, imagery?
We can’t invent, but that doesn’t mean we don’t use our imagination, and it is important that we do, because our brains have evolved to understand life around us as stories – narratives – with causes and effects creating and resolving conflicts, producing outcomes. Research into the psychology of reading confirms that our attitudes and behaviour can be changed by our emotional involvement in a story: it stimulates empathy. We understand and learn best through storytelling.

Significantly, this applies also to nonfiction that is written in a style to enlist a reader’s feelings, especially by the presence of ‘characters’ depicted in the narrative. In the US, the term ‘creative nonfiction’ describes the use of story techniques to factual situations, especially for essays and memoir, but the author is central to the composition: an event is explored through the personal experience of the writer. This may not be appropriate to all nonfiction subjects – e.g. for writing histories, biographies, text books, or documentaries with a wider focus. Here, the author may be the narrator, but his or her inner state is not the principal issue. So instead, I use the term ‘narrative nonfiction’.

Narrative nonfiction employs story craft, such as plotting to build tension, deep characterisation, and imaginative description, to present facts in a form that stimulates readers’ senses and engages them emotionally. Learning facts does not have to be a dry, mind-numbing experience. Today, publishers and readers expect to be enthralled, not bludgeoned, by information.

Although Write Your Nonfiction Book guides writers through the whole process – refining an idea, research, writing, editing, implementing publishing options, and marketing – the emphasis is on narrative style, and how to achieve reader-engagement for a wide range of nonfiction genres. And because technology allows writers from almost anywhere in the world to offer their books in the global market-place, I encourage these voices to be heard more widely by providing information that is, as far as possible, international.

Why not let the world hear your voice?

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Trish Nicholson narrative non fiction

Trish Nicholson

About Trish Nicholson: Dr Trish Nicholson is a writer, photographer, social anthropologist, and author of short stories, and narrative nonfiction on ethnography, travel, popular science and writing craft. Her latest titles are, Inside Stories for Writers and Readers, and Write Your Nonfiction Book: The Complete Guide to Becoming an Author. You can connect with her on Twitter, @TrishaNicholson, and follow her blog at http://www.trishnicholsonswordsinthetreehouse.com

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       As a reader, what are  some of your favorite non fiction narratives and why?

           If you’re a nonfiction author, what tips would you give a beginner??

What Do Fish Think?


Fishy thoughts

Fish Thoughts

I love my aquariums, and they sometimes work into my fiction writing process.

I fixed new lights on one of my aquariums yesterday. Watching the fish glow under the LED, slow down and hover because this light makes shadows inside the aquarium, mimicking their natural environment, I began to wonder: what do fish think– what are the thoughts that blink up and light their tiny little minds? Do they think at all? What if we knew their thoughts?

And as any writer knows, ‘What if’s can sometimes lead to great stories.

I went back to look for instances of when my fish have inspired me, and found this old blog post– the writers amongst you might identify with it:

As some readers of this blog know, I have a pair of Black Angelfish.

Every two weeks or so, like clockwork, they lay about a 100 eggs, guard them till the babies hatch, hover around the hatchlings still attached to the leaves, try to carry them in their mouths and keep them safe once the babies are free-swimming. Only about 50 babies are left at this stage.

Then for the next three days, they do their best to sustain the babies, which dwindle from 50 to 25 to 10 to 5 to zero. This is because I don’t know what to feed the babies— am both scared of, and don’t know how to, breed mosquito larvae, which is their food.

A day after the last baby has disappeared, the angels are at each other, kissing, fluttering, chasing, back at the mating game. A day later there are eggs again.

I wonder if they remember their babies. I know they are capable of some kind of association/ memory,  because they know when I’m around and come begging for food, and dance around like mad puppies when I have the food box in my hand.

I no longer know how to feel about the regular births and deaths.

But I’ve learned the passion of creation by their example: write like mad, polish them like mad, submit like mad, and even if the babies come to nothing, set about making my writing babies again.

And just like with the angelfish babies, rejoice that they lived and swam free, at least for a while.

Who knows, maybe someday, one of the angelfish babies would survive. It would become more than a tiny tadpole, actually grow fins and swim at large.

In the meanwhile, what I and my angelfish can do is create, with passion and commitment. Results be damned.

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What do Fish think? Have you ever wondered what your pets think about, the cat, your dog, that hamster? Has your pet ever inspired you to create art or stories?

Dear Author, Are You Writing a Series?


Through the months of November and December, some fab writers would take over Daily (w)rite. I still have a few slots open for December, so I would welcome guest posts by writers who have something to say about the art, craft, and business of writing. Write me a mail at atozstories at gmail dot com to discuss this.

