The Writer's Connection, SM
a publication of The Virtual Writing Coach SM
In This Issue:
2. Publisher's Note
3. Writing Non-fiction
4. Getting into Action
The Writer's Connection explores the creative process of writing and the interplay between thoughts, feelings, and actions. We are an interactive community of authors and readers who share ideas to enhance our knowledge, skills, and experiences in writing fiction in any genre, but our emphasis remains mystery and suspense thrillers.
Published monthly, the Newsletter offers writing tips for authors, coaching suggestions, editing, and marketing information.
Topics are presented from the perspective of Keith Barton and represent only his ideas on producing your first manuscript, and are provided to the general public. Because we are an interactive community of writers, other viewpoints are welcomed and may be printed in future monthly newsletters with permission from Keith Barton.
2. Publisher's Note
Dear Writer's Connection Subscriber,
This month features information about writing non-fiction.
3. Writing Non-fiction
Most of my clients are fiction writers hooked on the idea of writing the “next great mystery or romance novel.” We’ve all heard about the unknown author who judiciously worked for years on a novel that was little more than a passing fancy and then after a five minute “pitch” at a writer’s workshop an agent asks for three chapters and the rest is history. As I’ve said before, writing is hard work; if it wasn’t work, there would be a proliferation of agents and authors, amazon.com stock would be going through the roof, and publishers would be making hefty profits. But just the opposite is true: markets are shrinking, genres are collapsing, agents’ stable of writers are decreasing, and book sales are decreasing. What hasn’t been affected by our current “techno” generation XY are “self-help” books. Witness the popularity of “Chicken Soup” and “Dummies.” Anyone who has experience and skill has the knowledge to write a self-help book.
Instead of completing the entire manuscript and hoping that someone will ask for the first three chapters or fifty pages, non-fiction writers must follow a tight format, called a “book proposal.” Jeff Herman (Guide to Literary Agents and Publishers) offers an excellent chapter on how to write a proper book proposal and the reader is referred to his treatise in the latest 2005 edition at your local library or B&N. What I wish to focus on is research.
Research: Any how-to book will rely on a compilation of interviews, factual information (which must be verified), proper credit to secondary sources, and research. The book is much like a research paper which begins with an introduction, hypothesis to be tested, statistical analyses, discussion, and conclusion. Let’s look briefly at each of these sections.
Introduction: This section of your book introduces the problem. It might deal with global warming, improved parenting skills, gardening on a budget, how to construct your own greenhouse, etc. The important aspect is to pick a topic of particular interest to a subset or niche of clientele. Another way to think about this is segmental marketing. If you choose too general a topic, your book has more books to compete with and chances are readers won’t learn anything new with your material or methods.
Hypothesis: Another word might be “theory.” What is it that you’re trying to convey to the reader? Are you building a “better mousetrap” or better yet, offering a product that renders mice obsolete. With fiction writers this part is known as the “hook” and this insight must be unique to whet the reader’s appetite.
Statistical Analyses: Most “how to” books are weak on research, but this is okay. Anecdotal data will suffice as long as your factual material is relevant and timely. Another common approach is data collection and interviews are a great way to compile information. Kinsey’s first book on human sexuality relied on this method over fifty years ago and became a runaway best seller. Unless you are writing for a technical audience, stay away from heavy research methodology that would only confuse the reader and they would skip this section anyway.
Discussion: This part is the “meat and potatoes” of your book and offers practical advice to your reader. Afterall, this is why your reader purchased your book in the first place. Make sure that your points are pithy, factual, and motivational. Joel Olsteen’s book, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Reaching Your Full Potential, is a case in point.
Conclusion: So now that the reader has read your book, how will this change his or her life? Will they be able to bottle their own wine, cultivate an organic garden, fix their cell phone without calling customer support, connect to a better search engine, etc? This hopefully is the reason your book is a bestseller and people want to buy your book. The part folks will remember is the conclusion that can be included throughout the text in bold-face facts, steps, motivational edicts, or mini-conclusions that catch the reader’s attention.
Next month I’ll share with you one author’s book proposal that was picked up by a regional publisher on medical vignettes throughout the lifespan of a woman.
Getting Into Action:
- Pick a hobby and see how you can turn it into a money-making venture.
- Do a genealogy study and see how you might offer some tips for faster searches using different data bases.
- Ask yourself why you bought your last “self-help” book. Look at the introduction and conclusion and see if both match—i.e. the author delivered on what he or she said might happen to you.
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Keith Barton, Ph.D.
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About Keith Barton, Ph.D.
Dr. Barton received his Ph.D. in 1972 from the University of Texas at Austin and has been a practicing therapist for over thirty years. He is currently enrolled in MentorCoach and is accepting new clients. He has been an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina, consultant to Fortune 500 companies in executive development, founded and managed Texas Community Living Ventures, Inc., in 1986 for providing group home services to persons with mental retardation, and has been running a clinical practice in Northwest Houston since 1990. He writes part-time with the goal of completing one novel a year. His desire to coach others derives from his passionate interest in helping others become attuned to their creative powers of storytelling.
Dr. Barton has training in coaching, cognitive and family therapy and health psychology. He has published articles, made presentations and conducted workshops about:
Anxiety and achievement
The relationship between psychology and spirituality
Copyright by Virtual Writing Coach and Keith Barton, 2001-2010.