Our Thoughts


October 19, 2015

2 Questions to Answer if You’re Writing Non Fiction

In a lot of my workshops authors come with nonfiction titles that range in subject matter. Some cover a point in time, others teach technical content, or try to teach someone how to think differently or create something; identify a problem and show the solution.

What they all do no matter the subject is teach.

Pick up any non fiction title and by the end of it you will have learned something. The back cover and sometimes the inside flap will tell you exactly what the author hopes you'll take away from the book once you're done. And if it's a how to book then I'm positive that they are actionable steps you can apply to your day-to-day.

But sometimes the teaching isn't good. Sometimes a reader finishes a book and walks away more confused than when they sat down. When you ask them why it wasn't so great words like, confusing, dense, abstract, and felt like a reference may come out. Although the material may be there, the way it's being presented doesn't make it easy for the reader to digest or engage with.

If you're writing non fiction a great way to tell if you're teaching the topic in a way that's easy for readers to understand and engage with is to make sure you're using concrete examples and that your examples answer yes to the following two questions.

Is this something your Aunt Mary can understand?

Is this something a colleague would be able to do?

Example: I want to create a pdf file
- Your aunt Mary would understand what you're trying to do and a colleague would likely know how to do it

Example: I want to stop worrying about the past and focus on the present
- Your aunt would completely understand this example and your colleagues would likely know how to do this

The goal is to show through your examples. So the examples become the vehicle to which you teach the information you want to relay.

See if when you go into your work you can make sure your examples are easy to engage with and understand. The last thing you want to do is leave a whole slew of readers behind.


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