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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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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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Tips for Travel Writing

First, you need to find a subject that lights you up. If beach resorts are not your thing,…

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Veiling the Narrative

Stories are one of the ways we have to make sense of the world.  I’m interested not just…

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Read As If Your Life Depended On It

In What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics the great American poet Adrienne Rich says “You…

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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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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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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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Find your story in a setting

This is a research exercise really – one that will help you find a story out of setting….

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Drawing your childhood memories

We all have child’s eye views – many in fact. Some might say we’re already a step ahead…

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