Non-Fiction: The First Steps

Finally, I’ve found information on writing non-fiction that is written by an author with credentials that look impressive…and she has been published by a number of main stream publishers too.

Jenna Glatzer started a thread in the Absolute Write Forums called Learn The Nonfiction Book Publication Process With Momma Jenna.

Below is an abbreviation of the questions for The First Steps in my own words tailored for my project, please visit the website to read what Jenna has to say.

1. Do you have enough material to write a whole book or would an article suit your needs better?

In this step, Jenna states that a non-fiction book is usually 70,000 words or more. Now this is the kind of information I was after. She also asks if you’re sure you want to be immersed in the topic every day for six months or so and are you qualified to write about the topic. I can comfortably say “yes” to both these things. She starts her planning by writing out a quick outline, the chapter headings and, in point form, what she wants to include in each chapter.

2. Is there an audience for the topic?

This is straight forward. I know there’s an audience for my topic. However, I also know the market is narrower than most non-fiction books. People in my situation will probably want to read the book and some people who have not experienced suicide will read it out of curiosity, but I believe that with the right marketing, the book could be used to raise suicide awareness in unaffected families too.

3. What other books have already been written on the subject?

I visited the library today. The suicide section is small, very small. In fact, there were a total of five books on the shelves (not including the duplicates). The books are worn and well used. I noticed that most of them had pencil marks throughout the pages. I also checked Amazon. In excess of 10 pages of books came up, not all of them were serious suicide books though. I will visit the local bookstore tomorrow and see what is available to buy. I intend to compile a list of the titles and author names for my records.

4. Do you have access to people to interview in order to make the book a success?

In my case, Barry is the subject and my family are the ones left to deal with the grief. However, I have access to a group filled with parents of children who have lost a child to suicide and they have agreed to help me.

And Now for the Sequel

Whilst researching non-fiction, I found this article called And Now for the Sequel…Writing Series Fiction for Children by Nikki Tate.

It’s interesting to read the thoughts of this writer, because they echo my own thoughts in so many ways, even though I made up my own mind before reading it elsewhere. I like how this author of this article has explained the many ways in which sequels can be written.

My own series is linear (as in the characters do become older with each book), but stand alone in as much that all information for each story will be contained between the front and back covers. Any additional information will contribute to the overall story arc for the series, ie hints for future story lines etc, but it won’t matter if the reader picks up on these facts or not. It will make no difference to the story or the series.

As a young reader, I remember falling “in love” with characters in a book. Of course, I had my favourite characters and if those characters didn’t make an appearance in the other books I picked up to read, I was terribly disappointed. Remembering this fact, I think it’s important to have all the main characters appear in each book in a children’s series. Otherwise, we risk losing readers.

I’ve never thought about writing a series where the characters remain the same age … forever. However, I’ve seen TV series and read books where this has happened and it was never a problem for me. I remember thinking, after reading X number of books in the series, “when are these people going to have a birthday?” But I soon forgot about that small detail and enjoyed the book.

Be sure to read the part called Keeping Track of the Details, there’s a good tip in there about using calendars, which is so simple, but I hadn’t thought of it.

Uncommon Book Promotion Tips

Whether you self-publish or are lucky enough to get published through the conventional method, the author should always take an active role in advertising (or marketing) their own book(s). This goes without saying. Right?

Thing is, we are writers not advertisers, so what would we know about getting our book “out there”?

Thanks to Benjamin Solah, I found an article over at Absolute Write called Uncommon Book Promotion Tips. It’s a short article and some of the tips are common sense, but it never hurts to be reminded of the simple things. Besides, maybe you hadn’t thought of doing some of these things. 😉

Juggling Projects

After several days of research, I’ve discovered that there’s not much information on writing non-fiction to be found on the internet…unless you don’t mind paying for it.

Yes, there is information, but not the kind of information I really want, like how to plan. (If you have links you would like to share, please feel free to do so. However, your comment will probably be marked for moderation as a result, please don’t be offended. I’ll approve your comment as soon as I can.)

I intend to visit the library soon – probably on the weekend – to see what books they have on writing non-fiction. I’ve never looked for this topic before, so I might be in for a surprise. Good or bad, I won’t know until I get there.

Meanwhile, the edit of Cat’s Paw has slowed to a halt. I’ve had a grand total of ten hours sleep in three nights, so my mind refuses to concentrate on words for any length of time. I’m visiting my GP on Friday morning about this constant lack of sleep. I don’t know what will come of that. At this stage, I can’t see me returning to the edit until first thing Friday morning (like 6am before I go to see the doctor), or sometime on Friday afternoon.

