Sunday, June 29, 2008

Writing Non-fiction: Session 2 - Approach to Writing Non-fiction

Writing Non-fiction:
Session 2 - Choosing an approach to writing your non-fiction book

Now that you’ve chosen the topic for your non-fiction book, the next step is to choose how you will approach writing about your topic. I’m not talking about determining the category your book will fall into in the book store. I’m talking about choosing a way to write about your topic that will fit what you want to communicate to your readers. You see, the whole point of writing a non-fiction book is to communicate to others. You choose a topic you are passionate about, and then you choose the approach you will take to writing about it.

Possible approaches to writing your non-fiction book

Procedural or instructional approach to non-fiction writing: Falling within this category are instruction manuals, self-help books, cookbooks, how-to manuals, etc. The approach is to instruct your readers by giving them the procedures or steps to follow to do something.

Descriptive approach to non-fiction writing: The word “descriptive” gives you a clue here. In this instance, your approach to writing your non-fiction book is to describe your topic for the audience. A travelogue would fall into this category. Or, your topic might be Queen Anne architecture. In the book you describe with words and perhaps pictures the architecture of that era.

Narrative approach to non-fiction writing: In narrative non-fiction writing, you are telling a story. It’s similar to writing a novel only in a non-fiction narrative, you tell the truth. An autobiography, a memoir, and a biography are good examples of this. History of your home town is another, etc.

Report approach to non-fiction writing: This includes reporting how things are at present or how they were. This is generally a straight-forward approach without trying to persuade the reader to agree with your point of view.

Discussion approach to non-fiction writing: You would choose this approach to non-fiction writing if you want to show different viewpoints in one book. Also, with this approach, you would not try to persuade the reader to agree with your point of view or with one of the points of view. Instead, you are merely informing them that there are several viewpoints (including the pros and cons of each if you want), so the reader can make an informed decision.

Persuasive approach to non-fiction writing: You would choose this approach if you want to convince your readers of something. Many of the political books definitely take this approach.
There are probably more approaches, but these are the major ones. The point is to choose the approach that works for what you want to do with your topic.

Different non-fiction writers will take different approaches to writing about the same topic. For example, the topic might be tabby cats. Your approach depends on what you intend your reader to know about tabby cats. Here are some examples how different approaches to the topic can result in very different books.

Instructional approach: How to Take Care of a Tabby Cat
Descriptive approach: Habits of North American Tabby Cats
Narrative approach: My Life with a Tabby Cat, etc.

The approach to writing about your non-fiction topic is up to you. Determining your approach to writing your book will determine how you research your topic and what you ultimately say about it.


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