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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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Taking a character for a walk

Begin by inventing ten or twelve separate characters, all different from each other. For each one, choose five…

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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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Writing in a Spoken Voice

If you find the point of view in your stories tends to wander around the place (sometimes very…

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Exploring different third person points of view

Write part of a story in the form of a scene from a play, beginning with a description…

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Subjective third person narrative

When I was a child, like most young readers I wanted to identify with the characters in books….

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Finding your Antagonistic Antagonist

Thrillers need to be page-turners with cracking plots, plenty of twists and great characters (particularly in psychological thrillers)….

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Creating an Antagonistic Antagonist

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton’s third law of motion could equally apply…

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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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Narrative – Cause and Effect

Try to bear in mind that the story of your character/s – your plot or narrative – moves…

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