Today, I welcome Rick Gualtieri. He has a great blog, and his latest offering, , Sunset Strip is on my TBR pile (Just look at that gorgeous cover!). It is a 60k words of paranormal fantasy with attitude, and is now available Kindle, Nook, Kobo . If you haven’t already, I urge you to check it out. Take it away, Rick!

Sunset Strip: A Tale From The Tome Of Bill

Sunset Strip by Rick Gualtieri

Surviving a Series

 I’ve just released the fifth book in a horror/comedy series I’ve been writing.  I’m lucky in that it’s been well-received by readers and has developed a bit of a following.  There’re few better feelings for a writer than receiving a message asking when the next book will be coming out. At the same time, it’s not all wine and roses. It’s very possible to suffer from series burn-out. There’s also the ever-present fear of ‘jumping the shark’, where everything afterward doesn’t quite reach the highpoints that came before.  In short there’re plenty of challenges for series authors. In between writing mine and reading others, though, I’ve come up with some suggestions that hopefully you might find useful.

 -        Know where you’re going.  A series should have a destination in mind.  Even if it’s not an ultimate destination, there should be a culmination to story arcs in mind before starting anew.  Closure is good and gives readers a sense of satisfaction.  Without that sense of direction, your multi-book epic adventure could start to seem aimless. Treat your series like a singular story, except each book represents a chapter.  Make sure you have a coherent beginning, middle, and end when it’s all viewed as a whole.

-        Change is good, as long as it’s not for the sake of change.  Mix things up, kill characters, introduce new ones, and have the survivors grow as a result – as long as it makes sense for the story.  The same thing over and over again is comfortable, but can rapidly become boring.  Just make sure when you change it, you know where you’re going with it.

-        Don’t milk it.  While you wouldn’t be the first writer to throw a few extra books into a series to keep the old cash cow alive, remember that readers aren’t stupid.  If it’s filler, people will realize it. Go to that well too often and don’t be surprised when readers react to the announcement of the next chapter with apathy rather than excitement.  If your series is reaching its end, go for it and go big.  Don’t put off the inevitable just because you hope to squeeze people for a few more bucks.

-        It’s okay to take a break.   You may get some grousing, but it’s perfectly okay to work on a different story in between series volumes.  You need to respect your readers, but that doesn’t mean they should dictate what must come next.   No ideas for a different world? Consider a side story for a sub character. This can be a great way to mix things up and keep them fresh for you, while at the same time expanding upon your universe.  My latest falls into that category.  It was a nice breath of fresh air to help me recharge my batteries, while still treading familiar ground.

Writing a series can be an awesome experience in extended world-building and storytelling.  But much like a long road trip, it’s easy to get lost. If you can avoid doing so, though, you may find it personally rewarding as well as potentially lucrative.

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Rick Gualtieri

Rick Gualtieri

About Rick: Rick Gualtieri lives alone in a dark, evil place called New Jersey with only his wife, three kids, and countless pets to both keep him company and constantly plot against him. When he’s not busy monkey-clicking out words, he can typically be found jealously guarding his collection of vintage Transformers from all who would seek to defile them. Defilers beware!

———  As a reader, what are some of your favorite series, and why? If you’re an author, what’s your take on surviving a series?

On what I learned from an #Author and an #Agent


Two days ago, I finished a course by Curtis Brown Agency, UK a three-day bootcamp for aspiring novelists in Singapore.

The Singapore National Arts Council  flew down Anna Davis, an author of five novels and a Curtis Brown agent who runs Curtis Brown Creative; and  bestselling author Jake Arnott, known for books like The Long Firm and The House of Rumor, to conduct this workshop.

Curtis Brown Novel Workshop Singapore

After the Curtis Brown Boot Camp Singapore

Between them, they chose 15 candidates out of 60 applications, and I got lucky. When I caught glimpses of the work of my peers, I realized how lucky– the room brimmed over with talent. I learned as much from their questions and answers as I did from some of  Jake and Anna’s comments.

In the three-day workshop Jake and Anna covered everything from Characters and Dialogue to Rewriting the Novel– they helped reinforce a lot of of my attitudes on technique.

But what helped me most were the sessions on Story, Structure, and weirdly enough (because I’m not ready for an agent by a long shot), the Agent Query letters.

Jake gave us an interesting theory of what a story is : Story occurs when character and plot meet. Story is itself the driving force, the very DNA of prose fiction. We do not tell stories. They tell us.

This led me to think about my novel– its plot which seemed to be doing too much and leading the story by the nose.

While writing the query letter (Anna surprisingly thought mine worked, though I had spent less than  two days writing it!)  and the pitch, I kept wondering what my story was about.

