What Does It Take To Write A Nonfiction Book?

What does it take to write a nonfiction book you might well ask? The answer is simple. Hard work, tireless devotion and a willingness to be aggravated and aggravated often are just par for the course.
It’s no joke. When you decide to take on a project of any size and a full book is like taking on fifty short articles all at once, you need to be sure to categorize things correctly and logically.

You need to be willing to take on that nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten something. Perhaps a fact or two or several dozen don’t seem right to you and you find yourself needing to go back and double and triple check them. Why? Because the first fact your reader reads and knows to be wrong will put them off so bad they’ll go running in the opposite direction so fast you’d think they were taking off the ground with the speed of a 787. Worse yet, they’ll spread the word and you’ll find yourself with a book holding the record for least sold.

Nonfiction means real and by the time you finish writing the book and marketing it, people will think that you know your topic inside and out. You won’t but you’ll need to be ready for an answer that sounds good for any question asked. Even though everything is true you’ll still find yourself asked the age old question, “Where do you get your ideas/inspiration?” You’ll need to find a way to answer this even if it’s just what brought the subject to your attention in the first place.

Writing nonfiction means taking on a full time job of research. No stone can be left unturned because no one writes a complete picture of an event or person’s life. You have only to read the daily paper and follow one event for several days to understand this wrinkle in thought completely. One day the reporter will give you bare facts. The next day they rehash only part of it and give nothing new. The third day it’s forgotten and perhaps a week or two they might give you the beginning with a new fact or two.

As a researcher we writers have to follow along and connect the dots. If they don’t tell us something vital and we are able to find out from a different source, we do it. For example, the paper told of men killed by Carbon Monoxide but they didn’t tell us what the gas could do to the body. As a smart and fledgling author who wants to teach as well as warn their readers, you must look up the gas and add that to what the paper tells you. Doing this all the time will add character to your book and help the reader to better understand the situation.

So again you ask, “What does it take to be a writer?” It takes guts, hard work and nonstop thinking. It takes writing down the facts given and searching for what’s only implied. It means being an investigator, a psychologist, a journalist and a human being. In school we thought being a writer was easy. As Leave it to Beaver said, “All ya gotta do is make stuff up.” That’s not always the case. It can be fun but never forget that you owe something to your audience of readers. If you’re writing nonfiction, you owe them the truth!

Writing Challenge of 7 Paragraphs From Page 7

A fellow writer put up a challenge that she was given and has passed it on. I now answer her challenge and give it back to my writing friends too. At random I will pick seven of you. Your job is to take the first seven paragraphs or lines from page 7, 70, 117 of your current work in progress book and share it with your readers and pick some unsuspecting friends to challenge to do the same.

Here’s mine. The title is “Candy” Have fun with her as she learns more about herself and what she wants in life. At the moment we find her confused and very frustrated. Can you tell? This is taken from page 7.

“My name’s Candace Peters but my friends call me Candy. But I guess you don’t much care what people call me,” Candy went on without letting Jeff answer. “I live on Brownie Boulevard. Number 401. There’s a crack in my foundation and there’s water coming in. I’ve fought it for two, three, maybe five hours. I don’t know anymore. I need a plumber or a carpenter or, I don’t know. I need help. I wasn’t getting anywhere. I swept and swept and swept and the water kept coming. Then the power went out. I walked into a wall and I think I’ve broken my nose. I’m headed to the hospital but I don’t know where it is. I’m looking for a blue sign but I don’t see one. Do you have any idea where it is?” Candy said all in a rush of frustrated anxiety.

“Ms Peter’s the hospital is on Poison Ivy Lane.”

“What?” Interrupted Candy. “Did you say Poison Ivy Lane? Who on earth would build a hospital on a street named Poison Ivy? Where is it? I’ve been driving around for what feels like hours and I haven’t seen any street named Poison Ivy. Are you sure there is such a street?”

Jeff laughed. “Yea. I’m sure. Though, honestly, I’ve always wondered about the name myself. Now listen carefully. From your house you want to take a left on Gnome Avenue, then a right to Pixie Parkway. Go through the stoplight out of the subdivision. Go another light and then turn right down Maple Drive. The first left is Poison Ivy Lane. You can’t miss the hospital. It’ll be right in front of your face.”

“At this point I don’t think being in front of my face would help any,” Candy muttered. “Sorry. This is not your problem. Thanks for your help,” she said wearily. “I’m heading back to the house and I’ll start fresh from there. You’ve been a big help. By now,”

“Hey, wait…” Jeff yelled loud enough to be heard a foot away from the phone. “Don’t hang up. How do I get in your house to fix the plumbing?”

