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of a local newspaper, I realized that although I’d done a ton of academic writing at that point, had written lots of unpublished essays and had a passion for writing that went back to my pre-teen years, I didn’t know that much about the fine points of magazine writing.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.

Posted in Backstory, Writing craft, YOuTube

Improving Your Writing…5 Tips at a Time

I started my writing career over thirty years ago. I began with a writing passion that had burned brightly since I was a teeny-bopper (does anyone use that word anymore?). I remember being twelve years old and wondered why a kid my age couldn’t write a book. Of course, anyone can write anything. As a writer matures, though, the question becomes not whether I can write but whether I should write. My answer was always a resounding yes. I had to write. What’s next, then?

For everyone who writes, there comes a time when we begin to think about getting what we write published. I started as a freelance health and medical writer because my educational background led me in that direction. But I wanted to do more. So, I wrote a book.

What did I know about writing a book? I did a lot of research. In those days, that research involved lots of writing books. There was no internet to browse, no other writers to connect with online. I was on my own. So, I read a lot of books and writing magazines, and I took a few courses. I learned a lot by trial and error. After my first book was picked up by a publisher and finally made it to trade paperback, I started teaching writing.

Along the way, I had also picked up a graduate degree in strategic health communication (like you do!). I began consulting in corporate communications alongside my writing, which led a corporate communication program at a local university to ask me to teach. I started teaching print media, essentially a writing and design course for print communication tools. That began an unexpected twenty-six-year academic career, ending up as a full Professor of Communication Studies. All along the way, I never stopped writing―both as a job requirement and for myself.

Most of my books were published by traditional publishers. Still, along the way, I took several forays into self-publishing, even publishing teaching materials that eventually became a book that I sold to a large American textbook publisher. Now, I write only for myself―women’s and historical fiction. (and the odd writing reference book when I have time_.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from a lot of people―readers, editors, students, book authors, YouTube video presenters, among them. Now, it’s time to give back.

I’ve also learned one more thing: time is a precious commodity. So, I thought, what if I could provide bite-sized pieces of writing advice to budding writers―and others who want a fresh perspective―in a format they could easily access?

Born from that idea is my newly launched series on YouTube. Write. Fix. Repeat. Making you a better writer, five tips at a time.

I’ve just uploaded the first episode based on a blog post I did last year on the five characteristics of great writing. I thought it might be a good way to get started.

If you’d like five tips a week, subscribe and come along with me on this journey. I guarantee we’ll all learn something―especially me!