Writing a non-fiction book is a huge undertaking whether you are writing a memoir, a self-help or expository text. Unlike fiction, you do not get to make things up. What you write has to be factually accurate. That is what makes it nonfiction. Unless, of course, you are writing a narrative memoir. While you are aiming for factual accuracy, you can only write your own truth. Depending on what genre you are focusing, you have to determine the non-fiction voice in which you will write your book. The most important element in finding your non-fiction voice is who you are writing to, or your target audience. While you always want the voice you use to be authentic, we all have many voices.
In my last blog, I talked about the target audience. This is your market base for the book you are writing. If you are writing a memoir, your voice can show your attitude about the specific event in your life that you have chosen to memorialize. If you are writing a self-help book, your voice needs to reflect the tone of how and whom you are helping with your book. Are you writing a scientific tome or lessons for a specific group of people? Are you writing to men, women or children? Does your target audience require a certain knowledge base or are you writing for a beginner? Those are all considerations when determining the voice you will write in.
The importance of Consistency
It is imperative that your voice remains consistent throughout the entire book. Changing your voice from a professional tone to a casual, conversational tone will make your book seem disjointed to the reader. In fiction writing, each character should have their own voice pattern so that they can be identified by how they speak. In non-fiction, you, as the author are the character and you and your message must be consistent to be credible. Making your voice decision before you begin writing, determined by your target audience, provides you with a guideline to follow regarding your word choice, sentence structure, and presentation of your information. Do you need to include all of your research data with citations or can you just describe the process in general terms. How much detail do you need? Are you the professor or the guy on the next treadmill at the gym?
The order of things
Choosing your voice is the third thing you must decide on before you even begin writing. The first is of course, your message. What is the topic or subject of your book? The second is your target audience. To whom are you writing? Whom do you want to reach with your book? And the third, voice, is how you want to present your information so that your target audience can both understand and benefit from your book.
If you have any questions, please feel free to send me an email in the comment section.