5 Things I’m Learning About Non-Fiction Writing

As I mentioned before I have been considering a new project, one which I have decided to begin. For now, I’m keeping the details a little vague, but suffice it to say that this will be a non-fiction ebook project slated to be completed (and released) in about six months. As more is completed I’ll fill you in on the details. For now, I thought I’d share some of the things I’m learning:

1) Refine your topic – I’m the kind of person who likes to jump from idea to idea. Even though this blog has three major themes (writing, programming, singing) it is at times wildly divergent. For a column that you write 4-5 times a week this is okay, and can help keep things fresh, but a book requires a constraint, a curating of ideas. Almost any book on any subject, particularly one that has threads in math, science and computer programming, has an infinite number of avenues to explore. Letting the mind wander is helpful at first, but ultimately your reader won’t get much out of your book unless you establish some kind of order out of the chaos.

2) Most of what you’ll be doing isn’t writing – Frankly, the amount of research I’ve already done in the few short weeks dwarfs what I usually do for any work of fiction. It’s caused me to examine that process as well and whether my prose would benefit from this sort of rigor (I’ll have to try that out after I’m done). In my case I’ve been reading a lot of math and science, and refreshing some programming skills that have lain dormant for a while. Since most of the text is dependant on this research and programming, writing is probably something I’ll be doing in the last months of this project.

3) Non-fiction is still a creative exercise – Whether it’s an algorithm or a way of conveying information, creativity is still key. This is something I’m continually trying to refine on the blog with things like the theme weeks. How do I convey information in a way that people will find interesting, and even fun?

4) Determine your audience (if there is one) – Probably this should be your first question, but I, like most writers I think, tend to get a little down the rabbit hole before really worrying about this question. The internet, especially self-published ebooks, makes this an all the more interesting question. We’re all trying to build a platform to promote our work, and to find ways to get noticed. I’m banking on a couple of factors, existing traffic, niche-ness of the interest, and timing to put it in front of an interested audience. But the blog has already taught me that it can be hard to predict the success or failure or any significant idea until you try, and so I’m trying.

5) I’m not giving up fiction – I still love telling a good story, and I still want to work on revising my current novel, even though it may be a little tight in the six month constraint. But regardless of how things come out, I know that I will always have a passion for telling stories in the way prose offers. But writing this blog has taught me that there are a lot of other things I want to share, and this project is hopefully one way of doing that.

Have a good memorial weekend. I’m not sure if I will be able to post on Monday, but we will definitely be back on Tuesday. In the meantime, spend some time by the grill with your family.

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Filed under Books + Publishing, Internal Debate 42, Writing, Writing Goals

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