Wednesday, February 02, 2011

6 Tips for Writing Non-Fiction: I Do Like It

When I first decided to become a writer I did so on the premise that I was going to be a novelist. Yes, I had the same visions in my head as every writer on the planet: writing for only a few hours a day while being free to go on book tours and sell millions of books to my adoring fans.

Ahhh! There's something magical about being naive and stupid.

Back then I always had an aversion to write nonfiction books. Don't ask me why. I suppose I was too steeped the romanticism of being a novelist. 

Well now, here I am. A little older and a tad wiser and though I don't know if I'm going to have millions of fans who read my books (a man can still dream here), I do know that in growing as a writer over the years, I have taken a turn in the opposite direction. I must confess...I do love writing nonfiction.

My first book, Stop Bringing Them to Church, is a nonfiction offering that since I've started, I'm amazed at how much I can get accomplished in writing in one sitting. When I attempted to write my novels, sometimes it was like pulling teeth with a pair of rusty pliers. There's so much to consider in the construction of a novel that you just don't have to think about with a non-fiction offering. There are no characters for you to be concerned with, no antagonists or protagonists that need to be created, no plot to flesh out. It's one of the few endeavors where I can just write and I'm finding that I write FAST. The topic, however, is one I'm well versed in so that has quite a bit to do with it.

Don't get me wrong. A nonfiction book still has to be interesting and grab the attention of the reader. It has to hold them from start to finish. Just because the rules are a little different doesn't mean that I can put out junk. At all times, no matter what is written, I attempt to put out the best material I can muster.

The experience that I'm having in writing Stop Bringing Them to Church book has been QUITE enjoyable. Hey...I'm the kind of guy who loves research and study and this has plenty of it. You have to do that for novels also but it's very straightforward with a nonfiction offering.

The experience so far has taught me a couple things which I'd like to share with other aspiring writers:

1. The mantra "Write what you know" is SO true. You only live once and it just makes writing a WHOLE lot easier.

2. Another mantra is equally as important. Writers write. Stop thinking about it and do it. Don't be overly concerned so much with it being perfect at this juncture. Just write. You can edit later and half the time you'll look back at what you wrote and what you thought was horrible turns out not to be so bad after all.

3. Have a minimum writing goal per day. I take it upon myself to write in the very least, three pages a day. Sometimes it's more. The other night it was seven (a brotha was on a roll).

4. Figure out your best time to write. I used to try to write in the morning but I always felt pressed because I do bread and butter writing during the day and felt it was cutting into my time. So I switched it to mid-evening and I'm never going to look back. I've heard that some people write better VERY early in the morning. Whatever floats your boat. You'll know when that time is because you'll be more productive.

5. Take your writing seriously. People who don't write think it's a hobby and have no clue. Treat it as a job. No text messages, phone calls, or television. Sit down, kill all distractions, write your minimum. If you're feeling it, go further.

6. Stop at a place where's it's easy to pick up again where your train of thought can just flow the next time you sit down. The middle of a sentence is a no, no. The end of a paragraph is better and probably the best place.

Well...I should probably stop rambling and get to work. You know, us writers have to write.


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