Anna Davis and Jake Arnott

Curtis Brown Bootcamp by Jake Arnott and Anna Davis

The 20-minute in-person tutorials with Jake and Anna told me exactly why it can be crucial to get feedback from the real pros in this business– while I’ve been flapping along like a fledgling stork with my first draft and second, they swooped in immediately like ospreys on just what the story was. Kind and perceptive, both Jake and Anna merely asked me a lot of questions– never forcing their point of view, but helping me see my work in a way I hadn’t before.

As a result, I’m now considering sweeping changes in my work, which might mean yet another complete change of direction and rewrite. And though that means a lot of new work, and a lot of old work possibly binned, I’m thrilled.

No matter what direction I take with my novel, and irrespective of whether it ever sees light of day, I learned to ask the right questions when it comes to a novel. To me, that’s invaluable.

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What workshops have you taken part in? Have you ever participated in a Curtis Brown Workshop? Has a workshop ever led to major changes in your work?

What can a #Wine #Writer tell you about #AmWriting ?


Today, I welcome Alicia Bien, comedy writer, performer and wine lover, to Daily (w)rite to dole out some writing advice, which she does in her humorous, chatty writing voice. Take it away, Alicia!

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“I want to write a book about Mount Everest,” I said staring at the world’s highest peak on the television screen.
“Okay,” said my husband flipping through the TV channels.
“Or maybe I’ll write about midwifery in the Middle Ages.”
“Okay.”
“Or the Big Bang Theory. Not the TV show but the actual theory.”
“… Okay?

My husband was subtle but I knew what his hesitant “okays” really meant: Don’t touch those subjects with a 10-foot pole. Which was not to say these potential book topics were uninteresting, unmarketable or unenlightened. Rather it was his just his way of saying that yours truly didn’t know enough about any of them to write anything new without doing a decade’s worth of monk-like, committed research. This advice was writer’s gold. In fact, during the process of writing my book, Evolution of a Wine Drinker, several tips proved helpful.

Evolution of a Wine Drinker by Alicia Bien

Evolution of a Wine Drinker: Alicia Bien

1)  Write what you love. Growing up in a small town I broke several bones and experienced a nasty car accident that left me nervous to drive for months. Yes, I “knew” these subjects but I didn’t want to immerse myself in their worlds to write a book about any of them. Instead I needed to write about something that I was passionate about. I’ve been drinking vino since I took a college course on it and to this day I still get excited discussing, decanting and drinking wine.

2) Embrace Structure. Books are like houses, they have a foundation and a structure that holds them up. I chose an alphabetical structure where each chapter focused on one element of wine that referred to a letter of the alphabet. The book starts with “Drinking Alone”, moves onto “Cool Chicks and Bottles”, then ends with “Zinfandel”. Once I had this A-Z structure, it clarified the path and let me focus on the exciting part: the writing.

3) Use your voice. As a head writer for a sketch show in Hollywood I dig writing comedy and dialogue and wanted to use these elements paired with my own comedic voice to write about wine. In this manner I could add something new to the canon of wine writing. Or at least have fun while doing it.

These gold nuggets of advice successfully guided me while writing my wine book. And I’ll be using them again on my next project, which just might be a book about The Big Bang Theory–the TV show not the actual theory!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alicia Bien’s book “Evolution of a Wine Drinker” is now available at Amazon.com. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and adopted cat. Visit the author online at her Blog and follow on at Twitter @aliciabien

Dear Writers, Share Some Advice…?


Stein on Writing

Stein on Writing

Found a great example of Show not Tell today– ‘an evolution from telling to showing’ as Sol Stein puts it:

He took a walk.

He walked four blocks.

He walked four blocks slowly.

He walked the four blocks as if it were the last mile.

He walked as if against an unseen wind, hoping someone would stop him.

I think I’m going to tape this example to my study wall.

Have you recently found some writing advice, a concrete example, or a writing book that was helpful?

 

17 Stories That Failed and Why


Ciara Ballintyne is a Twitter and Blog friend I have known for some time. Not only is she an engaging writer, she is serious about her craft, and willing to share her insights. Today she shares : Lessons Learned from ‘Nascence: 17 Stories That Failed and Why’ by Tobias S Buckell.

It is a long-ish post, but there are lessons for writers all the way to the end. Take it away, Ciara!

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Tobias Buckell

Tobias Buckell

You could look at this book as an attempt by Buckell to make money out of short stories that he failed to sell. However, I find it an interesting look at the early work of a published author that we rarely get. I don’t know that I’d be so inclined to bare to the world how bad I once was if I was a published author!

