5 Considerations for the Novice Nonfiction Writer

Nonfiction writing shares factual truth in many genres; each one demands a unique strategy for its intentional impact.

Nonfiction includes the personal essay or memoir (stories of one’s own experience), journalistic articles (based on research and investigation), technical (instructive), and informative (sharing specific knowledge), not to mention rhetorical (persuasive) essays, as well as analytical (academic) endeavors.

Regardless of which path your nonfiction writing takes, all writers must first answer these five questions:

ONE: What is your niche audience and purpose? 

Narrowing your subject is critical in targeting a proper audience, and impacting those who hold a vested interest. Is your intention to persuade your readers to parent more effectively? Is it to teach us how to restore the environment? Are your readers hungry intellectuals, pragmatic finance students, or spiritual pagans? What role do you play in this discourse: to challenge, to assist, to sell? Does your content use language appropriate to the vibe of your tribe? Is it clear in your title and lead paragraph what the reader can expect?

TWO: What is your own level of expertise?

What specific work or life experience lends your knowledge some credibility? Do you hold academic credentials on this subject? What is it about you that makes this content worthwhile? Be sure your biographical “shirt tail” clarifies your qualifications.

If you lack knowledge in some area of your writing niche, just own it. Never try to embellish your expertise, which only shatters the trust of your readers. People actually trust you more when you know what you don’t know. This does not mean you have zero validity for your ideas; it only means you won’t make any empty claims.

Not all writing requires formal expertise. Many advice columnists rely upon their own general wisdom, and if it is sound advice, we begin to trust the reliable and steady source.

THREE: Which credible sources will support you?

It is always, and I do mean always, better to cite a source or two that promotes your cause. However, any clearly biased sources you elicit might debunk your claim. Attempt to only quote or paraphrase those with solid expertise, work experience, and academic degrees or certification in the subject at hand. Do not quote the first random source that tells you what you already believe. Believable research is transparent, insightful, and based in substantial evidence, not stubbornly forcing a vague idea for one’s own agenda. Learn how to find and cite credible sources, such as in this link. Documentation styles vary depending on your publishing approach, so determine which is best for you. I tend to use MLA Documentation due to my more subjective and less date-sensitive niche. 

FOUR: What image will you use to aid your content?

Current readers crave sensory experiences! The use of graphics, photos, audio, and other media benefit your audience with a more interactive experience. Take time to consider what additional components might effectively entice more readers.

FIVE: What is your potential source of publication? 

No portion of your writing path will demand more time and focus than forging a road to publication. Make firm decisions about how you will grow your readership! Start with something that feels manageable. This could be immediate, like social media, or a blog, until you are ready to stretch in a new way. You might pursue longer term efforts, like publishing a book by seeking a literary agent with a proposal, or refining a fantastic query letter and a well-written synopsis. Try a subscription to Publishers Marketplace.  Research the publications currently seeking your niche content or genre, and always tend to specific guidelines. Research paid ventures, freelance opportunities, competitive wages, or content services. Decide on whether an unpaid opportunity is worth gaining the exposure and accolades you seek. I once wrote monthly for a local paper for free just to establish my experience. Learn about writing community memberships, like Medium.com.

Just promise me you won’t bother writing just to leave it in your own private queue, never to be seen by others. Find a way to share your passion with the written word, then try and try again. Half of writing success comes with a dogged determination. The other half, of course, requires writing skill.







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