Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What Is Non-Fiction?

The Art of Writing Non-Fiction

Non-fiction is similar to fiction in that it’s important to grab and hold the readers’ attention. Starting with a catchy title, (the same is true for a novel) the first sentence and/or paragraph must snag the reader and make him feel his time will not be wasted.

I’ve been writing professionally for twelve years, everything from poetry to short stories, scripts for videos, website content, articles, and novels. During that time, I’ve grown and learned valuable lessons from mistakes I’ve made. If you’re contemplating getting into the business of writing articles for publication, or stories about true crime, here are some tips that may help you get your foot in the door. Good luck!

  • For magazine articles (print or electronic): read copies of the magazine to get a feel for what the editor is looking for and will accept.
  • Send a query letter, not an article, explaining your idea—what you intend to write, and why you’re the best person to write it. Explain why you’re an SME (subject matter expert).
  • Think about and anticipate trends, e.g., if you’re writing a Christmas article, the piece should be planned well in advance of December.
  • Just as in fiction, make full use of the five senses to add interest and readability.
  • Use simple dialogue tags (he said, she said, etc.).
  • It’s non-fiction, but you must still show and not tell. No one wants to read a long narrative. Help the reader feel what the people you’re writing about are feeling, i.e., pain, joy, etc.
  • Consider the audience you’re writing for and direct it toward them.
  • Not an SME? Consider using a co-author or contributor to add credibility. Interview someone who is an SME, remembering to give them full attribution for their assistance and knowledge.

Just remember—whether it’s fact or fiction, people want to be entertained and informed. Make your work pop, not fizzle.

John M. Wills, has written more than 150 articles,published ten books, and has had numerous short stories published on websites and in anthologies. Visit him at, and purchase his books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Oak Tree Press website.

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