There are lessons in here for a writer who might be struggling, as well as tips on Buckell’s own writing process that might help you. For example, Buckell says he wrote short stories for a long time because he considered it a faster way to learn how to write a story from start to finish, fail, and try again, than writing novels. He’s probably right. I did it the novel way, not being a short-story writer much, and it’s taken me 20 years to get here! And wherever ‘here’ is, it’s not the same ‘here’ as Buckell.

There is commentary from Buckell on the reasons for each story’s failure, but here is my own analysis as an objective reader and writer.

  1. The Arbiter – This story does manage to move my emotions if in an incomplete way. In that respect it’s more successful than many other stories in this book.
  2. Airtown – I completely failed to connect with the protagonist and the story felt like an opening scene or excerpt, incomplete of itself;
  3. Abrupt Salvage – a step backwards from The Arbiter. Buckell attempts to engage our emotions but his characterisation and building of relationships is incomplete. The climax lacks impact. I was surprised when the story ended and was left expecting more. Buckell notes that many of his stories read like a chapter instead of a stand-alone story. I agree.
  4. It Is Bitter… The first protagonist I really identify with. He’s got drive and motivation and it’s red-hot emotional! It pushes me to read but the ending is unsatisfying. This was an experiment with voice using present tense, and setting, wold-building and plot suffer as a result. Compare to the earlier stories to see how Buckell helps us identify with the protagonist. Continue reading

What D’n D Taught me About Characterization


As part of the continued guest post series, today we have writer Melody Kaufmann, a lovely blog-friend and twitter buddy!

I love the characterizations in her work, and invited her to talk about it in this post. Take it away Melody!

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D&D is a group of friends essentially “acting out” a story, not unlike a movie.  In any story, good characterization is essential. Good characterization, in a novel, avoids author intrusion, and provides the reader with what my oldest child calls “movies for the brain”. For this to occur the author needs to “build the characters” which is what each player does at the start of a D&D game. In both there is a challenge and reward to “artistically representing human character and motive” in a believable and engaging manner.  The purpose in both cases is to create a story that others will enjoy.

Everything I know about characterization I learned by playing D&D. Ok not everything… but many things I learned while role-playing influence the method I use to create my characters. Webster defines characterization as “the artistic representation (as in fiction or drama) of human character or motives”. Characteristics and motives are what the reader uses to identify each character as an individual. Any writer can become published but real success for a writer comes from being read. Characterization is a part of what determines whether or not a work will be read. Here are a few tips for making your characterization work:

1>    Don’t kill everyone – parents, siblings, extended family give a character, particularly a main character, depth. If they have nothing to lose & no one that matters to them then why do we care about them? Relationships forge a character’s personality. Would Dr. Yueh betray Duke Leto if he had no one he loved? The Pet Sematary is only a local legend if Dr. Creed is a single man with no family.  The ties that bind sway character actions, change the entire plot, provide a WHY, and make us laugh. Don’t cut them.

2>    All good / all evil = boring – Even Voldemort’s back-story is one that evokes a certain amount of pity.  Batman is more popular than Superman because he is a less-than-perfect Dark Knight unlike the Man of Steel. Humans are rarely flawlessly good or entirely evil. This is why there are so many different alignments in D&D. A character’s identity is built from education, race, religious beliefs, and cultural background. Who he/she is and how he/she thinks should flow from the logical impact of each of these elements.

3>    Individuality is important but so is commonality – Characters with commonalities in same education, race, religious beliefs, and cultural background will share similarities. This doesn’t mean that all characters of a certain race or religion will be identical. It doesn’t happen in life so it doesn’t make sense in writing (unless you are writing about clones).  The point is that you must balance logical commonality with character individuality.

4>    Give your character a voice – Writers must think carefully about how each character sounds and behaves.  Different speech patterns and personalities add flavor to a story but not if it flies in the face of logic.  Favored sayings, personality quirks, and speech patterns should make sense as the by-product of the character’s background.  A lot of what connects readers to one character over another exists in the form of facial expressions, movement, and personality traits. This is the meat of characterization– getting the reader intimately acquainted with the characters. Here is where the reader decides who they like and who they hope doesn’t make it.  Characterization is the writer’s tool for sculpting the reader’s opinion.

5>    Make a Question list – I have a list of 20 questions that is indispensable. The idea came from my amazing husband who did much DM’ing (Dungeon Mastering) over the years. Moving from basic things (place of birth, appearance) through personality details (their goal in life, would they sell out) brings each character alive. I have multiple versions for short stories, novels, and series. An abbreviated version is usually enough for supporting characters. The list reminds me what the reader wants to know. It gets me fully acquainted with my characters. Not every bit of it appears in my story but as a writer, intimate knowledge of a character is an utter necessity to maintain consistency.

