Finding your Non-fiction Voice

  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 …

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Writing a Memoir: Write the Journey

You’ve logged the miles and now it’s time to write the journey. Writing a memoir is your opportunity to share a transformational story or collection of stories from your life’s journey. You’ve logged the miles, and, along the way, you’ve faced challenges, taken risks, failed, given up, risked again; until, finally, you emerged transformed in some way. You’ve reached a crest where you can see 365 degrees around you, and you pick out the faint trail of your passage all the way back to your beginning. You know you have a story to share with others. Where do you begin? Begin at the …

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Story—The Journey from Darkness toward Light, from the Existential Scream to the Universal Sigh

help writing story

Here’s the thing, being human isn’t easy. We are human and we are animal—savage and tender, mindful and thoughtless, loving and cruel, base and divine—and then toss our heart and spirit into the mix and try telling our story. Wait, shhhh, hear that existential scream? Yup, understanding the complexities of human nature is an ongoing challenge. If you have any desire to try, and if you are a writer, painter, musician, actor, creative seeker of any stripe, you are a storyteller and you are on the journey toward transformation and this is a gift. When it comes to story, transformation …

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Story Form–It’s a jungle out there!

I had a call yesterday from a writer who wasn’t sure if the story she wants to write will best be told as fiction or memoir. We talked about fear of exposure and how fictionalizing a life story does not necessarily do anything to address that issue. We talked about the kinds of books she loves to read. At the end of our brief conversation, she asked if I had an exercise that would guide her along a discovery process to find her story’s form. I have a simple step, I said, to take you in that direction. Sit down …

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NO SLUGS, NO SLACKERS…

Today’s quote comes from Thomas McCormack’s excellent book: THE FICTION EDITOR, THE NOVEL, AND THE NOVELIST. “Character is most keenly revealed when it’s confronted with crisis, hard choices, urgent decisions. Thus, insofar as he’s interested in revealing character, the author’s job is to construct setting and circuitry that will call for decisions, for actions.” When you sit down to write today, ask yourself what your characters want and how far they will go to get what they want? Ask what they do about getting what they want–and also what effect their actions have on others? Finally, ask if the reader …

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SCAFFOLD SCENES–Part One

Scenes are basic building blocks of narrative. A scene can be defined as a story episode rendered fully and dramatically in order to make the reader feel she is present and witnessing the action in real time. In effective scenes, things happen and the world shifts. Secrets are discovered. Adversaries are confronted. Revelations arise. Decisions are made. When you write–especially when you rewrite–you should know what each scene accomplishes in your story. Ask yourself what function it serves. Effective scenes do more than one thing at once, but a quick inventory will help you stay on track and in action …

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CREDO — IN LIFE, IN FICTION

Credo (Latin for “I believe”) is traditionally a statement of religious belief. It is also a statement of personal belief, whether you subscribe to a religious tradition or not. If you’ve listened to any of the personal essays from the long-running public radio series, “This I Believe,” you’ve heard a variety of credos.  For writers, credos are especially powerful. The act of penning your credo on paper will remind you of your deepest beliefs. These are the beliefs that inspire you to write. You may have done this before; if so, you might be surprised how many writers have never written …

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MAKING HEADLINES!

I learned one my favorite writing “tricks” from Charles Dickens, who often published his novels in installments. He used chapter headings, or, what I call headlines. Open OLIVER TWIST to Chapter 6 and read: Oliver, Being Goaded by the Taunts of Noah, Rouses into Action, and Rather Astonishes Him. Or Chapter 32: Of the Happy Life Oliver Began to Lead with his Kind Friends. But page forward to Chapter 33: Wherein the Happiness of Oliver and his Friends, Experiences a Sudden Check. And near novel’s end: The Pursuit and Escape. When I’m writing my first draft, I aim for scene …

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