“Oh, sorry. Forgot. It’s been a long day. There’s a spare key under the mat.”

What’s in a Writers Group – Helpful Hints for Starting Your Own Group

Beginning your own writers group can be a bit tricky. There are several questions you must ask yourself at the onset. Each is important in its own way and just as essential as the other. There is no specific order to the questions but they all must be answered before you begin. Below you will find a starting list of the types of questions you must ask yourself. Just the action of reading them will bring to your mind other questions. Answer them. They are important.
After these questions are asked you must think of the guidelines you will use to run your group. Each set of people is different. They expect different things and have different fears. To that end you must do your best to calm or all together alleviate problems before they begin.

For the most part, being a writer is a solitary endeavor. We write in private and hide our manuscripts from sight. The action of joining a writers group is letting go of our insecurities about our writing and ourselves. Writers take a big step forward by visiting a writer’s group and an even bigger one by joining. We must help them come to the conclusion that they made the right decision.

Every group has a different set of people. Some expect to read every time, others bring something once in a great while. You can expect to find at least one soft-spoken person and might have one who does quite a bit of talking. To make the group work and to be fair to everyone, it’s a good idea to see how the group works the first few meetings and if you find that you’re consistently going over time, suggest using a timer for each member. That way you’re not singling anyone out and you’re keeping a schedule.

Some people like rules and are afraid when there is a lack of them. So I’ve found it’s a good idea to draw some up before the first meeting begins. That way when someone expresses a concern you’re ready with the answer.

What follows are some samples that will help y on your way to creating and enjoying your new Writer’s Group. If these tools help than the time I spent one this article are worth it. Good luck and as always, ‘Happy Writing!’

Here are some of the questions, likely they will raise some more.

Where: Think about your area’s demographics. What types of people live in your town? Do you have an artsy set? Do you see signs for concerts, a free community movie night or other like events? If you do than, you might be able to host your writers group in your own town. If you don’t see these things you might want to think of a neighboring town that has some of these things. Will you meet in your home or in a public place like Panera or Starbucks? Would your library sponsor you?

Type: Do you want to focus on a specific type of writing? Poets work different than screenwriters and fiction writers see the world in yet another light from nonfiction writers who do more research than writing for long periods of time. If you desire a diverse group, consider offering a mix and leave the type open.

Advertisement: How do you plan to tell people about your group? Will you go by word of mouth or will you put up posters? Are you social media savvy enough to get people interested in your group and know how to target people you live near you?

When: As you plan your event try to think of a day/time that will be convenient for the most people. A little research into events that happen in your town will give you a heads-up on when a reoccurring event happens so that you don’t schedule yours to coincide on the same night and find yourself in constant competition. Weekday, weeknight, weekend, what time of the day will you agree to meet every time? People need something easy to remember so don’t switch it on them. You’ll lose members quickly if you do. How often will you meet? One a week, once a month or every other week?

Cost: Decide what you will charge your members or if you will make it free to join. Remember you will be making posters or spending time on the Internet to promote your group. Do you want to be reimbursed or is this your baby and you say, ‘hang the expense!’

Name: What will you call your group? When choosing a name you should go for one of two goals. Either you make it catchy and hip so that people remember it or you make it specific to the type of group you are starting.

Below is a sample of what your rules might look like. You can add to them but be sure that the results don’t read like a law book. People need to know you’re there to protect their rights but they don’t want to feel intimidated so that they leave the group either.

Critiquing and meeting manners:

Members should be courteous and honest in their critiques – we are here to help each other accomplish our goals. Only through honest answers will we learn and write suitably for publishability.

Members should be aware of the time so that everyone gets a fair chance to read/explain their work.

Members should always get permission before they take an extra copy of another’s work home with them – some people are not comfortable with their work leaving their hands.

Members should never tell someone outside the group about another member’’ work; whether it be an idea in the making or a complete work unless asked to by that member.

Members should be aware that anything that is either typed/written down is protected under US Copyright Laws.

When sending emails:

We ask that you please refrain from sending junk/interesting story mail – we get enough already from others.

Only send messages pertaining to writing, writing events or answers/requests from a fellow member.

Please do not share any members email address without prior permission and knowledge to that member.

Below is a sample poster to give you an idea of what might work. Adding an attractive picture gets people’s eyes to stop and read just to see what it is.

