When turning the pages of a popular magazine recently, I found myself reading only the headlines of each story. If the wording didn’t capture my attention, I quickly moved to the next. My time—even though it was time set aside for a specific appointment—was still valuable. I didn’t want it wasted. However, in short order, I found myself thanking the journalists for writing such clean, concise headlines. The career of nonfiction writing is challenging, worthwhile and rewarding.
So it is that I offer my nonfiction author friends a reminder of the useful steps in creating their manuscripts.
The basic rules of journalism always apply:
- Use standard English spelling, punctuation and grammar while telling the reader Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.
- Get the facts, statistics and spelling of names and places RIGHT.
- KNOW the main point. If you can’t express it in 25 words or less, you don’t have a clear/basic handle on what you’re writing. Be short, concise, and clear in your sentence, paragraph and article length—unless asked to “expand.”
- Stay as objective as humanly possible. An impartial, detached perspective will not only allow you to write excellent nonfiction following all the above criteria, it will also protect you from being damaged by the realities.
- ALWAYS WRITE THE TRUTH, to the best of your ability. A writer—every writer—has an obligation to their readers to tell the unfiltered, untainted truth.
In 2011, Craig Silverman—award-winning author and journalist—wrote more about the challenges of journalistic, nonfiction writing in this Tweet and Re-tweet world. Published in the Columbia Journalism Review, I share some of his insights and excellent advice:
- “Silverman’s Law of Incorrect Tweets:” WARNING! A piece of misinformation is much more appealing than the correction, and people are inclined to re-tweet false “news” while ignoring the corrected info. IF you are a writer who consistently has to “edit” already printed material, that reputation will follow you.
- Research your “sources.” Every “source” will have their own spin on the event and/or topic. Some will even falsify statements. The quality and diversity of sources is hugely important, so make the effort to find the best sources (plural) possible.
- VERIFY before dissemination. Apply the discipline of verification to everything you gather. Never hesitate to correct something you’ve written. Ignoring it or refusing to make the correct has the potential to cause far greater damage than a writer’s moment of embarrassment.
- If a story seems to be “too good to be true”—a real scoop—it probably is. Writers are often fooled because we want a story to be true, and we want to write about it. Go back to the basics—and VERIFY!
- Don’t fear failure—let it instruct you! Once the slam to the ego quits hurting and the anger subsides, a valuable lesson can be seen. That’s how you stop making the same mistakes, how you get better.
There you have it. “Easy-Peasy.” NOT! Some writers love research and being that private investigator. However, most need support. Where “two are better than one,” many eyes on a manuscript are even better. There is a self-publishing team out there for you—one that is just the perfect match to support your project—get it published and IN the hands of your readers.
|ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.|