Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Finding Your Nonfiction Angle

When I'm stumped by a plot or character, my mind wanders. I might write a blog post or work on other nonfiction. I don't think of it as easier writing, it's simply what I did most of my life so it's sort of relaxing.

Everyone is an expert on something. But unless you are the first Martian to land on earth (that we know of) and want to talk about the reception you received, your nonfiction book or article will not cover new territory. That's okay. You'll have a different perspective or perhaps better way of presenting something.

Even before you begin to do background reading or jot ideas for an outline, think about why a reader would pick up your book. It’s the “who is your audience” point.
Everything from vocabulary to sentence length is determined by your reader base. Your vocabulary has to match the readers’ level of interest. A book on plumbing repair is very different if your audience is new homeowners or plumbers studying for a certification exam.

There may be one hundred recent books on how to travel on a budget. It’s okay to believe you can write a good one. If you want to sell that book, it’s essential that you let potential readers know why yours is better. It can be comprehensive, shorter, clearer, based on your trip in which you visited seven countries and spent only $2,000 – anything that makes you stand out. 

Once you have a potential topic, you want to see what else has been written. Keep in mind your writing can make a difference. If you don’t believe this, you’ll feel defeated as soon as you start seeing what else is already out there. 

I still have “why do I bother?” moments from time to time. Ironically, they are more likely to come about when I’m in an art museum than a library. 

How do you go about seeing what’s already in print or online? It might be tempting to start with a search on Amazon or BN, but I suggest you take a trip to your local library. A library’s digital catalog will often list a lot more books on a topic than an online retailer, which usually only lists what they sell. At the library you can also look at a book’s table of contents and peruse the chapters. 

What the online retailers have that libraries may not are self-published books. Since the Kindle became affordable in 2009/2010 (depending on your perspective of affordable), many of us have taken our fiction and nonfiction directly to readers. If you decide to self-publish, these may be your primary competitors – especially in terms of digital price. 

Finally, do an online search via Google or Bing, or any search site. This will turn up blog posts, possibly magazine and journal articles. 

I suggest that you make notes about what’s out there, but make no effort to read much of it. You’re in a discovery phase. You don’t want to become discouraged or tailor your topic to what someone else has said or not said.  

Your goal is to write your top-quality article or book. 

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