By Glen C. Strathy
You may not have considered writing nonfiction professionally, especially if your career goal has always been "novelist." But nonfiction writing has a lot to offer, including both satisfaction and opportunities to earn a living. Here are some points to consider...
The demand for good nonfiction outstrips the demand for fiction by a wide margin. For most people, fiction is something they read strictly for pleasure. Nonfiction is something people must also read for work, school, or to manage their lives. It's non-optional, and that means there's a lot more of it.
To take an obvious example: the Internet today consists of over 47 billion pages. The vast majority of websites offer information -- nonfiction, in other words. It takes writers to put that information in a format that meets the public's need for palatable facts, analysis, and ideas.
And that's not even counting traditional markets such as newspapers, magazines, nonfiction books, technical writing, etc.
The human thirst for more up-to-date information is constantly growing, which means the need for good nonfiction writers is equally huge. If you are looking for ways to earn a living as a professional writer, it would be a mistake to overlook the market for nonfiction.
I'm not trying to devalue nonfiction writers. Both fiction and nonfiction writers require strong language skills and creativity. Both require the ability to connect with a reader. And both require the ability to take a reader on an intellectual and emotional journey that will lead them to new ways of understanding the world or even change the decisions they make in their lives.
But it cannot be denied that writing nonfiction is easier than writing fiction. Fiction writers need a highly developed imagination in order to create imaginary worlds that feel authentic, populate them with imaginary people as complex as real ones, and invent chains of events that will determine those people's destiny.
Nonfiction writers have the advantage of describing the real world, even if their perspective is subjective.
Writing nonfiction, especially for a general audience, takes a different type of skill. It requires the ability to explain things, to take evidence and concepts, no matter how complex, and express them in a way that readers will find engaging. It's about finding a way to serve the needs of any audience -- regardless of age, education, or cultural background.
Nonetheless, I personally believe that, while not every nonfiction writer can become a novelist, any good fiction writer can learn to write good nonfiction.
For a lot of writers, the biggest challenge in life is to avoid boredom. We write because we want our minds to be occupied with interesting ideas, people , places, etc.
Being a nonfiction writer gives you the opportunity to learn about any subject that interests you in far more depth than the average person. It means keeping your mind occupied with new information and ideas, which can be an exhilarating and rewarding way to live.
Besides, the research you must do to write nonfiction can be a source of ideas and facts that may eventually enrich your fiction writing as well.
It can be tough earning a living as a fiction writer. So while you're working on your first novel, you may want a way to make a little extra money doing something you're good at -- such as writing.
Lots of people freelance as nonfiction writers while holding down a day job or working on their fiction. It's another way to use a skill you already possess.
The links below will take you to articles on opportunities to make a career writing nonfiction. I won't spend a lot of time on mechanics (grammar, spelling, etc.) because I assume that if you're serious about writing, you will master these on your own. Instead, I'll stick with what I think will be most helpful.
Rather than write for magazines, discover how to make a stable, long-term income by writing articles for your own blog or website.
Find out the 4 biggest nonfiction topics to write about, and what else you need to write a bestselling book.
When writing nonfiction, the key is to write a proposal (and a sample chapter or two) and get a publishing contract before you've finished the manuscript. Here's how.
Proud to be one of the...
"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards
"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus
"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.
"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman
"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of
knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I
truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me
successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins
"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash
"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero