Posted in Nonfiction Writing, Writing craft

5 tips to improve your nonfiction writing

When I was a teenager, I had dreams of being a novelist. When I was in Grade Eleven, my high school offered us the chance to do an extra project in a subject of our choice. If completed adequately, this project would provide for the notation of “with distinction” to be added to our grade transcripts. That seemed like a good idea to me since I’d be applying to university the following year. Having an area of “distinction” couldn’t hurt.

The problem was that I chose to do this project in English rather than math or science because I fancied myself a writer. What’s the problem, you might well ask? It’s this: my highest marks were in math and science, and I planned to study science in university. Go figure. Anyway, I did the project, part of which required me to write five short stories. Fast forward past my Master’s degree (in science), and you find me a bona fide nonfiction writer.

Thirty years later, I find myself writing both fiction and nonfiction. What this cross-genre writing does for me is to provide me with a breadth of techniques and ideas, each genre benefiting from the other. So, last week I was thinking about nonfiction writing and how often every writer, regardless of genre, needs to know nonfiction techniques.

Everyone writes nonfiction every once in a while. Even novelists have to write their author bios and the occasional book cover copy. Publishers expect it (so do readers, by the way).

This week’s 5 tips are all about improving our nonfiction writing.

Posted in Nonfiction Writing, Writing, Writing craft, Writing Nonfiction

5 Tips for Writing Nonfiction Leads

Thirty years ago, I began my career as a nonfiction writer. The first time I pitched the story to the weekend features editor of a local newspaper, I realized that although I’d done a ton of academic writing at that point, had written lots of unpublished essays and had a passion for writing that went back to my pre-teen years, I didn’t know that much about the fine points of magazine writing.

My background was in health science, so what did I know about writing magazine articles?

What I had was a passion for writing, a knowledge base in the content area I had proposed, a willingness to learn, lots of research experience. The first thing I had to learn was how to write a solid lead. Three decades later and that knowledge has had a chance to be practised over and over, and now I’m sharing my five favourite approaches to a lead―a bit of help for nonfiction authors, magazine writers, bloggers and copywriters.

As I reviewed these tips for leads, it also occurred to me that fiction writers might find inspiration here for opening paragraphs for short stories or even book chapters. I’m a great believer in cross-genre learning.

Here’s today’s episode of WRITE. FIX. REPEAT. with the five approaches to leads.