EMBED Word.Picture.8 Photo Copyrighted by Elizabeth Rye

Event Name: Nonfiction Writers Group of McHenry County

Time: 6:30 – 8:45 p.m. the 1st Monday of the month
Beginning August 6th

Location: McHenry Public Library
809 N. Front St. (Route 31)
McHenry IL 60050

Cost: Free

Contact Information: Your Name
Your email address
Your phone number

Description: Are you a writer? Do you want to publish your nonfiction article or book? The Nonfiction Writers Group of McHenry County is a group of authors seeking other authors who are actively working on pieces, researching topics, and compiling interesting stories on various subjects. Only other nonfiction authors understand what it takes to make a piece captivating yet factually accurate. Join us as we help each other accomplish our goals and succeed in the writing business.

Write That Book – Scene By Scene

Everyone wants to write a great novel. They have a terrific idea and a few intriguing characters but how do they prolong the short story in their head to novel length? They may also worry about keeping it real. The idea of writing 60,000 words alone can be terrifying. So my advice is not to think about it. As more scenes are added, your word count will grow. It has to.

So how do you write a scene that sounds real? For me I’ve found a few tricks. I’ve found they work best if you’re sitting in front of the computer. If you write longhand you can still do these, it’ll just take longer.

The first thing to do is sit down in a comfortable position. Next place your hands on the keyboard and close your eyes. Take in a few deep breaths. Then put yourself into the character’s shoes that owns the scene you want to write.

Feel the character’s emotions rising in you. See with your eyes the character’s surroundings. Then delve into the character’s memories. If the character ran into someone right now, what would they say? How would they act?

Put yourself into this character. With your eyes still closed, begin to type the scene. Don’t worry about the typos. You can go back and fix them later. Right now focus solely on the character and what’s going on. You are that character. It is you, that has been robbed. What do you say? Do you scream it? Do you throw something? What? Did it brake? How? Do you feel satisfaction? Fear? Anger?

Pretend you are up on the stage in a play. Your readers are the audience. A great scene will keep them in their seats. A great play will have them return for your next staring role.

Don’t just write the scene, own it!


In all the world there is not a single soul exactly alike. Though there be twins that are identical in appearance and sound, below the surface there is an individuality that simply can not be discounted. Their thoughts may be similar at times but for all intents and purposes they are indeed two separate identities.

So to the writer is handed down the task of taking from life and adding traits. We must create in a single story many characters. Each must sound like one unto himself. The reader will not accept two characters with even a hint of alikeness. Thus we must be ever diligent to keep our own thoughts from creeping into that of our characters. We must add that special difference that signals to the reader that we have switched characters.

If we do our job correct, we could technically get away with writing an entire novel without ever using the aid of tag lines. We would never have to use a character’s name as a reference tool. Our readers would know exactly who was talking. They would understand so perfectly what the character wanted that we would hardly have to do anything. Or at least it would appear that way.

By no means is this a simple task. All of us are prone to write the same character in multiple stories. Yes, we change the characters name and sometimes we even change a gender but it is oh, so easy to fall back into what we have just finished and rewrite the same character’s story. All we would really be doing was changing a setting and timeframe.

This we can not do. We must be diligent. We are writers, storyteller and artists. We translate to our readers what is going on. Without our lead, they would be lost. We can not allow that to happen. Do whatever you must to ensure that all your characters sound different and that in the end, they come alive.

Usaweekend.com – Nicholas Sparks’ New Novel – Your 1st 100 Words

Love story lessons

Nicholas Sparks’ ‘The Lucky One’ is on its way to theaters. But he’s here today to help you craft a perfect tale.

By Molly Lyons

Nicholas Sparks has sold about 52 million copies of his books, so he knows something about how to write a compelling tale. Hollywood agrees: Seven of his novels have been made into movies. The latest love story, The Lucky One, stars Zac Efron and is due in theaters April 20. Looking to crack Sparks’ best-selling code? “There’s no magic answer,” he cautions. That said, the author has some guidelines on how to weave an authentic love story:

First, determine your character’s ages. “Age informs dilemma. If you’re going to write a novel about everlasting love, the characters can’t be teenagers,” Sparks says.

Ask questions. A protagonist without an obstacle doesn’t turn pages. Sparks drums up dilemmas by asking, “what if?”

Decide on the answers. Sparks says he needs to answer essential questions before he starts writing. “I have to know the age of the characters, I’ve got to know how they meet. I have to know the conflict that’s keeping them apart and what brings them together. Finally, I have to know how I ends,” he says. And fore this author, there are only three possible endings: “Happy, sad or bittersweet.”

Hit the right tone. “You don’t want to be cliché or melodramatic, and you want it to evoke genuine emotion, and that’s tough,” Sparks says.

Join author Nicholas Sparks and create a story for USA WEEKEND.

