Keep Your Writing Voice Informal

The best journalism, business, and academic writing is as eloquent and enjoyable as the best writing in other genres. Unfortunately, most people do not produce the best writing. Most people produce adequate writing. Since you aspire to be a writer, I trust that regardless of the field in which you …

Use an Authentic Writing Voice

Write the way you speak, only with more polish. You may need to unlearn a lot that you learned in college about writing. Teachers teach academic writing, which tends to be dry, fact-focused, and concerned more with making a point than crafting elegant sentences. ☐ The narrative voice draws the …

Get Front and Back Matter in Order

Not every book will have front and back matter, but if yours does, understand that there is a customary order in which these things usually appear. This information isn’t on the checklist because it may not apply to your book. If it does, you can download the Front and Back …

How to Use Sidebars, Charts, and Images

Sidebars are a good way to include information that complements your text but that doesn’t aid the flow of your main text. Sidebars are not a good place to house information you discovered that was interesting, but unrelated to the main text. ☐ Images, charts, and sidebars are relevant and …

Use Sensory Details to Capture Imagination

Like a novelist, a nonfiction writer can engage the reader’s imagination through the use of the five senses. ☐ Vivid details enhance the reader’s understanding and highlight key points. We usually think of this kind of detail as being visual. The shape of someone’s eyeglasses, the colors of the flowers …

Limit Flashbacks in Narrative Nonfiction

The use of flashbacks in narrative nonfiction is similar to flashbacks in fiction. ☐ Flashbacks are used only when necessary and are engaging. A flashback is a dramatized scene that looks back to a time before the story started. Now here’s the thing — if your readers need to know …

Present Information in a Useful Order

The nonfiction equivalent to plot and structure is Presentation and Flow. The events of your story, or the information in prescriptive nonfiction, should be like links in a chain—connected and in the right order. If you haven’t already, get the Elements of Nonfiction Editing Checklist As much as possible, present …

Avoid Making Real People One-Dimensional

A two-sided hazard of narrative nonfiction—whether you’re writing about your own life or someone else’s—is of making the good guys impossibly perfect and the bad guys impossibly evil. Novelists face the same problem, of course, but in nonfiction the problem is magnified because you’re writing about real human beings. Creating …

Populate Your Book with Engaging People

We’ve talked about what sort of nonfiction you may be writing and why it’s important to use stories to make your point. Now we’re ready to dig into the Nonfiction Checklist. The first category, Personality, is equivalent to Character in fiction. The type of nonfiction you’re writing will determine whether …

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