Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nonfiction: Top 10 Reasons to Write Nonfiction

1) Learn new subjects and expand your knowledge of familiar subjects.

You get to learn about so many different subjects when you write nonfiction. This week, I researched screenwriting books, Halloween safety, and spa treatments that can be made at home. Next week, I complete a curriculum for a poetry workshop and research my Cherokee heritage for a nonfiction children’s book. What do you know? What do you want to know? Your nonfiction book and article ideas lie within those two questions.

2) Meet fascinating people.

Interviewing experts on all the subjects you are learning is exciting. Writing nonfiction opens your eyes to different perspectives on everything from quilting to filmmaking to race relations. Writers get to touch greatness as a part of their life’s work. Talk about a perk! Sorry to talk about myself again, but, well…back to me. I am a slightly lumpy twenty-seven-year-old stay-at-home mother. In many people’s eyes, that is unremarkable. I don’t care what those people think, though, because I have met world-renowned playwrights, international opera stars, foundation heads, politicians, even Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who led the non-violent end to apartheid in South Africa. Not to mention the up-and-coming writers, musicians, and filmmakers who I blessedly count among my friends and family. All these people around you have knowledge and experiences they want to share, which will add depth and interest in your nonfiction. So look around at this “sphere of influence” you have, and let them have the spotlight provided by your pen.

3) Become an expert.

I was once told in a multi-level sales meeting that an expert is anyone from out of town with a briefcase. Anyone can become an “expert,” partially because of perceptions, and mainly because all you really need to be considered an expert is to know a little more about a subject than your readers.

You can also write your nonfiction manuscript with an expert partner, if you prefer to focus solely on your writing. Let the famous face with all her degrees partner with you on the book. She can do all the press and face time, and you can enjoy the fruits of your labor as a successful nonfiction writer.

4) If you can write and have worthy ideas, you can write nonfiction.

Writing is one career where you can be successful without a degree. You must be able to write. It seems obvious, and yet we have all read some horrible fiction and nonfiction. It helps if you have good ideas, although once you are writing regularly, you may even start receiving assignments from editors who appreciate your professionalism and creativity. If your idea is one that has been done time and again, but you have a brand new twist on approaching it, then you probably have a good future as a nonfiction writer.

5) The marketplace is large and constantly expanding.

There are many new markets, and market categories, all the time, for nonfiction writers. New magazines, new publishers, new journals…the list goes on. Revised editions of Writer’s Market and Literary Marketplace are a necessity because this industry is far from static. Start with the higher-paying markets to build up your bank account, or start with lower-paying or non-paying markets to build up your portfolio.

6) Non-fiction writing contributes to your career outside of writing, too, if you have one.

Publications are an impressive addition to a non-writing resumé. Show your in-depth knowledge of your field by writing non-fiction articles or books on subjects related to your line of work. This could mean career advancement, and the associated financial perks, if writing is not your chosen career. And if you are moonlighting, you can save for your writing sabbatical faster.

7) The money is good.

Nonfiction increases your cash flow. Nonfiction books hold just as many spots on most publishers’ lineups as fiction books do. Nonfiction books often stay in print longer. Even if yours doesn’t stay in print for an extended length of time, you only have to sell 50,000 to 60,000 copies to grab a six-figure income potential. Flat fee rates for small nonfiction books, a nonfiction series, or articles, are not bad either. Nonfiction is not inferior to fiction monetarily, as it was in the past.

8) You can compile articles into a full-length book.

Can you count the number of journalists or columnists who were able to take their past articles and compile them into full-length non-fiction manuscripts? Me neither. There is also the alternative of taking your successful career as a nonfiction writer, and segueing it into sales for a novel, a la Mitch Albom. He was a successful sports writer, and now he is the best-selling author of Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

9) Stretch your creativity.

Yes – contrary to popular belief, non-fiction does require a level of creativity. Granted, when I am not feeling so creative, I do tend to turn to my nonfiction projects. This does not mean, however, that I don’t have to put on my creative hat anyway. Almost every subject under the sun has been covered in print somewhere The key is that it has not been covered by me, and it has not been covered by you. You will still need to pull from that creative well of yours to find a new slant on an old subject or a unique slant on a new subject. If you can keep your creativity while performing research, you have excellent potential as a non-fiction writer.

10) Writing nonfiction is fun.

Okay, so this is more like a summary of the last nine points. You expand your knowledge base, meet amazing people, earn respect for your skills, expertise, and professionalism, receive assignments from editors who favor you, make more money, and work that creative muscle into a set of eight-pack literary abs. What could be more fun?

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