It’s your turn to participate in an enthralling story that lives and grows with every contribution! We asked Sparks to help by writing a first and a last sentence to inspire you:

Title: The End of All Things

First sentence: Jasmine Blake thought she understood what love meant until the day she almost died.

Last sentence: She was just falling asleep when the car stopped, and Rick whispered, “We’re home.”

Visit usaweekend.com and share your first paragraph (about 100 words.)

Plus, register to win a signed copy of Spark’s latest book.

Causion With Blogging

We all talk about blogging. We meet someone new, tell them we’re a writer and send them to our blog. It’s the newest way to tell our family and friends what’s going on quickly. We talk about everything there. Its gotten to be similar to a public diary of our lives.

If you’re dating someone new, forgot to buy milk or if you found a mouse in your basement like I did, you probably blogged about it. The thing is, just how much of your life are you willing to tell the world? How much do you want to be reminded of later when you’re older and wiser? Did you really want everyone to know that you once called your best friend a…well it wasn’t nice was it?

The honest truth is, we need to be carefull what we blog about. It can be dangerous. At the time, it may have seemed a useless detail, even a joke, but what would you do if one day you walked into the bookstore, picked up a book and read the story you’d spent the last two years writing and now it has someone elses name on the cover?

We need to be careful. Everything is stolen on the web these days and we have to be sure we’re protected. That means we watch what we say and do when we’re on the internet. You can tell people that you’re writing, just don’t tell them everything. You can give them hints, just don’t make those teasers so easy that you give both your idea and plot away.

Leave something for yoyr readers to pay for. Who wants to buy a book they already know the plot of? Would you buy it? I wouldn’t. So be wise, protect youself. Be a writer of brains and causion when blogging. Blog safe!

Most writers will agree that….


often they find themselves in the same predicament I do every day, procrastinating the entire day away and writing one or no words. And it’s sooo easy to do. All you have to do is look at an empty page and remind yourself how much time it’ll take to fill it up.


Well, with that kind of thinking, you quickly realize you really don’t have time to write after all. And so the real job of a writer kicks in. You are once again a homemaker or a Mr. Mom and are busy cleaning the house, laundry, dishes, scrubbing the floors. Okay, who am I kidding? You probably turn on the television or sit down with a good book that someone else wrote.


Don’t think there is any shame in this. There isn’t. It just means you’re human. That is one thing that till the end of time will never be a crime.


Most days we inwardly holler help! Then we stare at the empty sheet and get up, disregarding our own goals. Today is the end of that. Today we are going to sit down and pretend the page is already half full. We just have to finish it.


Here’s how it works, sit down and close your eyes. Do you see your character? Is he standing up or sitting down? What is he thinking? Is he in trouble? What is he going to do about it?


Now open your eyes and in a quick flourish write down everything you just saw and felt. If he was in a building, what color were the walls he was surrounded by? If he was out on the street, what did the view look like? Write down every detail and don’t stop until you’re drained of all thought. If your hands are cramping that means you’ve accomplished your goal and have written.


You’ll be surprised by how many sheets of paper are full of hastily scribbled words. Maybe some sentences don’t make sense but that’s okay. Later you can fix that but for now stand up and stretch your muscles. Pat yourself on the back and remember what it feels like to be a writer who has accomplished something. Feels good doesn’t it. Just remember you can have that same feeling every day. All it takes is a closing of the eyes and a remembering that imagination is the key to a good writer.


When you sit at the edge of a private lake, there are many things that go unnoticed by the casual observer. Some things are obvious. Such as the shimmering, rippling waves, the gentle clash of land and water and the harsh cry of a gull.


But what of the dappled light on the weeping willow or the hiss in the air? The old gnarled wood glistens as the diligent spider winds her web within the tree’s deep crevices and the tiny ant burrow deeper and deeper in an ever searching quest for food and shelter.

The water ripples to the shore, sending tiny bubbles that slowly crawl back to the place of their birth lest they perish on dry land. Smoothly the waves part as a turquoise Mallard duck glides through the water. A quick dash below the surface and dinner is served. Seaweed is buffeted by the constant current and nit-picking gnats circle in a continuous rhythm looking for unwearied prey to walk within their midst in the edge if the shore.


The lake as much to offer and the artist will find a subject at every turn. From the waving reeds to the stillness of the copper crowned rock below the water’s edge, the blue lake is home to all dreamers.


Find a place of your own, in the quietness of the day, observe, and listen to your surroundings. Within the silence of yourself you will find a diamond hidden and waiting for to be unearthed. Don’t be afraid to write of your discoveries. These will become invaluable later when you are stumped for an idea. Besides, they are a unique time-capsule into ourselves that can never be revisited. Life only happens once, don’t waste it.