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Live your subject

Non-fiction writers live their books before they write them. From biography to travel to books about music, art or sheep, for the non-fiction writer the success of the book depends on the research period, which is undertaken as life, rather than work.

So, you cannot possibly write a good book about Bob Dylan unless you have lived, imaginatively or actually, stories analogous to those his songs tell. You would have to be so soaked in his music that it had either accompanied and/or partially directed significant periods of your life. You would know his life story better than you know your own.

For the writer of non-fiction, therefore, writing is actually walking, or interviewing, or listening, or obsessively pursuing a band, or climbing glaciers. The other bit, the making of the book, is just typing really.

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Freedom in Fabrication

The Japanese writer Tanizaki complained that he could not read his contemporaries. Every time he picked up a…

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Radical Reinvention

One way to think about writing is as a tool of curiosity. A way of finding out about…

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Poetic truth

Once, when I was reading a Selima Hill collection, I noticed that she’d used an epigraph by the…

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Let the place do the talking

It is tremendously difficult to write about a place you know as if you are a travel writer….

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Don’t talk down to younger readers

Don’t think that all children want to hear about is fluffy bunnies, naughty elves and lessons to be…

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Developing a character

Imagine that there is a young character in your mind, waiting to step forward and tell you their…

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How changing one thing can change the world

Change one thing in the technology or science of the present day. It could be the way we…

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Developing and explaining new ideas

1. You don’t have to be entirely original. There are plenty of very good, best-selling stories out there…

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6 Tips on Writing Queer Fiction

If you’re describing a same sex relationship or one involving someone who is trans or intersex or in…

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Don’t let them talk you out of it

Spend a little time identifying who the people are who might tell you not to write your memoir….

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Controlling your fear

Thomas Keneally says that, ‘Writing is an exercise in controlling your fear. Above all the fear that you…

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