There are so many ways to tell a story, be it fiction or nonfiction. But when it comes to telling true stories, the decision is especially important ... after all, you're dealing with real people's real lives. Quite the responsibility!
A range of nonfiction projects cross my desk during the course of a year. While they are always interesting in their own ways, I sometimes wonder if they may have been better had the writer taken a different approach.
There are plenty of factors that can influence the choice of genre, but the writer must first determine their objectives in telling their personal story. If the writer is aiming for publication, there are two motivations they should always avoid:
These motivations are too inward-looking and ignore the very existence of a reader. Instead, the writer needs to ask one critical reader-focused question at the outset: What do I want my book to do?
Reader-focused objectives include:
All of these objectives may play a role, but identifying a primary objective will help you figure out the right approach to writing your content, be it:
If the thought of writing a no-holes-barred memoir might be too painful, think about framing your story as an inspirational book that can focus on the positive aspects of your journey. If you have learned lots of life lessons on your journey, perhaps an instructional book might be more effective. If you feel a strong sense of injustice about your experience, consider writing a persuasive book with a powerful call to action.
Picking the right path is a great first step. The next challenge is writing something powerful. Each of the approaches (narrative, expository, persuasive) require different writing skills, which the first-time writer should spend time developing before they dive into writing their book. They can do this by:
Your story is important, so it's vital that you tell it as well as possible so that it can go out into the world and fulfil its mission ... and in doing so become a real book with spine!
Lorna Partington Walsh, Wordsmith