Writing non-fiction is challenging. You can’t change the facts or go off in a different direction because you aren’t making up the story. Capturing your readers’ attention can be hard when you have already established parameters around the content, even when readers are interested in the topic. When writing non-fiction, you have facts to back you up, but as the writer, you are still tasked with capturing and maintaining interest and driving the narrative forward in a satisfying way. New writers make some common mistakes when writing non-fiction that you can avoid with a bit of effort.
Don’t Neglect the Goal of Your Non-Fiction Writing
Non-fiction writing has to have a specific goal beyond conveying information. A book that is a conglomerate of data without a purpose won’t engage readers. Ask yourself who you are writing for, why your book is relevant to them, and what you want your readers to get out of the book. Is it personal growth? New career skills? A better understanding of the world? Determine your book’s goal through the lens of your readers, keeping it in mind as you write to avoid wandering off track.
Don’t Ignore Your Audience’s Sensibilities
Understanding your audience is critical, and that includes respecting their feelings and worldview. Most non-fiction books target particular demographics. No matter how much valid information your book has, you won’t succeed if your approach is off-putting. For some audiences, humor will move the narrative along and be appreciated by readers. However, some topics require a more serious touch and shouldn’t be handled flippantly. Decide what your overall message is, who you want to educate, and tailor your approach accordingly.
Don’t Forget About the Opening and Closing of the Book
If you focus so much on the “meat” of your book that you neglect the beginning and the ending, you’ll lose readers. Capturing their attention at the beginning with an anecdote or startling information will engage their interest and keep it until they reach the meaty parts. If they are bored before they get to the main point, they may not bother to keep reading.
If the conclusion isn’t satisfying, readers won’t remember your book positively. An ending that fizzles out after you’ve conveyed all the information is a let-down. You need to tie everything together at the end and have a solid conclusion that sums up the book’s purpose.
Don’t Neglect the Elements of Story Telling
Non-fiction writing isn’t just collecting facts and putting together a dry compendium of material. Successful non-fiction writing uses a story arc to convey the information compellingly. Keep in mind some of the writing tools used for fiction writing to ensure clarity and keep things interesting for readers. Use active voice to engage readers and bring them along on the journey. Dialogue to illustrate key points is also helpful, as are interesting examples and stories to illustrate specific points.
Don’t Assume What Readers Know
Non-fiction writing often focuses on a specific topic, such as innovative sales techniques, how to renovate your home, or the history of women in the armed forces. It’s tempting to assume that they will already understand the topic in depth since your audience is interested in your book. Don’t assume every reader is well-versed in sales methods, renovation techniques, or the structure of the armed forces. Some readers will be new to the subject, but they read your book because they want to know more. Take the time to explain potentially unfamiliar concepts in simple terms. Avoid acronyms and obscure references. Make your non-fiction writing accessible and inclusive.
Non-fiction writing is a wonderful way to share your knowledge and experience with others. If you have a true story to tell, keep our tips in mind. The resulting non-fiction book will both educate and entertain readers.
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