Why Write Non-Fiction

Several websites dealing with non-fiction tips ask the same question “why do you want to write the book?” I’ve had several writing friends ask me the same question (not in the “you shouldn’t be doing this” sense). Some people have said that it will take a lot of energy and strength; others have said I will need to be brave, but I can brush those cautions aside. Everything in my life zaps my energy and I have to be brave every day.

In light of the above, I have decided to make a short list on why I should do this non-fiction project.

  • Because there is a market out there, unfortunately. I say unfortunately, because the topic is suicide and, in all honesty, I wish books of this kind were not needed. I wish our children, and our elderly, didn’t feel the need to end their lives prematurely for whatever reasons they have. But, in real life, it is happening…much more than any ordinary person realises.
  • Because it’s important to raise awareness about suicide and writing a book about my own experiences will open the eyes of other people…people who had never thought about the consequences of suicide, who also think it could never happen to them. It could.
  • Because writing this book will be therapy for me. Yes, it will make me revisit places I don’t want to go, but it will also make me face issues from all angles and maybe that will help me heal in the long term.
  • Because deep in my heart I know this book needs to be written, and I’m passionate to get the message across – there are always other options. Always. This is the most important reason of all. It drives me on. If I can help another family keep their child, then all the misery and heartbreak I’ve been through will not be in vain.

By turning the emotions I feel every day into something positive and worth while, I believe I will be helping me, but eventually I will be helping other families and that is reason enough to do this project.

More than just “Find and Replace”

I discovered, the other day, that Word has a nifty feature that might prove invaluable.

Find and replace.

Yes, I knew about the normal operation of “find and replace”, but I didn’t know you could use this feature to turn all words in italic to underlined instead. This would literally save hours and hours of work if a publisher’s submission guidelines insisted on this.

Another thing it can do is search and replace spaces. If you are like me and were taught to type with two spaces between sentences, but submission guidelines say it has to be one space, then this feature will become your new best friend. Guaranteed!

This is how you do it (curtesy of David Meadows, a member of my message board):

Select Replace from the Edit Menu (or Ctrl-H)

Click the “More” Button.

Click “Format” and select “Font” from the drop-down.

Select “Italic” and click OK. If you’ve done it right, it will say “Format: Font: Italic” under the “Find what” box (the box itself should be blank, as you don;t want it to find any specific text.)

Click in the “Replace with” box.

Click “Format” and select “Font” from the drop-down.

Select “Underline” and click OK.

Click “Find Next” or “Replace” or, if you’re confident, “Replace All”.

Write, Create & Promote a Best Seller

I’m taking the 2007 Anthology seriously, and have spent some time each week doing some research on marketing. I’ve created a new category in order to share the information I find, and my experiences. It seems quite daunting at the moment, but I know as these unknown procedures fall into place, in my mind, it will get easier to grasp and understand.

At the end of last year I set some goals for 2007, one of them being to buy and read some “how-to” books on writing. Today, I found an ebook written by Lee Masterson called Write, Create & Promote a Best Seller. Looking at the list of contents I feel this book will be helpful in promoting the anthology. It’s written by an author whose name I recognise and that makes me feel comfortable in purchasing my first ebook online. Besides, at the moment, a second book has been thrown in for free, it’s called Write Here, Write Now. I’ve heard of this book too.

Edit: Cat’s Paw

This morning, I finished reading the first draft of Cat’s Paw. This draft was written during what I call Mini-NaNo in November last year. In all honesty, I thought the story was quite weak when I finished writing it, but, to my surprise I discovered after this read through that I was wrong!

It’s strange, I couldn’t even remember how the manuscript started, and was immediately impressed. I know I’m talking about one of my own stories, but if I can’t impress myself then I cannot expect to impress anyone else. The story has a “grabby” beginning and a real conflict.

But the story is lacking in other areas, even I have to admit that. My character description is a bit washed out, but after my attempts at producing an image of my new race at the beginning of the year, I am confident that I can fix that problem. There are definite women issues, meaning, there are no women in the story. I can fix that too. And some of the “confrontations” leave little to be desired, but nothing a bit of hard work can’t fix.

I believe this story will end up being longer than the first manuscript. By how much, I have no way of telling at this stage. Anyway, after dinner tonight, I intend to power up the laptop and start the edit of Cat’s Paw. The work in progress bar has been reset to zero. This rewrite will be quite thorough, including lots of new scenes and a couple of new threads. I’m not prepared to set a public goal at this stage. I want to wait and see how I progress through the first couple of chapters first.