Sample Characterization List

There are many other things I’ve learned and not all of them from role-playing. Characters can save or ruin a story.  Invest in them and your reader will become invested as well.

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Melody-Ann Kaufmann

Melody-Ann Kaufmann

Melody-Ann Kaufmann is a Systems Developer for University of Florida, wife of a techno genius, a student completing her MS in Information Security, mother of two autistic children, writer, geek, gamer, anime & manga consumer, avid reader of eclectic works, web comic connoisseur, and the owner of a horse-sized dog. She can be found on Twitter @Safireblade & FaceBook here. Her fledgling website can be found at Safireblade.com.

The Best Advice on Writing I’ve Ever Received


Daily (w)rite went on an involuntary hibernation last week due to a WordPress Technical glitch. But thanks to the awesome staff at WordPress, it is back, and so is the Writers’ Guest Post Schedule for November.

Today we have amazing writer, and lovely blog-friend Corinne O’Flynn. She is here to talk to us about how writers ought to treat their writing, so without further ado, I hand over the post to Corinne:

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This might sound strange coming from someone who has yet to have her book published, but bear with me. There are ways to measure the quality of your writing before it is published.

There is so much advice out there about writing and paths to publication, much of it is right on. It runs the gamut from grammar, to character development, world building, and the practice of writing itself.  If you’re like me, a lot of this advice speaks to you relative to your own work.

The best advice I’ve ever read comes from Jane Friedman through an article that was printed in Writer’s Digest Magazine last July/August. For the writer who has publishing aspirations, this is important. You ready? Ok, here it is:

“You have to view your work not as something precious to you, but as a product to be positioned and sold.”  – Jane Friedman

The Best Writing Advice I've Ever Received

The Best Writing Advice I've Ever Received

I will remember forever being on a plane and reading those words. I had a gigantic “aha moment” and sadly was stuck in my seat, alone, with no one to share my epiphany. I must have read the article twenty more times while on that flight. Those words resonated with me and as soon as I could get back to my desk and my work, they found their way into my revisions.

The results were interesting. Once I took to revising my own writing with this outward-facing view in mind, I was able to see the things in my writing that were holding my work back—holding me back.

My ability to identify and therefore cut the junk and improve pacing became sharper. I could locate the places in my work where my own writer’s pride kept me from cutting something I thought was especially fabulous, even though it had no place in my work.

Did I instantly start getting nibbles from publishers and sell my books at auction? No, but responses to my work changed overnight. My critique partners didn’t know what I was doing differently, but they felt that something had changed and the quality of my work had improved. My entries into writing contests started getting positive attention. My confidence in my work skyrocketed.

Approaching your work as something you want to sell and not as a slice of your soul changes what you see when you’re reading it. For the better. The results can be the difference between writing that is genuinely good and writing that grabs hold of your reader and takes them for a ride.

Writer Corinne O'Flynn

Writer Corinne O'Flynn

Bio:
Corinne loves to write about fictional dark and fantastical things. You can find her on her blog and on twitter@CorinneOFlynn

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Thanks Corinne, for the wonderful post, and now I open the floor for questions and comments from readers!

What My Angelfish Pair Taught Me About Writing


As some readers of this blog know, I have a pair of Black Angelfish.

Every two weeks or so, like clockwork, they lay about a 100 eggs, guard them till the babies hatch, hover around the hatchlings still attached to the leaves, try to carry them in their mouths and keep them safe once the babies are free-swimming. Only about 50 babies are left at this stage.

Then for the next three days, they do their best to sustain the babies, which dwindle from 50 to 25 to 10 to 5 to zero. This is because I don’t know what to feed the babies— am both scared of, and don’t know how to, breed mosquito larvae, which is their food.

A day after the last baby has disappeared, the angels are at each other, kissing, fluttering, chasing, back at the mating game. A day later there are eggs again.

I wonder if they remember their babies. I know they are capable of some kind of association/ memory,  because they know when I’m around and come begging for food, and dance around like mad puppies when I have the food box in my hand.

I no longer know how to feel about the regular births and deaths.

But I’ve learned the passion of creation by their example: write like mad, polish them like mad, submit like mad, and even if the babies come to nothing, set about making my writing babies again.

And just like with the angelfish babies, rejoice that they lived and swam free, at least for a while.

Who knows, maybe someday, one of the angelfish babies would survive. It would become more than a tiny tadpole, actually grow fins and swim at large.

In the meanwhile, what I and my angelfish can do is create, with passion and commitment. Results be damned.