Today we have a wonderful guest post from Dr Trish Nicholson on the subject of creativity and nonfiction.
‘Connectedness is the engine of creativity.’ This quote from my new e-book, Writing Your Nonfiction Book: The Complete Guide to Becoming an Author refers to my suggestion to read all the sections on writing tips for various sub-genres, whatever subject is being pursued, because inspiration is triggered in surprising ways from unexpected sources.
But the power of connectedness works on many different levels. I apply it in this post to resolve the conflicting advice we receive as writers, and which is sometimes so overwhelming it is counter-productive. We are urged to:
‘Write what readers want.’
‘No, write what you know.’
Fiction and non-fiction authors alike face this dilemma, but it is a bigger issue for non-fiction because the market is more specific as to sub-genre and subject. So, who is right? Which should we choose?
Answer: We don’t. We connect all three. Writing Your Nonfiction Book is based on achieving this and I’ll show you how.
Write what readers want: It is true that selling a book on a subject already extensively covered, or on a topic few people want to know about, is extremely difficult. To be successful, a book must have readers, but this doesn’t mean you have to change who you are or what interests you to please ‘everyone’ else. It means you have to identify your audience. Readers are in their millions, from rural students in Africa studying through their mobiles, to executive commuters tapping on their tablets to the rhythm of the train.
Whatever your interest, thousands of people share it. Researching what is already available in your subject, and working out where there are gaps and how you might fill them to target those readers, is how you find your niche, your spot in the market-place.
Write what you know: We each bear a body of knowledge and unique experience, often far greater in extent than we realise. But this knowledge is not an inert block of wood: it is a living tree with branches, twigs and leaves that can be stimulated and extended into new areas and original avenues. With research, we build on what we know in order to learn more, to apply it to new situations, and to find that special angle on our subject that makes our contribution unique. This is what we offer our readers.
Writing Your Nonfiction Book includes a whole chapter on types of information, how to gather it, verify it, and apply it to your own topic. ‘Write what you know’ is not a limitation; it is a licence to grow, and run free.
Write from the heart: As writers, our aim is to engage with readers; to influence them in some way, but this can only be achieved if we are genuine. Readers soon ‘see through’ writing that is insincere, however well-constructed or packed with data. Findings from the psychology of reading confirm that non-fiction, as well as fiction, can affect our attitudes and behaviour. The effect is strongest with writing that uses story techniques such as deeply drawn characters, and plotting to create tension.
By definition, we can’t make things up in non-fiction, but we can use creative language and storytelling to show the facts and lead the reader to a fuller understanding of them. The more we care about our topic – the nearer it is to our heart – and the more thoroughly we research it, the easier it is to engage a reader’s senses and feelings in what we write. Creative writing for narrative non-fiction is the longest chapter in my new book.
The connected solution: Expand your knowledge and write from the heart to enlist the emotions of targeted readers. Writing Your Nonfiction Book will enable you to achieve that, and if you want to delve even deeper into creative writing, its sibling, Inside Stories for Writers and Readers will take you there.
Dr Trish Nicholson’s writing career spans 30 years as columnist, feature writer, and author. Her work has been published by W. H. Allen, Routledge, Earthscan, Management Books 2000, and by digital publisher, Collca. Recent titles include e-books on travel, popular science and creative writing. Trish lives in New Zealand and is closely linked to writers and writing all over the world.
You can follow her on Twitter as @trishanicholson
Visit her website www.trishnicholsonswordsinthetreehouse.com where there really is a tree house.
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