Today,I’d like to welcome Trish Nicholson to my blog where she will discuss her new book, published today (20th January) called ‘Writing your NonFiction book’ as well as discuss the writing process for nonfiction.
1) COULD YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF, YOUR WRITING AND YOUR BOOKS?
I’ve been told that my two most distinguishing features are stubbornness, and a tendency to be a nomad, both mentally and physically. I can see why. After a childhood where we seemed constantly on the move, exploring strange places was routine. Since then, I’ve followed several different careers and spent half my adult life working, living or travelling on every continent. Each of these experiences inspired me to write, but the result is that I cannot confine myself to one genre. As well as short fiction, I’ve been published on anthropology (my academic background in which I have a doctorate), management, tourism, travelogue, popular science, story craft and now on writing nonfiction. Some of my books bridge genres. My mind doesn’t comply with external categories – everything is interrelated and for me, it is those connections, that seeking of wholeness, which sparks creativity. Marketing gurus tell us to do the opposite, but that’s where stubbornness comes in.
2) ‘WRITING YOUR NONFICTION BOOK’ COVERS ALL ASPECTS OF WRITING AND PUBLISHING NONFICTION. HOW CHALLENGING WAS THAT AND HOW DID YOU MEET THE CHALLENGE?
Hugely challenging. It tapped into almost everything I’d ever done or written. I’ve discussed elsewhere the fact that we are all born ‘storytellers’- its part of human nature – and I do believe everyone has something worth saying and can write if they have sufficient guidance to give them confidence. My aim was to trigger their self-empowerment, so in my imagination, my readers encircled my desk, and they questioned and probed at every stage. At times they drove me to distraction. They each wanted to write in different sub-genres, they lived in every country I’d ever known and asked what difference that made. I found myself operating on two levels simultaneously – exploring process while at the same time enacting it; examining my every action and working out how to explain and share it. It’s been an intense and exhausting period, but finally, a rewarding one.
3) THERE ARE A LOT OF ‘HOW TO WRITE’ BOOKS AVAILABLE. IN WHAT WAYS IS ‘WRITING YOUR NONFICTION BOOK’ DIFFERENT?
This is a key question in nonfiction. Searching the market for a gap you can fill is one of the first issues I raise in the book. In my case, various books already available are good for one aspect or another, but what was lacking, was a guide that was complete, that treated each stage in equal detail: planning and outlining, how to carry out research, writing, editing, assessing and implementing publishing options and marketing. The other difference is that I focus on writing in a narrative style – the application of creative writing techniques to factual material. Facts don’t have to be dry and tedious reading. Readers these days expect to be stimulated and emotionally engaged in what they read whether it is science, history, travel, memoir, social commentary, or a how-to book, and such writing is far more influential. Each subject has its own characteristics, so I include advice specific to structuring and writing seven main sub-genres.
4)WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE KEY INGREDIeNTS FOR A NONFICTION BOOK?
Identifying these was where it all started, of course. When you pare it all down, I think there are three: a foundation in accurate and verifiable facts people want to know; recognition that in most situations there is, quite legitimately more than one ‘truth’ of which we need to be aware along with our own unavoidable bias, and language that is both appropriate for targeted readers and uses imagination to bring the subject alive. I think these apply to any sub-genre, and whether an author has ambitions to write a bestseller, or simply wants to leave a heritage for their families, so these are the principles on which the book is based.
5)DO YOU HAVE A SET ROUTINE OR TIME OF DAY FOR WRITING
I tend to write in the mornings because my brain has usually done some homework during the night and I don’t want to lose that becoming involved in other things. I’m afraid that some days I’m still in my PJ’s at midday after a productive few hours. But it’s not all about word count. Planning and synthesising is so important in nonfiction that a day’s work may consist largely of thinking and produce only a few notes, but they may be vital scribbles
6a) DO YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA AND/OR BLOG? HOW USEFUL DO YOU FIND THIS?
Social media can eat up a huge amount of productive time, so I have only a Twitter account and website with a blog, and work them in tandem. I usually post an article each week, on writing, travel, or reviews, for example, and publicise them on Twitter in amongst other tweets that chat or pass on information. Since I started, the number of both Twitter ‘followers’ and blog visitors has grown steadily. It’s a workable system I describe and recommend in the book.
6b) HOW IMPORTANT IS SOCIAL MEDIA FOR A NONFICTION WRITER?
These days social media is important for all writers, but for nonfiction writers especially it provides a valuable source of information and professional connections. Genuine engagement with others can produce surprising opportunities for collaboration and mutual support, as well as develop a media presence as an author, but it is a long term strategy. On a personal level, I enjoy the interaction and take an interest in the activities of fellow Tweeps – I think it would be hard to maintain momentum in social media otherwise.
7) IF YOU COULD PASS ON A PIECE OF ADVICE TO A NEW NONFICTION WRITER WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Take your time to find a unique angle on your subject that fits your readers, and build a firm foundation. If you get the structure right, the function – through creative expression of good content – will flow in the right places to achieve your goal. It’s not about how fast you can write a book but how good you make it.
Thank you Trish, for a really interesting interview and happy publication day, I hope your book does well.
Thank you, Ruth, for inviting me to share my thoughts with you
Trish Nicholson is on Twitter – @TrishaNicholson