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Writing Non-Fiction. (Tutorial/Guidance)

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Wed Mar 17, 2010 6:11 pm
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BenFranks says...

Hey there! Hopefully this wasn't a waste of an hour!

I'm Ben and this is a short piece to help you guys write and perfect your Non-fiction. Obviously, I'm not perfect myself, so any other hints, tips and suggestions are fully welcome below!

If you post in non-fiction or even if you don't, you may find the following helpful:

Articles (The serious argument-based writing)
Articles are things that you'd generally find in medias like Newspapers or Magazines. You could also have a TV Article or Web blog article. Yet, regardless of where you find the article, they're all in a sense the same. In basic, an article is a two sided argument about a certain issue/event or choice. It could also be something outrageous, or something completely down-to-Earth. It doesn't particularly matter.

Here's how to make a successful article:
Generally you should start by choosing a topic, to avoid going off on a tangent or a rant. This is fairly easy, but it helps if you're passionate about the subject and you have a bit of knowledge about it.
Next, you need to do your research. Non-fiction writing needs to show evidence, if necessary, and perhaps public opinion. However, whatever you do, you should always find an example of it happening in the current time to bring a relevance to what you're writing about. This is essentially the "homework bit".
Then, you'll need to start writing. In articles, it's generally an argument based kind of style. This means that you'll need to write it unbiased and showing both sides of the argument. That's especially important. Otherwise you'll end up dividing and losing your readers! It's also of great help if you make the facts you're saying interesting, because if they're not, your writing will only go down hill.
Concluding. It's mega important. I can't stress enough how cut off I feel when I read an article and the writer hasn't concluded his/her argument. It's one of the worst things you can do. You don't have to come to a decision of which side of the argument you think is better, either. You can simply end it with a rhetorical question asking the reader's views, but make sure you still include a little "snippet" summary in there, so the reader can make their own interpretations.

Essay writing (Oh my days! - This is for ages 13-16, since I'm not yet in college -- any help from those that are is fully welcome!)
In essay writing there's an old fashioned way of doing things and it goes something like this: 1_ Make a Point, 2_ Give evidence/quotes, 3_ Explain what it means to YOU, 4_ Explore the effect of language. We all have our own ways of saying it, some might even refer to it as "PEEE". Now, if you follow this basic structure when writing essays for English language or English literature this works exceptionally well and you'll do even better if you begin to embedd your quotations in what you're saying. However, when moving across the board to other subjects in essay writing such as ICT, History, Food technology, etc... it tends to differ. Although you won't follow the same kind of pattern for these subjects, it's still a good guide. If you make your point, give evidence and then say for history, give your contextual wider knowledge then that's great! It all comes to using this pattern and bending it to your will.

Okay, this is my "favourite." Columns are hard to define but in a way it's an article that's compiled together by opinion. This is a way of writing that truly separates your readers and forms that writer-reader relationship where they'll either never read you again, or read you every week. This is the risky chunk of non-fiction writing. It's basically a compilation of rants, sometimes ignorant, that form a 1-sided, heavily opinionated argument.
Now, the way that you can get about getting readers for this type of writing is extremely difficult because obviously you need to be hugely wary of people's Morales, viewpoints and the overall majority way of thinking. Thus, just like the articles, you'll need to do your homework -- despite how ignorant you might want to come across as.
Another major, major point for column writing is humour. It's the most powerful weapon a columnist has in their inventory because that draws in the people who even disagree with your subject views. If you make yourself look stupid then they'll read it just because of the "fun of it" but there's a very fine line between political correctness, outrageous, horrific and plain slapstick to the funny, witty and satirical beauty of writing.
Tangents and rants are entirely acceptable in columns, but again, it's very dangerous. You need to spend a lot of time editing these works because it's so easy to confuse or lose your reader and even sound like your not even talking about the topic you set out to do. Column writing takes a huge general attention and concentration. I'm no where near perfecting it yet.

Tales (The sad and woeful to the down-right miracles!)
Tales seem to be very popular amongst YWS writers and it's something growingly strong in the modern environment too. As more and more people divert to writing diaries and capturing their events and memories through pen and paper or keyboard and monitor, the number of tales are on a rise.
Generally, when writing tales, what people don't realise is that it's so similar to writing prose. You still need to pull in your reader with that captivation and sentence structure, that effective language and that description. Obviously not to the surreal extents that sometimes occur in fiction, for example it's easy to make a tale seem exaggerated which is another thing that should be avoided. What you just need to double check is that you're not sounding boring, because as much as the experience may have meant to you, who actually had it, to the outside world it is nothing, unless you make them LIVE IT. That is the most important thing you should remember in tale writing.

Writing to review (Films, books, events, comedians, moon landings -- all the gobble-d'goop!)
Writing to review is a craft. One that's grown to a pretty big franchise today. Things such as wine tasting, movie reviewing, chocolate tasting, each and every one of them require a skill in writing to review. The most powerful weapon in this area? Your opinion. The second most? Your homework! Yes, that's right, as much as you may believe that writing to review is all about expressing your viewpoints of something on a bit of paper with a happy-go-lucky intro and conclusion, you still need to do your homework, because if you end up writing a highly disagreed review, it'll come back to haunt you. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not always right to go with the public trend, but if you lose too many readers, you'll lose the respect you have as a reviewer. Respect is hugely important when writing to review. It's what people value and they'll take on your recommendations if you have it.

How to achieve respect in writing to review:
Essentially, this is quite simple. It just requires you to offer your opinion, but to wind it in with evidence. For example, if you were writing a review for a new film, you might quote the box office hits it has, or the number of small screen cinemas showing it. You could even disagree with a statistic by saying something like this: "Although this was a smash box office hit, gaining audiences way over that of The Proposal, the film in itself is quite bland." This will earn you respect simply because you've mentioned something that people can relate to, so they're drawn in and then you can make your argument because that way, your opinion matters!

General Non-Fiction rules

-> Make sure what you include is fact.
-> Give references if it's applicable, especially in essay writing for sciences and psychology.
-> Follow exactly the same grammar rules that apply to fiction writing.
-> Stay well off the road that makes your writing sound poetic or exaggerated, this generally loses readers.
-> Play your writing strengths.
-> Lay it out in a presentable way, structure is hugely important.
-> Give diagrams if applicable -- some of the best writers in the world make their journalism reports, etc, even better through imagery.

So, keep up the writing and I'll see you in Non-Fiction,
Much love,


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